Introduction: Lent is primarily the time of intense spiritual preparation for conquering our temptations, using the means Jesus used during his forty days of preparation in the desert for his public life. It is also the time for repenting of our sins and renewing our lives for the celebration of Easter with our Risen Lord who conquered sin and death by his suffering, death and Resurrection. Today’s readings teach us that we are always tempted by the devil, by the world and by our own selfish interests. So, we need to cooperate actively with God’s grace to conquer our temptations and practice prayer, self-control and charity.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the book of Genesis describes the “Original Temptation” – “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil.” Adam and Eve were given the possibility of making a choice to live for God, dependent upon and obedient to His will, or to say no to God. The temptation to evil led Adam and Eve to an act of faithlessness and sin. In contrast, today’s Gospel from St. Matthew shows us how Jesus Christ conquered temptation by relying on Faith in God’s Word and authority.
In the second reading, St. Paul describes how the disobedience of Adam, who fell to Satan’s Original Temptation, brought him and us sin, death, and a broken relationship with God. Paul explains that Christ regained for us the right relationship with God by his perfect obedience to God his Father. Today’s Gospel teaches us how the “desert experience” of fasting, praying, and soul-strengthening enabled Jesus to confront his temptations successfully and then to preach the Good News of salvation. The tempter urges Jesus to turn stones into loaves of bread. But Jesus rejects that temptation to mistrust His Father by satisfying his own immediate, temporal needs and thus reducing His Divine mission to self-satisfaction The tempter then suggests that Jesus prove that he is really the Son of God by jumping off the parapet of the temple. Jesus rejects this as a temptation to act as God’s superior and demand He prove His Trustworthiness! Finally, Jesus rejects the temptation to idolatry, even if worshiping Satan would enrich and empower Jesus with all kingdoms of the world.
Life messages: 1) We are to confront and conquer temptations as Jesus did, using the means he employed. Every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth and a position of authority, power and glory, and to use any means, even unjust or sinful ones, to gain these things. Jesus serves as a model for us in conquering temptations by strengthening himself through prayer, penance and the effective use of the Word of God. Hence, during this Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies with prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), with penance and with meditative reading of the Bible.
2) We are to grow in holiness during Lent by prayer, reconciliation and sharing: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him in fervent prayer and listening to Him through the meditative reading of the Bible; b) by penitential acts and more self control c) by getting reconciled with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and reconciled with others by asking their forgiveness for our offenses against them; d) by sharing our love with others through selfless and humble service, alms giving and helping those in need.
Full text: LENT I [A] (March 1) Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11
Homily starter anecdotes # 1: Alluring music of the Sirens: The story of sirens in Greek mythology describes the negative and positive ways of fighting temptations. The Sirens are creatures with the heads of beautiful women and the bodies of attractive birds. They lived on an island (Sirenum scopuli– a group of three small rocky islands). With the irresistible charm of their song, they lured mariners to their destruction on the rocks surrounding their island (Homer’s Odyssey XII, 39-54, 158-200; Virgil’s Aeneid V, 42-44; Ovid’s Metamorphoses XIV, 88-89). They sang so sweetly that all who sailed near their home in the sea were fascinated and drawn to the shore only to be destroyed. When Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, passed that enchanted spot he escaped the temptation from sirens by ordering himself to be tied to the mast and ordering his sailor comrades to put wax in the ears, so that they might not hear the luring and bewitching strains. But King Tharsius chose a better and positive way of conquering Sirens’ temptations. He took the great Greek singer and lyrist Orpheus along with him. Orpheus took out his lyre and sang a song so clear and ringing that it drowned the sound of those lovely, fatal voices of the Sirens. Today’s readings advise us that the best way to break the charm of this world’s alluring voices during Lent is not trying to shut out the music by plugging our ears, but to have our hearts and lives filled with the sweeter music of prayer, penance, the word of God, self-control, and acts of charity. Then temptations will have no power over us (RH).
# 2: Temptation to keep large carnivores as pets: Antoine Yates lived in New York City and for some inexplicable reason brought home a 2-month-old tiger cub “Ming” and later an alligator, “Al”. It’s not clear where he found them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What was a little tiger cub, became a 500-pound Bengal tiger monstrosity and a mini alligator a three-foot monster! It was inevitable. The police got a call about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted them of the possibility of a “wild animal” at his apartment. A fourth-floor resident complained that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. When they arrived, the police peered through a hole and saw the huge cat prowling around in the apartment. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and some rappelling from the roof to use a dart gun to bring this animal under control. When they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying atop some newspapers. The alligator was nearby. Both animals were relocated to shelters. As for Yates, he missed his tiger and alligator, demonstrating that it’s possible to be in love with the very things that can kill you. That is what happens to those who entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires, evil habits and addictions. (http://www.cnn.com/2003/US/Northeast/10/04/nyc.tiger/) For more details, visit : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ming_of_Harlem
# 3: “On the ninth trip around the block, there it was!” A comical, but illustrative, story shows us how adept we are at rationalizing our actions: A very overweight man decided that it was time to shed a few pounds. He went on a new diet and took it seriously. He even changed his usual driving route to the office in order to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at the office carrying a large, sugar-coated coffee cake. His office mates roundly chided him, but he only smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “What could I do? This is a very special cake. This morning, from force of habit, I accidentally drove by my favorite bakery. There in the window were trays of the most delicious goodies. I felt that it was no accident that I happened to pass by, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you really want me to have one of these delicious coffee cakes, let me find a parking place in front of the bakery.’ Sure enough, on the ninth trip around the block, there it was!” Temptation is strong, but we must be stronger. We should not tempt fate and we should not rationalize our actions.
Introduction: Ours is a vibrant culture, always in pursuit of happiness. Death is an obscenity, hidden by cascades of flowers and relegated to remote burial lawns on the edge of town. Sin is denied, camouflaged, psychoanalyzed, and repressed—not confessed. We don’t really sin. We make mistakes of judgment. If a popular politician lies, he or she is only being human. Lent is a time to look at such temptations, sin and the consequences. It is a time that reminds us of the human journey of fall and redemption. Like Adam and Eve, and Jesus, we all face temptations. Originally, Lent was the season when those about to be baptized repented of their sins and sought to know the Lord Jesus more intimately. Then it became a season for the baptized to do the same. We are challenged to die to sin so that we may rise again to the new life in Christ. Since the Church begins the season with a reflection on the origins of sin among us, the main themes in today’s readings are temptation, sin, guilt, and forgiveness. We are told of the temptations offered to our Lord, submission to which would have destroyed his mission. Today’s readings give us the notion that testing comes to us by an agency apart from and in opposition to God. But the truth is that, while testing comes from the outside, temptation comes from within us. However, the good news is that, though we are tempted and often succumb, God’s grace provides the way of salvation for us. The ultimate temptations in life are NOT those that only push us to “do” things we aren’t supposed to “do”; rather they are the ones that push us to “be” persons we weren’t made to “be.” Let us then during this Lenten season very earnestly pray, as Jesus has taught us to pray to Our Father in heaven – “Lead us not into temptation [that is, ”put us not to the test”] but deliver us from evil.”
The first reading from the book of Genesis (Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7) describes the “Original Temptation” – “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil.” This is the story of the first sin, symbolized by the eating of the forbidden fruit. It tells us that Adam and Eve were given the possibility of making a choice. The fundamental choice was to live for God, dependent upon and obedient to His will, or to say no to God. Like Adam and Eve, we are all tempted to put ourselves in God’s place. Consequently, we resent every limit on our freedom, and we don’t want to be held responsible for the consequences of our choices. In Genesis, we witness how temptation to evil led Adam and Eve to an act of faithlessness and sin. In contrast, today’s Gospel from St. Matthew shows us how Jesus Christ conquered temptation by relying on Faith in God’s Word and authority. Are we tempted to serve the gods of our inordinate desires instead of serving our loving and providing God? Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 51) presents our contrition or acknowledgment of guilt before God: “Against thee, thee only, have I sinned.”
The second reading (Rom 5:12-19) explained: St. Paul describes how the disobedience of Adam who fell to Satan’s Original Temptation brought him and us death and a broken relationship with God. He presents Adam who did not resist temptation with its evil consequences for humanity, and Christ, who did resist temptation and so gave humanity the promise of new Life. Paul reminds us of the social consequences of sin. Sin is never a private affair, affecting only myself. When we sin, all our relationships are affected: our relationship with our inner self, our relationships with our brothers and sisters, our relationship with our God and our relationship with nature and the world in which we live. Paul says that just as sin and death came through Adam, salvation and life come through Christ. Paul compares human sin and its consequences to Christ’s saving action and its restorative effects on humankind. Christ regained for us the right relationship with God that Paul calls justification, which comes to us as undeserved grace. Thus, Paul’s words to the Romans describe humanity’s rehabilitation by grace. The first Adam brought disobedience, sin, condemnation and death. The new Adam has brought obedience, righteousness, justification and eternal life. (St. Paul uses what theologians call typology to help us understand exactly what Jesus has done for us and how he established for us a new life, overcoming what Adam and Eve wrought for us. He sees Adam as a type or foreshadowing of Christ).
Today’s Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11) teaches us how the “desert experience” of fasting, praying, and soul-strengthening was a kind of spiritual “training camp” for Jesus which enabled him to confront his temptations successfully and then to preach the Good News of salvation. The Gospel also prescribes a dual action plan for Lent: (1) We should confront our temptations and conquer them as Jesus did, by fasting, prayer and the Word of God. (2) We should renew our lives by true repentance and live the Good News of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness.
Gospel exegesis: (A) Forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert: The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the huge fifteen-by-thirty-five mile desert between the mountain of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea so that he could pray to the Father about the public ministry that he was about to commence. “Forty days” was a Hebrew expression meaning a considerable period of time, as seen in various incidents in Jewish history: a) the 40 days of rain in Noah’s time which Noah spent in the ark in prayer; b) the 40 days which Moses spent on the mountain with God (Ex. 24:18); c) the 40 days the prophet Elijah traveled on the strength of the meal which the angel had given him (II Kg. 19:8).
(B) The temptations. The graphic descriptions of the temptations of Jesus given in Matthew and Luke are sometimes interpreted as the dramatic presentation of a single temptation Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was trying to entice Jesus away from his mission so that he could become, instead, a political messiah of power and fame according to the Jewish expectation, while using His Divine power to avoid suffering and death. In this account, we are given a glimpse of the inner struggle of Jesus as he faced the question of how to accomplish his mission. Matthew presents Jesus as conquering the tempter and beginning his preaching in Galilee. We always encounter temptation in its three major forms: power, prestige, and prosperity with two qualifying terms: “more” and “control.” We want “more” of everything and “control” of our destiny, feeling that only we know what is best for ourselves. Jesus’ temptations remind us of the temptations Israel experienced in the desert. The first temptation recalled God’s gift of manna to Israel in the desert (Exodus 16:4-8) and tested him in his capacity as the Son of God. The second temptation was a test of Jesus’ authentic sonship and it recalled the wilderness incidents wherein Israel complained against God and demanded Him to show His power by providing for their needs. Then in the third test, Jesus is offered a vision of all the world’s kingdoms in their splendor, to be entirely his for his worship of Satan. Jesus was shown those kingdoms, just as Moses atop Mt. Nebo surveyed the promised land (Deuteronomy 34:1-4), and as the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 2:6-8) describes God giving his messiah-son-king the nations of the earth as an inheritance. The first temptation has to do with Jesus’ own need for food. The second temptation involves a wider circle in Jerusalem and the Temple. Finally, the third temptation takes in the whole world. Matthew saw the sequence of the three temptations as significant in that they moved to greater heights, from stones on ground level, to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, and finally to a mountain top from which all the kingdoms of the earth could be surveyed. The progression was also greater in intensity and scope, from personal food to power in Israel and then to rule over the whole world.
The gradation in temptations: The three temptations – turn stones into bread (4:3); jump off the Temple pinnacle (4:6); worship Satan (4:9) – demonstrate three kinds of control: material, spiritual and civil. They correspond to three wrong evaluations: 1) those who have material resources are blessed by God; 2) those who have spiritual powers are blessed by God; 3) those who have national power are blessed by God. These, in turn, correspond to three human-divine bargains: 1) I will worship You if you make me rich; 2) I will worship You if You endow me with magical powers; and 3) I will worship You if You give me political power. These temptations of Jesus are traditionally treated as archetypes of the temptations we experience: the temptation to satisfy personal needs by material possessions, the temptation to perform miraculous deeds by spiritual power, and the temptation to seek political power and social influence by evil means. But Jesus dismisses all three temptations using the Word of God. He quotes the Law from Scripture itself: “One does not live by bread alone” (Deuteronomy 8:3); “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (6:16); “Worship the Lord, your God” (6:13). Each time the devil tempts him Jesus responds with a quote from the Book of Deuteronomy which describes the experience of Israel during her forty years in the desert.
The first temptation: Is it possible to fast forty days and live to tell the tale? The New York Times says the average person can go for thirty days without eating. Gandhi and the Irish prisoners in British jails in Belfast fasted even longer. Mitch Snyder, the US advocate for the homeless, fasted fifty-one days. The first temptation could not have been better timed. Jesus had been fasting for forty days. He was entitled to eat. Even Israel in the Old Testament was miraculously fed with manna. Why not the Son of God? “Turn these stones into loaves of bread. Use your power to satisfy your physical need. You are entitled to food after a forty-day fast.” The temptation was that Jesus use the miraculous powers God had given Him to use for His mission to provide for himself. This first temptation of Jesus was not merely the urge to satisfy his hunger by some miraculous deed. It also had implications as to how Jesus would respond to the physical needs of others, especially their need for food. Matthew tells us, for example, that Jesus miraculously fed a multitude of people (14:13-21 and 15:32-39). Jesus would be seen as the Messiah who provided for their pressing needs.
The very seat of religious life, namely, the sacred precincts of the Temple itself became the scene of the second temptation. The devil was suggesting that, on the basis of Scripture, Jesus must believe in and insist on Divine protection: if He were the Son of God, He had the right to expect safety and protection from His heavenly Father. Here Jesus is pressured either to identify Himself as God’s Son and Messiah, or to discredit His mission by apparently either denying His trust in God, the truth of Scripture or His own right to speak in God’s Name. An additional temptation for Jesus was to use his miraculous powers to amaze people and thereby attract followers.
In the third temptation, the devil wanted Jesus to enter the world of political power to establish his kingdom of God instead of choosing the path that would lead to suffering, humiliation and death. It was a temptation to do the right thing using the wrong means. Jesus was being tempted to win the world by worshipping the devil. Why not compromise a bit? Why not strike a deal with the evil powers? Spirit-filled, sanctified, spiritually vibrant Christians are still subject to the same temptation. We need companionship, acceptance, the approval of others, love and appreciation. We are tempted to fulfill these legitimate needs using the wrong means.
(C) The preaching: The Greek word used for preaching is kerussein meaning a herald’s proclamation of his king’s message. Jesus’ preaching bore the note of authority, certainty and reliability – as coming from God his Father.
(D) Call to repentance: Metánoia the Greek word used in Matthew for repentance, meant a change of mind which included being sorry for sin and its consequences, and turning away from sinful thoughts, words and deeds, thus reversing our life-direction from ourselves to God.
(E) The message: believe in the Good News: “Believe” meant accept Jesus’ words as truth, based on his authority as the Son of God. The content of Jesus’ message was called Good News because it corrected the incorrect Jewish belief (and the bad news), that God was an angry, demanding and punishing judge, and taught the Good News that God is a loving, merciful and forgiving Father who wants to save everyone from the bondage of sin through His Son. Hence, St. Paul calls it Good News of hope (Col.1: 23), peace (Eph.6: 15), promise (Eph.3: 6), immortality (Tim.1: 10) and salvation (Eph.1: 13).
Life messages: 1) We are to confront and conquer temptations as Jesus did, using the means he employed. Every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth and a position of authority, power and glory, and to use any means, even unjust or sinful ones, to gain these things. Jesus serves as a model for us in conquering temptations by strengthening himself through prayer, penance and the active use of the Word of God. Temptations make us more powerful warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. By constantly struggling against temptations, we become stronger. Each time one is tempted to do evil but does good, one becomes stronger. Further, we are never tempted beyond our power. In his first letter, St. John assures us: “Greater is the One Who is in us, than the one who is in the world (1 John 4: 4). We may be strengthened by St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No testing has overtaken you, that is not common to 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 may be able to endure it.” Hence, during this Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies by prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), by penance and by meditative reading of the Bible.
2) We are to grow in holiness by prayer, reconciliation and sharing during Lent: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him in fervent prayer and listening to Him through the meditative reading of the Bible; b) by repenting of our sins daily and asking God’s forgiveness every night at bedtime; c) by being reconciled with God through the Sacrament of Reconciliation; d) by being reconciled with others, forgiving them the hurts they have caused us and asking their pardon for the hurts we have inflicted on them; e) by sharing our love with others through selfless and humble service, almsgiving and helping those in need; f) by living the Gospel or the Good News of God’s love, mercy and forgiveness in our lives, thus bearing true Christian witness.
3) Lent is the time for the desert experience. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises that bombard our lives every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God and a time to say yes to God and no to Satan as Jesus did.
(“Our generation has had no Great War, no Great Depression. Our war is spiritual. Our depression is our lives.” Chuck Palahniuk).
JOKE OF THE WEEK “I gave them up for Lent.” A Catholic priest working in an inner city was walking down an alley one evening on his way home when a young man came down the alley behind him and poked a knife against his back. “Give me your money,” the young man said. The priest opened his jacket and reached into an inner pocket to remove his wallet, exposing his clerical collar. “Oh, I’m sorry, Father,” said the young man, “I didn’t see your collar. I don’t want YOUR money.” Trembling from the scare, the priest removed a cigar from his shirt pocket and offered it to the young man. “Here,” he said. “Have a cigar.” “Oh, no, I can’t do that,” the young man replied, “I gave them up for Lent.”
Making peace with his penance: A priest spied a parishioner enjoying some tasty smoked sausage on Friday during Lent — a strict no-no in the Church. The priest, being a pragmatic soul, told the man for his penance he was to bring a load of lumber to the church to help repair the roof. The man grumbled but went off to do his penance. He arrived at the church on the next Friday and proceeded to dump a huge load of sawdust into the parking lot. “What’s this?” the priest wanted to know. “I told you your penance was a load of lumber, not sawdust.” The man replied cooley, “Well, if that sausage I ate was meat, then this sawdust is lumber.”
Just have a beer: A man took his young son to a baseball game. While they were sitting there, he asked the boy what he was going to give up for Lent. The boy replied, “I don’t know, Dad. What are you going to give up?”
His father said, “I’ve thought about this a lot and decided to give up liquor.”
Later in the game, the beer man came by, and the man ordered a beer. His son objected, “Hey, I thought you were giving up liquor!” His dad answered, “Hard liquor, son. I’m giving up hard liquor. This is just a beer.” To which the boy replied, “Well then, I’m giving up hard candy.”
Fish ‘n’ chips: It is February 22, the third Friday of Lent, and the faithful parishioner stumbles through pouring rain past hamburger huts and steak houses into the monastery at Mount Angel and requests shelter. He’s just in time for dinner and is treated to the best fish and chips he’s ever had.
After dinner, he goes into the kitchen to thank the chefs. He’s met by two brothers, “Hello, I’m Brother Michael, and this is Brother Francis.” “I’m very pleased to meet you. I just wanted to thank you for a wonderful dinner. The fish and chips were the best I’ve ever tasted. Out of curiosity, who cooked what?” Brother Michael replies, “Well, I’m the fish friar.” The man turns to the other brother and says, “Then you must be . . .” “Yes, I’m afraid I’m the chip monk.”
“I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.” A bartender notices that every evening, without fail, one of his patrons orders three beers. After several weeks of noticing this pattern, the bartender asks the man why he always orders three beers. The man says, “I have two brothers who have moved away to different countries. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.” Several weeks later, noticing that the man only ordered two beers, the bartender said, “Please accept my condolences on the death of one of your brothers. You know, the two beers and all…” The man replied, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well… It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
Lenten Liturgical Resources: 1) http://www.textweek.com/lent.htm
5) Living Lent daily:
6) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://youtu.be/nbO27Mouy4s
7) Lenten videos: a) Temptation of Christ – movie clip
b) Bishop Barron: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm3JK7JYAKs , https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LvsOFWxbyRM
27- Additional anecdotes:
1) “I’m already working on a murder case!” The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants — who was not known to be the brightest academically — was called in for an interview. “Okay,” began the sheriff, “What is 1 and 1?” “Eleven,” came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.” Then the sheriff asked, “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?” “Today & tomorrow,” replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. “Now, listen carefully. Who killed Abraham Lincoln?” asked the sheriff. The jobseeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.” The sheriff replied, “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?” The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, “The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!” In our Gospel reading this morning, (Matthew 4:1-11), it is Jesus’ first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Will he take the crown without the cross? Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
2) “I only want to get my nose in:” An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will makeshift to shove in his whole body.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
3) Devil’s timing: In basketball, things change much more quickly than in football. This is partly because there are three-point shots; partly because of the trumping effect of last second foul shots; partly because the basketball court is still the same size its always been while players are all now seven feet tall, weigh 250 pounds and can dunk from the free-throw line. The basketball score, the balance of power, in any game seems as though it can change in an instant. In basketball, two minutes left on the clock is an eternity. Entire games are played, entire lifetimes are lived, in those last two minutes. Unless your team is down by more than 20 points, you still have a chance. That’s why the most nail-biting, hair-raising, ulcerating, blood-pressure-raising moments in sports are in the last 10 seconds of neck-and-neck basketball games. In the last few seconds of a one-point game the test becomes not of skill, or style, or strength. No: at that crunch-point everything comes down to timing. In the big game – the game of life – timing is everything. Does anyone doubt the devil’s timing when he arrived to accompany Jesus after he had spent forty days and forty nights of fasting in the wilderness? Jesus was exhausted, hungry, alone, tired, wobbly. The devil wrongly calculated that Jesus would be a perfect victim. But his timing is often perfect when he tempts us. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
4) “The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows.” A group of mountain hikers came across an old woodsman with an axe on his shoulder. “Where are you going?” they asked him.” “I’m headed up the mountain to get some wood to repair my cabin.” “But why are you going up the mountain?” they asked incredulously. “There are plenty of trees all around us here.” “I know,” he said, “but I need strong timber and it grows only on the highest elevations, where the trees are tested and toughened by the weather around them. The higher up you go, the stronger the timber grows.” And that is what God desires for us — that through the winds of trial and the storms of temptation we may grow strong and live on a higher level — strong to resist the devil’s urging, strong to serve God, and strong as we stand together in Faith and service to one another. Take my advice — stay close to each other, worship regularly and often, avoid temptation when it comes your way, and fill your hearts with God’s word. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
5) “Micro-chipped” their dogs and cats. An increasing number of responsible pet owners have now “micro-chipped” their dogs and cats. A small “chip” is injected under the skin and when a special scanner is run over the chip, the creature’s whole history is made available—-pet’s name, owner’s name, home address, home phone, vet’s name, vet’s phone, medications taken. It’s all there. Most animal shelters now have these scanners. When a lost or wandering animal is brought in, “scanning” is the first procedure. Often the “lost” is “found,” immediately. Parents of teenagers have gotten the message too. An increasing number of parents—-with or more often without their teen’s knowledge—-“bug” their kids’ car to keep track of where they are at all times. Tiny spy cameras can also keep an eye on driving habits, speed, and who gets in and out of the car. . . . I see some teenagers looking at their parents very nervously right now. . .More familiar are parental controls put on e-mail accounts, alerting mom and dad when inappropriate web sites are accessed, or e-mails received. For example, we have an AOL alert on our 10- and 12-year old’s email accounts. But think again. Even in such a “Big Brother is watching” world, the truth is there is just too much temptation, and too strong an urge to misbehave, to ever keep track of everything. Today’s Gospel teaches us how to defeat temptations using Jesus’ techniques. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
6) “What did you miss the most?” After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, “What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn’t mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six months long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O’Brien. Byrd asked, “Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?” Jack answered without any hesitation, “Temptation.” Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
7) ”A man who has no more temptations.” In the stories of the Desert Fathers there is one concerning Abbot John the Dwarf. Abbot John prayed to the Lord that all passion be taken from him. His prayer was granted. He became impassible. In this condition he went to one of the elders and said: “You see before you a man who is completely at rest and has no more temptations.” The elder surprised him. Instead of praising him, the elder said: “Go and pray to the Lord to command some struggle to be stirred up in you, for the soul is matured only in battles.” Abbot John did this, and when the temptations started up again, he did not pray that the struggle be taken away from him. Instead he prayed: “Lord, give me strength to get through the fight.” [Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert (New York: New Directions, 1960), p. 56-57.]
8) “Run, D.J., run!” William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks some of which have been pretty gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy’s face as he said, “Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me.” “Oh, really,” asked the reporter, “And what did God say?” “He said, ‘Run, D.J., run!'” the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).] There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, “Run, Jim, run!” Or “Run, Sally, Run!” This is a particularly valuable message when we are tempted by the devil. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
9) “I’m back, thanks to God” Betty Hutton was a famous movie star and huge box office attraction back in the 40’s and 50’s. But Betty Hutton became lost. Family problems, emotional problems, illness, bankruptcy, depression, and alcoholism stole her life away. In her trouble she cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard her cry. The Lord delivered her from the forces of wickedness, restored her soul, and called her life back to order, making her a new person. As a new woman, Betty Hutton made a comeback in the theatrical world playing Mrs. Hennigan in the Broadway musical Annie. At the first performance, the program notes contained extensive biographical sketches of the cast members-except for Betty Hutton. Under her picture and name were five words, “I’m back, thanks to God.” [James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1994).] Somebody here today needs to experience down in his or her heart, God’s great delivery and write on the biography of his or her life, “I’m back, thanks to God.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
10) Confess your corporate sins: A moving documentary on Abraham Lincoln shows us that the revered American president considered the Civil War to be a great sin. But the greater offense against the Almighty, in Lincoln’s mind, was the sin of slavery. In his Second Inaugural address Lincoln said, “If God wills that [this war] continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said: ‘The judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether’” [A Documentary History of the United States edited by Richard D. Heffner (New York: The New American Library of World Literature, Inc., 1956), p. 157.] Lincoln believed that there would be no redemption for this nation until our corporate sin was confessed. But Lent and Lincoln have now been vaporized by a culture that refuses to face its violent and racist history. To confess our corporate sin is to admit weakness, to disclose our vulnerability, and to diminish our self-esteem. Thus, we indeed resemble the culture, which H. Richard Niebuhr so aptly described two generations ago when he wrote, “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” [“The Kingdom of God in America,” (New York, Harper Brothers, 1937), p 193.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
11) “Now, that’s temptation.” William Willimon, in his book What’s Right with the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1985), tells about leading a Sunday School class that was studying the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. After careful study and explanation of each of the three temptations, Dr. Willimon asked, “How are we tempted today?” A young salesman was the first to speak. “Temptation is when your boss calls you in, as mine did yesterday, and says, ‘I’m going to give you a real opportunity. I’m going to give you a bigger sales territory. We believe that you are going places, young man.’ ‘But I don’t want a bigger sales territory,’ the young salesman told his boss. ‘I’m already away from home four nights a week. It wouldn’t be fair to my wife and daughter.’ ‘Look,’ his boss replied, ‘we’re asking you to do this for your wife and daughter. Don’t you want to be a good father? It takes money to support a family these days. Sure, your little girl doesn’t take much money now, but think of the future. Think of her future. I’m only asking you to do this for them,’ the boss said.” The young man told the class, “Now, that’s temptation.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
12) “You knew what I was when you picked me up” We are often tempted by material things, opportunities, and possibilities of contemporary life – items that we generally know will only lead us away from God. The choice to avoid such temptations is ours and, thus, we must be wary of their allure. A Native American folk tale describes this problem: One day an Indian youth, in an effort to prepare for manhood, hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees and decorated with many lovely flowers. There he fasted and prayed, but on the third day he looked up at the surrounding mountains and noticed one tall and rugged peak capped with snow. He decided that he would test himself by climbing this mountain. Thus, he put on his buckskin shirt, wrapped a blanket around his shoulders, and set out to climb the peak. When he reached the top he looked out from the rim to the world so far below. Then he heard a rustling sound and, looking around, saw a snake slithering about. Before he could move, the snake spoke to him, “I am about to die. It’s too cold for me up here; I am freezing. There is little food and I am starving. Please put me under your shirt where I will be warm and take me down the mountain.” The young man protested, “No. I have been forewarned about your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up you will bite me and I might die.” But the snake answered, “Not so. I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, you will be special to me, I will not harm you, and you will receive whatever you want.” The young man resisted for some time, but this was a very persuasive snake with beautiful diamond markings. At last the young man tucked the snake under his shirt and carried it down the mountain. Once in the valley he gently placed the snake on the ground. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled, and then bit the man on the leg. “You promised me!” cried the youth. “You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake, which then slithered away. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
13) “First, I want to hear that harmonica!” A young man was sent to Spain by his company to work in a new office they were opening there. He accepted the assignment because it would enable him to earn enough money to marry his long-time girlfriend. The plan was to pool their money and, when he returned, put a down payment on a house, and get married. As he bid his sweetheart farewell at the airport, he promised to write her every day and keep in touch. However, as the lonely weeks slowly slipped by, his letters came less and less often and his girlfriend back home began to have her doubts. “Spain is filled with beautiful women,” she wrote, “and after all you are a handsome man.” When he received that letter, the young man wrote her right back declaring that he was paying absolutely no attention to the local girls. “I admit,” he wrote, “that I am tempted. But I find myself so busy with my work that I have no time for such foolishness.” However, in the very next mail delivery, the young man received a package from his sweetheart. It contained a harmonica and a note. “I’m sending you this harmonica,” his girlfriend wrote, “so you will have something to take your mind off those girls.” The young man wrote her back, thanking her for the gift and promising her that he would practice the harmonica every night and think only of her. Finally, after months of waiting, the day came for him to return to the States and his sweetheart was waiting for him at the airport. As he rushed forward to embrace her, she held up restraining hand and said sternly, “Hold on there. First, I want to hear that harmonica!” She was a wise young lady. She knew the power of temptation and the weakness of the human heart. And so did Jesus. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
14) “Get behind me Satan.” Experiencing marital problems, a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly,” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work within a week. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store and his wife, a chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions, ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money, they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, ‘Get behind me Satan’?” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did, I heard a response.” “Yeah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well I heard him say, ‘It looks better from the back than it does from the front!’” (Sent by Deacon Gary). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
15) Eagle in Niagara Falls: It was a cold, winter day. A carcass on an ice floe floated slowly down the Niagara River. An Eagle flying overhead spied the easy prey below and descended upon it. He began to eat. As he did, the water of the river began slowly pushing the floe toward the falls. But could not the eagle, stretch forth his great wings and fly? Could he not, at the very brink of the falls, leap into the safety of the air? Had he not done so a thousand times before? So slowly, he continued to eat. As he waited, the water of the river began pushing the floe faster and faster and closer and closer to the falls, until the roar of the falls began to echo throughout the canyon. He waited until the very mists of the falls began rising above his head. Finally, he stretched forth his great wings to fly. Unknown to him, his talons, sunk in the frozen flesh of his prey and sunk in the ice of the floe, had frozen solid. His fate was sealed. He struggled, and he struggled, and he tried to get away, but he could not, until at last, the floe went over the falls and onto the rocks below. He had waited too long. (Knight’s Master Book of New Illustrations). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
16) Surf torture: The U.S. Navy has a Special Forces team called the SEALS. It takes a lot to become part of this elite group. One of the many physical challenges that SEALS in training must complete is called “surf torture”. Basically, the entire class must wade into the surf zone to their waistline and then sit down with arms linked. The whole time they are there the waves crash into them, hence the term “surf torture”. The biting cold water quickly sucks out all of the body’s warmth and before long, the entire class shivers in unison as the waves crash over their heads. The plan calls for submersion to the brink of hypothermia, then the trainees get pulled out for some calisthenics to warm up – then back in the surf for more conditioning. The training session has been proven a very successful way to teach prospective SEALS how to mentally fend off the effects of hypothermia. That is exactly what God is doing with us by permitting temptations. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
17) St. Ignatius Gets Smart: St. Ignatius Loyola was a Christian knight from the Basque country of northern Spain. He inherited all the swashbuckling worldliness of the flashiest Spanish gallants, and as a young man he threw himself into the battles with France that raged in the borderlands surrounding his home. There he was blasted with a cannonball. The break in his leg was badly set and, in his vanity, he told them to break it again and reset it properly. The whole process took months of recuperation. Bored stiff, he asked for some romance novels to read. None were available in the castle, but there was a Life of Christ and a few volumes of lives of the saints. Just to pass the time, he began to read them. Soon he began to relish them. By the time he recovered, he had become firmly convinced of the vanity of earthly glory. He made a pilgrimage and began leading a truly Christian life, laying deep foundations of intense and heartfelt prayer and building up an impressive spiritual edifice of self-denial, charity, and dedication to the Kingdom of Christ. He then took up studies for the priesthood in Europe’s greatest university, even though he was twice as old as most of the students. He gathered some fellow students around him and convinced them to dedicate their lives completely to serve the cause of Christ. That little group became the seed of the religious order now known as the Jesuits, which has had more of an impact on the world, perhaps, than any other institution besides the Church itself. Since its foundation in 1541, there has never been a day in which the earth has not been blessed with the presence of a Jesuit who was later canonized as a saint. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
18) Triumph and Tragedy of Mel Gibson: Every one of us knows who Mel Gibson is and how he messed up his life after making The Passion of the Christ. It wasn’t coincidence. My theory is that he did so much good through this movie that it brought on him a lot of attacks by the evil one as revenge for the spiritual good done by the film. Because he wasn’t “careful” enough or didn’t look on what happened to him in his spiritual battlefield, Gibson wasn’t ready for battles that came after he had finished the Passion movie. Because of his well-documented paranoia, he repeatedly roared threats to kill his estranged ex-wife of 28 years and burn down her house. He alludes to having earlier hit her hard enough to break several of her teeth—something he claims she “deserved.” Mel’s former wife surely knows that not only is Mel a racist, homophobe, misogynist, and anti-Semite, he is a drug and alcohol abuser and a violent or potentially violent man. Why did he have all these tragedies after the great triumph of his career The Passion of the Christ which grossed over $604 million worldwide? Because he ignored Peter’s advice, “Stay sober and alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, solid in your Faith. (1 Peter 5:8-9a). (Adapted from Fr Matuesz Rudzik).Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
19) Lent Day 35 – The Lesson of Lough Derg:
I don’t know any other place on earth that better exemplifies purgative suffering than Lough Derg. Otherwise known as St. Patrick’s Purgatory, this Irish island was purportedly visited by St. Patrick in the 5th century. The saint came in order to spend a penitential retreat of forty days and forty nights. And from the Middle Ages to the present day, pilgrims have journeyed there, in imitation of Patrick, to do penance and to pray. When the retreatants arrive, they are instructed immediately to take off their shoes and socks, and they endure the three-day process barefoot, regardless of the weather. That first day, they fast (eating nothing but dry bread and a soup composed of hot water and pepper), and they move through a series of prayers and spiritual exercises. The first night, they are compelled to stay awake, fasting from sleep. If someone dozes off, his fellow pilgrims are expected to wake him up. The following day, they continue with their fast and their exercises, but they are allowed to sleep that night. The third day involves still more prayer and culminates with confession and Mass. After the liturgy, the pilgrims put their shoes back on and are ferried across to the mainland. Those who come to Lough Derg take their spiritual lives with utter seriousness, and that is precisely why they are willing to endure hardship – even imposing it on themselves – in order to deepen their communion with God. They know that there are certain tendencies within their bodies and souls that are preventing the achievement of full friendship with God and therefore they seek, quite sensibly, to discipline themselves. St. John Henry Newman commented that the ascetical principle is basic to a healthy Christianity. He meant that Christians, at their best, understand that our sinful nature has to be chastised, disciplined, and rightly ordered. When the ascetical instinct disappears (as it has in much of Western Christianity), the spiritual life rapidly becomes superficial and attenuated, devolving into an easy “I’m okay and you’re okay” attitude. The whole point of the Christian life is to find joy, but the attainment of true joy comes, in a sinful world, at the cost of some suffering. (Bishop Robert Barron). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
20) Why Penance? Once upon a time a very earnest young man visited a famous rabbi. He told the rabbi that he wanted to become a rabbi and asked for his advice. It was wintertime. The rabbi stood at the window looking out into the yard while the rabbinical candidate gave him a glowing account of his piety and learning. The young man said, ‘You see, Rabbi, I always dress in spotless white like the sages of old. I never drink any alcoholic beverages; only water ever passes my lips. I perform numerous penances. For instance, I always carry sharp-edged nails inside my shoes to mortify me. Even in the coldest weather. I lie naked in the snow to punish my flesh. And to complete my penance, I take a dozen lashes every day on my bare back.’ As the young man spoke, a stable boy led a white horse into the yard and took him to the water trough. The horse drank his fill of water, and having done so, rolled in the snow, as horses sometimes do. ‘Just look!’ cried the rabbi. “That animal, too, is dressed in white. It also drinks nothing but water, has nails in its shoes and rolls naked in the snow. Also, rest assured, it gets its daily ration of lashes on the rump from its master. Now, I ask you, is it a saint, or is it a horse?” The point the rabbi was making was that penance is not an end in itself. What is the purpose of penance? Is it meant to undo the past? The past is done. Is it meant to persuade God to erase our sins and forgo the punishment we deserve for them? Why penance? (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
21) True Penance: A wealthy Jewish merchant treats a poor old man with rudeness and disdain as they travel together on a train. When they arrive at their common destination, the merchant finds the station thronged with pious Jews waiting in ecstatic joy to greet the arrival of one of the holiest rabbis in Europe, and learns to his chagrin that the old man in his compartment is that saintly rabbi. Embarrassed at his disgraceful behavior and distraught that he missed a golden opportunity to speak in privacy to a wise and holy man, the merchant pushes his way through the crowed to find the old man. When he reaches him, he begs the rabbi’s forgiveness and requests his blessing. The old man answered, “To receive forgiveness you must go out and beg it from every poor old person in the world.” (Brian Cavanaugh in The Sower’s Seed; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
22) “Begone Satan!” In 1988, Martin Scorsese film The Last Temptation of Christ, based on the Nikos Kazantzakis novel, made waves, worldwide. The core controversy was Jesus’ relationship with Mary Magdalene. In 2005, Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, was similarly sensational. Now, a new film, The Aquarian Gospel, is being shot to unveil Jesus’ hidden years during which he imbibes Indic wisdom with a beautiful Indian confidante named Saraswati. This film is set to become a box-office hit in India, at least, since the mademoiselle in question is the sexy Indian actress Mallika Sherawat. Let us not labor to disclose the devilry of fanciful films. But reflections upon Christ’s first temptation will assist our Lenten observances. May Lent lead us to prayer, fasting and almsgiving, so that every “first temptation” might be met with a resolute “Begone, Satan!” (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
23) You look different…A number of years ago Doug Alderson wrote a beautiful article in Campus Life magazine. It described his 2,000-mile hike down the Appalachian Trail. Doug had just graduated from high school and had lots of unanswered questions: Was there a God? What was the purpose of life? What was his purpose in Life? Commenting on all this, Doug wrote: “There had to be more to life than money, TV, parties and getting high…My hike was a search for inner peace, a journey to find myself.” The hike proved to be more difficult than Doug anticipated. At times the trail became dangerously steep. The days were often rainy. Doug’s clothes got soaked, his feet got wet, his body shivered and ached at night. But Doug didn’t give up. The long hours of walking and climbing gave Doug a chance to think. They also gave him a chance to get to know himself better. There was no one around to influence him. Five months later Doug reached home. He was a different person. Even his dog eyed him strangely, as if to say, “Where have you been? What have you done? You look different.” Doug was different. He had found what he was searching for. There was a God. Life had a purpose, and he had a role to play in it. Doug summed up his experience this way: “I was more my own person. I liked what I saw in myself.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
24) Temptations: A lark flying safely high in the air, observed a small object moving slowly along the path in a garden below. Out of curiosity it descended to take a closer look. He discovered it was a small wagon with a cat pulling it and chanting all the time, “Fresh worms for sale. Fresh worms for sale!” Interested, the lark alighted on the path -but at a safe distance. He asked what the worms were selling for. “Three nice worms for one feather from your wing.” said the cat. The lark thought that was a bargain and pulled a feather from his wing and enjoyed the delicious worms. Then he took off and soared again but the thought of those juicy worms brought him down to the wagon again. This time he bought twice as many, and bartered away two more feathers. The same thing happened several more times. But the pussycat was watching closely. Robbed of wing power, the lark was not able to get away when the cat sprang at him… and thus met his death in the garden where temptation had proved too strong for him. (Msgr. Arthur Tonne in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
25) To become the person, you once needed: When Sara became ill many years ago, bulimia was not yet a household world. Filled with guilt at her uncontrollable behavior, she was taken to specialist after specialist until someone was able to identify the problem as something much more than teenage rebellion. Slowly she fought her way back from the edge. Sara was surrounded by many loving adults, but no one could understand why she was doing this to herself. She didn’t understand it either. Sara fought her disease alone and managed to conquer it. Now happily married, Sara read a story in her local newspaper about a new support group for those suffering from bulimia. Although Sara had not suffered from its symptoms since she was a teenager, she was intrigued by the idea of a support group and went to the meeting. It was a powerful experience. The desperately ill young people there touched her heart. While she felt unable to help them, she cared about them and continued attending the meetings. Other than saying she had bulimia as a girl, Sara revealed little about herself at the meetings; she sat quietly and listened to the stories of others. As she was about to leave one of the sessions, Sara was stopped by a painfully thin girl who thanked her for coming and told her how much it meant to know her. The girl’s eyes filled with tears. Sara responded with her usual graciousness but was puzzled. Sara could not recall ever speaking to this girl and did not even know her name. As she drove home, Sara wondered how she could have forgotten something so important to someone else. She was almost home when it dawned on her. Her husband, who met her at the front door, was surprised to see that she had been crying. “Sara, what’s wrong?” he asked. A smile broke through her tears. “Harry, I’ve become the person I needed to meet,” she told him and walked into his arms. [From My Grandfather’s Blessings by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.] The lesson of the Transfiguration is that there exists within each one of us the spirit of God to become the person God calls us to be. (Connections) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
26) You shall not put God to the test: Perhaps the Bible phrase with which our Lord answered Satan in the desert, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test,” is better known in its older translation, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” No matter. Either version tells us “Don’t shake your fist at God!” One American of yore who did “shake his fist at God” was Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899), a freethinking lawyer, politician and public speaker who rejoiced in the moniker, “The Great Agnostic.” Ingersoll, born in Dresden, N.Y., south of Geneva, was a self-educated man, the rationalistic son of an orthodox Congregationalist minister. After studying law, he was admitted to the Illinois Bar. During the Civil War, he formed a regiment, was named its colonel, saw action, and was also held for some months as a prisoner of war. After the War he turned Republican and served as attorney general of Illinois. As a delegate to the 1876 Republican National Convention, he was given the honor of nominating the party’s presidential candidate, James G. Blaine. Blaine lost, but Ingersoll’s nomination speech was such a classic that he was much in demand afterwards as a lecturer. Indeed, he could earn as much as $3,500 for a single talk. Col. Ingersoll spoke on many things, but preferred religious (or rather, irreligious) subjects especially exposés of God, Moses, the Devil, and Superstition. He attacked common belief with scientific “proofs.” As a speaker, he loved shock. When he lectured on God, for instance, he started by taking out his watch and declaring, “If there is a God, I will give him five minutes to strike me dead.” This was truly “shaking his fist at God.” Of course, Ingersoll always won – not because God was dead, but because He was infinitely patient. Robert Ingersoll meanwhile had high hopes that Republicans in power would promote him to important civil office. They never did because, very sensibly, they didn’t want to raise to a position of power one who so delighted in offending the religious sensibilities of the majority of Americans. As Lent begins, we who believe in God can only pray the He may be as patient with us as He was with Robert Green Ingersoll. (Father Robert F. McNamara). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
27) “All right, Mom! But please do not look.” A young mother wanted to quit smoking. She knew it was bad for her health and the people around her. For her, it had been a vicious cycle of quitting and restarting. Each relapse was inflicting a heavier toll on her body and self-esteem. One tension-filled day, while on a busy run to do the shopping, the urge to light up a cigarette was overpowering. Without knowing why, she pleaded to her three-year old son, seated beside her on the car’s front seat, to do something. He answered with disarming seriousness, “All right, Mom! But please do not look.” She peeked anyway. The little boy was bowing his head in prayer, with the palms of his hands joined. The mother knew that she could not betray the faith of her praying son. The desire for a cigarette left her. From then on, she had more strength to cope with her weakness. Her little son had helped her to overcome temptation and addiction. (Lectio Divina) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Give Up for Lent:
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, “In everything give thanks.” Constructive criticism is OK, but “moaning, groaning, and complaining” are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion.
GIVE UP looking at other people’s worst points. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. “Love covers a multitude of sins.”
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about — like tomorrow! Live today and let God’s grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit some lonely or sick person. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the “tube?” Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We are called to be stewards of God’s riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ. (Craig Gates, Jackson, MS, “What to Give up for Lent”)
Summary of WHAT TO GIVE UP in Lent
Give up complaining. . . . . . . .focus on gratitude.
Give up pessimism. . . . . . . . . become an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments . . .think kindly thoughts.
Give up worry. . . . . . . . . . . . . trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement. . . . .be full of hope.
Give up bitterness. . . . . . . . . . turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred. . . . . . . . . . . . . return good for evil.
Give up negativism . . . . . . . . .be positive.
Give up anger. . . . . . . . . . . . . .be more patient.
Give up pettiness. . . . . . . . . . .become mature.
Give up gloom. . . . . . . .enjoy the beauty that is all around you.
Give up jealousy. . . . . . . . . . . .pray for trust.
Give up gossiping. . . . . . . . . . .control your tongue.
Give up sin. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . turn to virtue.
Give up giving up. . . . . . . . . . . hang in there!
If we were……
If we were:
knives, Lent would be a time to sharpen our cutting edges.
cars, Lent would be a time for an oil change and a tune-up.
swimming pools, Lent would be a time to filter the dirt out of our water.
gardens, Lent would be a time to fertilize our soil and dig out our weeds.
carpets, Lent would be a time to get power cleaned.
VCRs, Lent would be a time to clean our heads and adjust our tracking.
computers, Lent would be a time to overhaul our disk drive.
highways, Lent would be a time to repair our cracks and fill our potholes.
TV sets, Lent would be a time to adjust our focus and our fine-tuning.
silverware, Lent would be a time to clean away our tarnish.
batteries, Lent would be a time to be recharged.
seeds, Lent would be a time to germinate and reach for the sun.
But we are none of those things.
We are people who — sometimes do wrong things; we need to atone for them.
–sometimes get spiritually lazy; we need to get back into shape.
–sometimes become selfish; we need to stretch out of our narrowness and begin giving again.
–sometimes lose sight of our purpose on earth and the immense promise within us; we need to regain our vision.
And because we are also people who sometimes tend to put those things off, we need a special sort of official time to concentrate on doing them. So we have Lent.
The Easter candy will taste sweeter, the Easter flowers will bloom more brightly, the Easter Sunday sun will shine more warmly if we are a better people – and all because of how we spend these next forty days.
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 20) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony for my website version. Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604
9 things you need to know about Lent
by Jimmy Aiken (The Senior Apologist at Catholic Answers).( https://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/9-things-you-need-to-know-about-lent1?gclid=CjwKCAiAjrXxBRAPEiwAiM3DQmcHMspWiQc1U3tjHObcS7RT_hJR8BLyCDq42LKWVaCwHf-TO1qwSBoCpiMQAvD_BwE )
1. What is Lent? According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]: 27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the Lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the Paschal Mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.
2. Where does the word “Lent” come from? The Catholic Encyclopedia notes: The Teutonic word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days’ fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish, cuaresma), meaning the “forty days”, or more literally the “fortieth day”. This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times.
3. When does Lent begin and end? The Universal Norms state:
28. The forty days of lent run from Ash Wednesday up to but excluding the Mass of the Lord’s Supper exclusive. This mean that Lent begins at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and runs to just before the Mass of the Lord’s Supper on the evening of Holy Thursday. As soon as the Mass of the Lord’s Supper starts, it’s a new liturgical season: Triduum.
4. Is Lent exactly forty days long as currently celebrated? No, it’s actually a little longer than forty days. The number is approximative, for spiritual purposes. More info on the precise number of days visit: http://jimmyakin.com/2011/03/annual-lent-fight-2011-ed.html#duration
5. Are the Sundays in Lent part of Lent?
Yes. See question 1 for the duration of Lent. It runs from Ash Wednesday to Holy Thursday. No exceptions are made for Sundays. Furthermore: The Sundays of this time of year are called the First, Second, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Sundays of Lent [emphasis added]. The Sixth Sunday, on which Holy Week begins, is called, “Palm Sunday of the Passion of the Lord.”
6. Why is the number forty significant?
Pope Benedict explains: Lent recalls the forty days of our Lord’s fasting in the desert, which He undertook before entering into His public ministry. We read in the Gospel: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry” (Mt 4,1-2). Like Moses, who fasted before receiving the tablets of the Law (cf. Ex 34,28) and Elijah’s fast before meeting the Lord on Mount Horeb (cf. 1 Kings19,8), Jesus, too, through prayer and fasting, prepared Himself for the mission that lay before Him, marked at the start by a serious battle with the tempter [Message for Lent 2009].
7. What are the rules for fasting in Lent? Ash Wednesday and Good Friday are days of fast. The law of fast binds those who are from 18 to 59 years old, unless they are excused for a sufficient reason (e.g., a medical condition that requires more frequent food, etc.). According to the Church’s official rules (as opposed to someone’s personal summary of them): The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing—as far as quantity and quality are concerned—approved local custom [Apostolic Constitution Paenitemini, Norms, III:2].
The system of mitigated fasting that is required by law thus allows for “one full meal” and “some food” in the morning and evening. The Church’s official document governing the practice of fasting does not encourage scrupulous calculations about how much the two instances of “some food” add up to, though obviously each individually is less than a full meal, since only one of those is allowed.
8. What are the rules for abstinence in Lent?
Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence (as well as Good Friday). An exception is if a solemnity falls on a Friday, but no solemnities fall on Fridays in 2020, so all Fridays are days of abstinence.
The law of abstinence binds those who are 14 years old or older. According to the Church’s official rules: The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat [Paenitemini, Norms III:1].
9. Do you have to give up something for Lent? If you do, can you have it on Sundays?
The traditional custom of giving up something for Lent is voluntary. Consequently, if you give something up, you set the parameters. If you choose to allow yourself to have it on Sundays as to promote joy on this holy day, that is up to you. Visit also: https://www.getfed.com/lenten-season-101-5994/
USCCB: Questions and Answers about Lent and Lenten Practices: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm