Homily for March 9

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

The gospel on the first Sunday of Lent is always an account
of Jesus being tempted in the desert.
This is by design  --  not by accident or simple repetition.

We begin the season of Lent by confronting temptation.
What’s temptation?
It’s a strong urge or desire to have or do something --
especially something that’s bad, wrong, or unwise.
And that’s why temptation is usually connected with sin:
we’re  flirting with something we know isn’t good for us..
• We tease out the possibilities the temptation appears to offer.
• We allow ourselves to imagine what it would be like
to fall for the temptation.
• We dream or fantasize what pleasure or ease might be ours
if we follow temptation’s path.
• In our minds, we look at what tempts us and try it on for size.
• We consider our present burdens and problems
and imagine the relief that giving into temptation might provide.
• We allow that imagined relief to loom larger than any other solution
to the difficulties at hand.
• We begin to picture what the temptation promises as a cozy place,
a getaway, an escape from what troubles us.

Finally, we convince ourselves that what we’re tempted by
not only isn’t wrong – but might actually be good,
something we truly need and deserve.
If I sound like someone who’s pretty familiar with temptation –
that’s because I am.

Temptation is a con job -- and there are two con artists at work.
First, there’s the power of evil in the world and in our lives.
Some call this the devil or Satan or Lucifer,
others say simply, “the evil one.”
And I’m sure that evil, however you name it,
delights in our arguing over whether or not there’s a devil
when such arguments distract us from evil at work in our lives.
How, or whether or not you personify evil:
there’s something afoot in the world,
tempting basically good people to do things
that basically good people don’t do:
things that are basically wrong.

I know that even when I’m sure of
the right thing to do,  the good thing to do, the kind thing to do,
the trustworthy and honest thing to do:
I’m tempted to do what’s wrong, bad, mean, unfaithful and dishonest.
And sometimes I give into temptation.
I sin.

Whoever or whatever it is in our minds and hearts that tempts us
to do what offends God and hurts others and ourselves,
I know that power is strong, subtle, devious, cunning and real.

The power of evil is one con artist in the business of temptation
and the second con man is myself.
I do such a good job at CON-vincing myself
that what I know is wrong isn’t really all that bad,
it might even be good in some ways,
and besides,  it’s pleasing to consider, very desirable
and hey -  it might even be helpful in the long run:
something like a piece of fruit, hanging within arm’s reach,
on a tree in the middle of an ancient garden…

The design of hearing this gospel every year on the first Sunday of Lent
helps us confront what tempts us
and examine how we respond to temptation.
In the story, Jesus had just fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.
He was in a physically weakened condition,
but he overcame each temptation he met.
Our track record is seldom as good as the Lord’s.
We give into temptation.  We sin.

Lent is a time to look within and take some personal inventory.
It’s a time to learn to name the power of evil
tempting basically good people to do what’s basically wrong.
Lent’s a time to examine our conscience and come to know our sins
and to ask the Lord for mercy and forgiveness.

In the bulletin this week you’ll find this four-page insert.
It’s a guide for considering going to confession this Lent.
Inside, you’ll find two pages of questions to reflect on.
One page is for adults, one page is for teens.
On the back cover there are simpler questions for children.* 
The questions offer one way for us to discern
how we’re dealing with temptation in our lives;
how we’re handling the spiritual con artists we face;
how we name our sins;
and what we do when that juicy piece of fruit
is there for the picking and we’re hungry for a bite.

In an age of relativism as permissive as our own,
we’ve lost a sense of personal sin.
This is as true of us believers as it is of the culture in which we live.
Lent is a time to be more honest with ourselves and with God
about how we live
and to ask for the forgiveness each of us needs.

For just such mercy did the Lord offer himself for us on the Cross
and with the very same mercy he shares himself with us
in the Bread and Cup of the Eucharist at this altar.

May this Lent be a time for all of us
to acknowledge our need for God’s mercy
and his pardon of our sins. 

* Here's a sample of the questions referred to above: an examination of conscience preparation for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

ADULTS Prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation 

- Do I love God?  Do I worship God?  Are there false gods I worship by giving them more attention than I give to God (work, money, position, prestige, superstition, possessions?)  Do I pray every day?  Do I pray on Sundays by participating at Mass?   Do I make an effort to grow in faith and in knowledge of my Church and its teachings? Do I thank God for his gifts to me?  Am I careful not to use the name of God and the name of Jesus carelessly?

- Do I love others?  At home?   At work?  In my neighborhood?  At school? Have I abused anyone - physically or emotionally?  Do I speak unkindly to others - or about others?  Do I give my parents the respect they deserve?  Am I a good and faithful parent?  Am I good to my brothers and sisters? Am I faithful to my friends?  Do I reach out generously to the poor? Do I share my belongings with friends and family members?  Do I try to care for the needs of others before I take care of my own needs?   Do I invite other people into my group of friends?  Do I exclude other people from my circle of friends?  Do I reach out to those who are lonely?

- Have I stolen?  Have I taken what does not belong to me?  Have I taken anything I have not paid for?  Have I damaged what belongs to others? Am I envious or jealous of what other people have?  Am I greedy or selfish?  Do I place too much importance on material goods?  Do I trust that God will provide what I truly need?

- Do I tell the truth?  Do I lie?  Am I honest with myself?  Am I honest with God?  Am I honest with my family?  Am I honest with my employers? with those with whom I do business?  with my teachers?  with my classmates?  with my friends?  Am I fair in my dealings with others?   Do I  object to injustice when I see it and work to remedy it?  Do I cheat?  Do I take credit for work that’s not mine? Do I gossip about others?  Do I contribute to tearing down the reputations of other people?  Do I forgive those who have hurt me?  Do I ask forgiveness of those whom I have hurt?  Do I hold grudges or resentments?

- Have I taken care of and respected the gift of my body?  Have I abused my body and my mind with drugs or alcohol?  Have I respected the gift of sexuality that God has given me?  Have I respected the sexuality of other persons? Have I  been faithful to my spouse in thought, word and deed?  Have I taken advantage of another person for my own pleasure?  Do I take part in entertainment, Internet sites, conversations or jokes of an inappropriate nature?

- Have I been faithful to my conscience?  Have I given in to the pressure of those around me to things I know are wrong?  Have I encouraged others to participate in wrongdoing?


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  1. I think you uploaded last weeks Homily.....

  2. So I did, Jim - thanks for the heads-up: situation now corrected!


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