March 10, 2019
(1st Sunday of Lent, C)
Moses spoke to the people, saying: Our forefathers became a nation great, strong, and numerous. When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. Dt_26:4-10
St. Paul wrote: if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord
and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead,
you will be saved. Rom_10:8-13
Jesus responded to the devil’s temptations saying: One does not live on bread alone.” “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Lk_4:1-13
If we are willing to sacrifice anything this Lent; is our Faith strong enough to endure the temptations that will inevitably come? And it won’t be with pitchforks and horns and tails. It will come as chocolate cheesecake with ice cream. It will come as tight pockets
and short tempers. It will come as excuses and rationale.
If we are willing to sacrifice, we have to, at the same time, be willing to surrender to God’s will, and not ours.
It all gets down to Jesus, to what we believe, to what we don’t believe and to keeping promises . . .
Can I tell you a secret? In my younger days, with little-ones in tow, with 60-hour work weeks, and struggling to make ends meet, the LAST thing I ever wanted to hear in a Sunday Homily was all the financial woes of our suburban, Philadelphia parish.
YES, I could understand that it was the parishioners who kept the Parish alive, financially, but we didn’t need to be beat-over-the-head with it – EVERY week.
And the other thing I didn’t want to hear EVERY Sunday was what terrible sinners we all were; especially, because we didn’t give them enough money! I think you can get the gist of their focus. Talk about cutting your nose off to spite your face; we were being squeezed and stepped on at the same time.
And YES, I also fully understood that according to God’s stipulations, none of us are perfect. We’re all sinners in one way or another. But again, we didn’t need that fact pounded into our brains – EVERY Sunday, especially when the preceding weekdays at work, were barely enough to withstand, as it was.
At the end of those Masses, I would ask myself why anyone in their right mind would voluntarily subject themselves to that kind of lashing, when they could, just as well, have read the Bible or slept-in at home, instead.
You see, as we have been made painfully aware in this past year, NO-ONE is perfect where mankind is involved, save for Jesus. But knowing that, doesn’t make EVERYONE ugly. It doesn’t give us cause to place ourselves above or below anyone else. And it doesn’t excuse atrocities either. But it does make ALL of us more understanding of our own faults, and of the equality of Humanity.
And maybe instead of breaking down what is already broken within our Church and ourselves; maybe instead of throwing away, in our “throw-away society,” that which can be revived, with a little pruning; maybe with a little encouragement, instead of fire and brimstone, we can become BETTER than we ever were before; better than we ever imagined we could be!
You see, that’s just ONE of the reasons that I love OUR Parish and OUR Community, here at Our Lady of Lourdes, so much. Now, you can let that be ‘our little secret,’ because that’s what I believe, and what I don’t believe; and I hope that you DO too.
And in light of my own imperfections, I apologize if I’ve ever dwelt too heavily on those negatives; although money and sin, really ARE – facts of life too.
And thus, we have this Season of Lent, with its Prayer, and its Fasting and its Almsgiving, all of which defined the very Life of Jesus; that Perfect Life – that helps us to define our own lives.
Now, we might be thinking, “Boy, life is tough enough, without adding three more Jobs to our, overextended ‘To-Do Lists’.” But these three practices, these “Pillars of Lent,” as they’re called, really do add more benefit to our lives than they actually cost.
– For example:
Prayer will bring us strength and wisdom against all kinds of Spiritual Temptations. Prayer allows God to see our gratitude for all that He has and will bless us with in this life. Prayer keeps us in worship of God and not in our worldly distractions. And Prayer also allows us, we ourselves, to be Intercessors for other people in need of God’s help.
So, while Prayer strengthens us spiritually, Fasting, strengthens our discipline against worldly temptations. Fasting, just like exercise, may hurt a little in the beginning, but in the long-run, we become even stronger through it. Which always prompts the question: Why? And that’s a good question! Because through Fasting, we might, then, ask ourselves: “Do I actually have the ability to say NO to anything that sounds, maybe, too good to be true?” like certain foods, or TV programs, or too much Internet, or some of those other vices that seem to get away from us.
You see, instead of “Why?”, the real question we should be asking is: “Why NOT?” because Fasting can help us by developing our self-discipline! And self-discipline helps us when those truly big tragedies and temptations hit us by surprise. Why would we not want the strength of endurance that Fasting brings?
And then there’s Almsgiving. Oh, there’s that money thing again! But maybe, Almsgiving, doesn’t necessarily have to BE defined as giving money. Maybe Almsgiving can be accomplished through Works of Mercy – for others in need. It may be as simple as a smile; or as difficult, but rewarding, as making a hospital or nursing home visit – to cheer up a sick soul.
Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving.
You see, Lent really IS a time of strengthening and encouragement. We might call it Penance, but it’s actually how you look at it. I like to look at Lent as a time to lighten our burdens of sin and to raise our hearts and minds to ALL that is Good in Life, beginning with God.
So, where do we begin? Well, we can begin by reflecting on all that was Good in our past; because it was in that past that God truly revealed His Love for us, despite our setbacks and our shortcomings.
Despite the Israelite’s constant complaining about slavery, God gave them Freedom. Despite their murmuring about hunger and thirst in the desert, God offered them manna from the sky for food and water from a rock. And even despite their insincerity and moral corruption by worshiping a golden calf, after all that God had done for them; God still gave them rules for justice and morality, because of His love for them and, what should have been, their love for Him, and for one another.
Those Rules, those Ten Commandments marked a Covenant Promise between God and His people. You see, their “Salvation” from Egyptian slavery, BY God was a constant, yearly, reminder for the Jews, of all the Goodness and Love that God had shown TO them. It kept them both thankful to God, and giving to one another. And it was THAT story, the Passover story, that truly became their Confession of Faith.
In the years and the centuries that would follow, they would still be tested; and they would still be tempted. And they would FALL, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden, just as Satan did before that, and just as WE, brothers and sisters, constantly DO, every day!
But, thanks be to God, through Jesus, we know that all of Satan’s temptations CAN be overcome. We CAN survive hunger, even without complaining. We CAN survive the temptations of power and wealth, of greed and the amnesia of forgetting who our true God is, and what He has done for us. And we CAN survive the pride of thinking that WE are the center of our lives, and not God.
And if we ever get to feeling like we’re beginning to forget, we can always come back to our own Confession of Faith to remind us. This is the Creed that we recite every week. And it brings us HOPE, not guilt and not shame, but HOPE.
We believe in God. And out of our love for God, we promise faithfulness. And knowing what Jesus had done for us we DON’T believe in the falsehood, the lie of DEATH in whatever form or threat it may take. Because right here in our Blessed Sacrament, and right here in our hearts, We have Jesus to prove it!
And THAT – is our Salvation!
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