Based on my homily given at St. John the Evangelist in Whitby on the First Sunday of Lent, Sunday March 5, 2017:
We live in a most vibrant culture; a culture always in pursuit of happiness. In the world we live in, sin is often denied, camouflaged, psychoanalysed and repressed – but not confessed. “We don’t really sin; we make mistakes of judgment! We’re only “being human”.”
It’s not my intention to be cynical or to present this dark or irredeemable opinion of the world we live in. It was the world Jesus lived in too, it’s a world that we might not completely change but we contribute to it with our own outlook and attitude. Christians are without a doubt a very important and influential part of this world we live in, if even we may sometimes feel we are not.
Lent is a time to take a look at these temptations, sin and the consequences. The origins of the Lenten season saw those about to be baptized repenting of their sins and sought to know Jesus in a more intimate way. We see this in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults in the various rites and then in the Scrutinies prior to Easter. It became a season for the baptized to do the same.
Each of us are challenged to die to sin so that we may rise again to new life in Christ. This is not merely a theological concept, it is part of the Christian journey. As we begin the season of Lent with reflections on the origins of sin among us, we hear in today’s readings the main themes of temptation, sin, guilt and forgiveness.
We hear in today’s Gospel of the temptation of our Lord, His submission to these temptations would have destroyed His mission and we would have a very different history than the salvation history we joyfully have a share in. Our temptation may not be as dramatic as our Lord’s temptation: but it’s not meant to be.
We fast and abstain on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from eating meat in part to heighten our awareness of temptation in our lives. Who among us didn’t feel more like having that cheeseburger or steak on Ash Wednesday but did not? It’s often when we are stressed in life, challenged, suffering in some way that we feel like sinning, letting go or moving further away from the Lord, pitying ourselves, or justifying selfishness – it’s not to be harsh. We are tempted in the challenges of our lives.
But we are also challenged as Jesus is: to give ourselves over to material wealth and the temptation to draw closer to things than the Lord and others too. We must accept that this is indeed part of the experience of life; but as Christians we live for something much greater: greater than ourselves or this world: we live for God, for others and for a world much bigger than what we can see or comprehend.
We too face temptation but in struggling and resisting temptation we become stronger. Each time we are tempted to do evil or do wrong or to be self-centered or selfish and we choose the good instead, we become stronger. We are never tempted beyond our power.
We hear in the First Letter of John: “Greater is the one who is in us, than the one who is in the world (4:4).” By rite of our baptism and marked again at Confirmation, the Holy Spirit has dwelt in each of us. When we make a good confession, we may feel it’s guilt that brings us to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, but we can be assured that the Holy Spirit that dwells within us helps us rid ourselves of what holds us back from being th best Christians we can be.
We also hear St. Paul affirm this as well when he says, “No testing has overtaken you, that is not common for everyone. God is faithful and God will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing God will also provide the way out so that you will be able to endure it (10:13)”. As Jesus is tempted in the desert, He is assured of the Father’s protection; as are we in our temptations, trials and tribulations. We simply need to have faith and trust; trust in God will lead us to greater faith.
My friends in Christ, as we begin our Lenten season, I wish each of you well in your personal Lenten commitments; sacrifices and spiritual offerings. Let us be People of Hope, as we journey with Christ, may we be successful in the challenges that face us day by day and may we know that we are not alone, but have a God who loves each of us so very much and will protect us. May we resist temptation and have the grace to see ourselves gro stronger as Christians each day too. May God bless you.