Saturday, February 12, 2005

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A
(By way of explanation, Amy Wellborn over at Open Book has been sponsoring a sort of Monday Morning Liturgical Quarterback Session. She asked priests to post their homilies and lay people to try to recall what they heard this weekend. In the interest of building up the blogosphere, I thought I would add my hurried thoughts. This is not exactly the homily you will hear in Alva, Waynoka, and Cherokee, because I try to tune it as I go through the weekend. But it is the gist...)

Readings: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

What is the fastest way to ruin a perfectly good tool? Use it in a way that it was not designed to be used. For example, you can swat flies with a flyswatter or with a hammer. You'll get the job. That fly will be dead just in time for you to repair the walls. Or what would happen if you used a kitchen knife to cut 2X4's for a new house? The house will be finished about the third time through a full set of Ginsu ... if you are lucky. It's funny, but this applies to the Spiritual Life as well.

Let's start with the temptation of our first parents. Notice what Satan draws them into. He moves Eve through a minefield of sorts. He starts by introducing doubt through a truthful observation. It is right that God said, "You shall not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil." The nasty trick comes when Satan explains why. This stricture is not for your benefit, he claims; it's to guard God's perogatives. Therefore, you can be only what you are meant to be if you turn against God.

When we look at the Temptation of Jesus in the Desert, you will notice that the tempter's tricks haven't changed much from that first encounter. Satan poses each temptation in the form of a truth, "If you are the Son of God,...." Each temptation is meant, not so much to discredit Jesus's claims, as, it seems to me, to disqualify Jesus's work at the outset. Satan wants to guide Jesus into the same trap he took our first parents; being Son of God, as Satan conceives it, is an opportunity to exploit power. Being Son of God, as Jesus conceives it, is the opportunity to be exactly what He is, who He is, as His Father demands.

This is the moment in the Temptation in the Desert when we must resist the tempation to trivialize this moment. Because we accept that Jesus is God, we automatically assume, correctly I might add, that these temptations can't succeed. Nothing Satan can offer will take the place of the Beatific Vision that Jesus enjoys. At the same time though this doesn't detract from the forcefulness of Christ's "no" to temptation and Christ's "yes" to the Father. It is a word, a resounding command, a voice echoing from the deep recesses of Creation and Eternity that demands, "Let my people go! No longer will you hold them bound in slavery." That voice rings to the foundations of human nature calling us to live not as erstwhile slaves of sin, but to live as we were actually made to be, sons of God in the Son of God.

On the First Sunday of Lent, we have to stand in the light of these temptations of Jesus and examine a basic question: How have we lived thus far? We are created for nothing less than to love God, to serve Him, and to live with Him in this life and in the life to come. When we examine our thoughts, our words, our actions, though a different picture appears. Looking at that picture, we see someone who believes that he is created for mere gratification of his senses, his hungers, his passions, in short, something that is far inferior to the grandeur of God. And more damning that that, we are completely satisfied with that which is inferior. Real conversion then would suggest that we must choose again. we must return the vain things which will never satisfy and find our way back to the Father. We have to return to basic issue: what am I made for? The human person is created to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him in this life and in the life to come.

On Monday, most of us will go about the business of exchanging notes and signs of affection. It's called Valentine's Day and has become a veritible orgy of romance. Valentine's Day's origins are actually Christian, and not Hallmark. It was a chance to exchange notes of love and encouragement to live the Christian life in a time of persecution. This is my Valentine then to you. "God loves you so much that you should never be satisfied with loving anything or anyone in such a way that you lose sight of the one who made you and loves you even now."

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