First Sunday of Lent (C)

Every year we begin the season of Lent with one of the accounts of the temptation of the Lord. The account this year is taken from the Gospel of Luke. And we always start Lent with the Lord being tempted because the forty days the Lord spent fasting remind us of the forty days of Lent[1].

When we consider the 40 days of Lent, we focus on preparing for Easter.  That is one reason for Lent, but only one. We are also preparing ourselves for the full sharing in Jesus’ Resurrected Life that will take place when we pass from this life to the next. We are preparing for eternal life. That is why during Lent we need to consider our personal battles against evil. As human beings, we will always be confronted with the temptation to do wrong. As long as we have human bodies we are going to be tempted to seek joy in places where the Lord is not found. If you get to the end of the day and can honestly say, “I had no temptations of any kind today,” you should take your pulse. You are probably dead. Jesus himself was tempted to accept the pleasures of the world rather than remain united to the Father[2].

One of the problems we have, though, is that we live in a society that gives little weight to temptation. Instead, it suggests that whatever we do is acceptable as long as, supposedly, no one gets hurt. This is the lie that claims that there is such a thing as a victimless crime.

Many of us buy into an additional lie of society that it is psychologically unhealthy to deny yourself. This is not true. What is true is that it is psychologically unhealthy to deny the existence of the spiritual within us. When we fall for this psycho Babel temptation, we are really saying that doing evil is a good thing. We are falling for the initial temptation of the devil in Genesis.  “Do it and don’t worry about God.  It’ll be good for you.”  Taken to its logical conclusion, this is also saying that there should be no morality of any kind or level in society. Everybody should do whatever they want whenever they want to do it. People should not have to live together in a way that respects each other and their Creator. Of course, we could decide that others should follow the laws of morality, as long as we are not held to the same moral principles. In which case we condemn ourselves to hypocrisy.

There is a final fallacy I’d like to mention although there are many others that society foists on us. This fallacy we are tempted to believe is the concept that these are modern times with a whole new set of moral guidelines. Every single society in the history of man has made this claim. When the Greeks invaded Palestine, many Jews joined their pagan orgies, etc because the Greeks were supposedly enlightened and had ushered in a new era. The same thing happened every time there was any change in society. In our times even some of our senior citizens, who should be examples of morality for their families, fall for this lie, giving financial reasons for living together outside of marriage instead of holding onto the Way of the Lord and avoiding relationships that cannot lead to marriage.

Right and wrong has not changed. Sin exists. And we human beings will always be tempted to sin.

We have the power to resist sin, to defeat the temptation. But we have to want to resist it. We have to be determined to do the Will of God.  Jesus was determined to do the will of the Father. It is great, wonderful, that so many people approach the sacrament of penance during Lent.  Along with the forgiveness of sin, and perhaps even as important, the sacrament of penance strengthens our resolution to avoid sin.

How determined are we to live the Life of the Lord?  Do we really want to fight off temptation?  Do we really want to be healed?  These are the deep questions we ask ourselves at the beginning of Lent.  We pray for strength during Lent, strength not just to fight off evil, but to want to fight it off. 

Sin has lost its power; death has lost its sting, from the grave you’ve risen, victoriously. Into the marvelous light we are running, out of darkness, out of shame, by the cross you are the truth, you are the light you are the way[3]

[1] Forty is an important number in the Bible.  It usually refers to a period of preparation. For example, Moses was on Mount Sinai for forty days before he received the Law of God.  The Hebrew people roamed in the desert for forty years before they were ready to enter the Promised Land. Elijah walked forty days and nights until he came to Mt Horeb.  In the Acts of the Apostles Jesus teaches his disciples for forty days after the resurrection and then ascends to the Father.  He was preparing them for Pentecost. In all these cases and so many more in the Bible, 40 is both a time of preparation and a period of trial.
[2] Sunday 17th February, 2013, 1st Sunday of Lent. Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble—Ps 90(91):1-2, 10-15. Romans 10:8-13. Luke 4:1-13 [Seven Founders of the Servites].
[3] Charlie Hall’s Marvelous Light CCLI License # 2368115

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris