Sunday, February 25, 2007

He fights; we win (Sunday homily)

Today’s readings are about baptism.

The first reading has a “creed,”
that reminded the Israelites where they came from,
and who saved them.

We profess a Creed, every Sunday.
We first professed that faith at baptism.
Or, someone did it for us when we were a baby.

At a baptism, we were asked:
“Do you believe…?”
On Easter, we will be asked those questions again.

The second reading is also a creed:
We believe Jesus Christ is Lord:
He is the Almighty God
who delivered the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt,
and he delivers us from slavery to sin.

That, too, is what we profess in baptism—
It’s not a formality.
Like the encounter in the Gospel,
it has eternal consequences.

That’s what the holy water at the doors means.
You re-make those promises every time
you dip your hand in the water.
So we, too, have a choice:
Will we accept the deliverance Jesus won for us;
Or would we rather go back to slavery in Egypt?

That brings us to today’s Gospel.
You and I often face a struggle with temptation.
But notice, there is no battle in the Gospel!
It’s not an equal contest—not even close.

Do you ever wonder why Jesus
went through this encounter with the devil?

He doesn’t need it for himself.
He has nothing to prove.
It is for us!

Behind this story is another encounter:
Between the devil, and a man—Adam.
You might say, no, it was the serpent, and Eve.
Yes—but you see, Adam was standing there…
saying nothing; doing nothing; going along.

The first Adam failed—he failed to trust God;
and he failed to fight for his beloved!

In the Gospel, Jesus, the new Adam, comes to fight
the battle the first Adam failed to fight.

Who’s the first Adam’s beloved? Eve.
Who’s the second Adam’s beloved? We are!

Jesus fights this battle, not for himself, but for us.
And when we choose baptism, we accept that:
we accept Jesus as our Lord;
we accept a union with Jesus like that of Adam and Eve:
it is a kind of marriage, “the two become one flesh.”
That’s the Eucharist—his flesh, our flesh!
We become one!

People bring their children for baptism…
We come to the Eucharist…
We say, “Jesus is Lord”—
It means a lot more than we might realize.

See, we could say, “No thank you, Jesus”—
I’ll fight my own battles.
In truth, that’s what we often do:
we say, “Jesus is Lord”—
but then, we try to do things our own way, not his.

It’s what I call “My way” spirituality.
Remember Frank Sinatra’s famous song:
“I did it my way.”
Great song. Lousy spirituality.

To be a Christian—to be baptized—
Is to reject “my way” salvation,
and to say, “Jesus is my Lord—he saved me.”
And we no longer do it “my way.”

How often when the Church teaches us something,
we don’t like it, we find a reason it doesn’t apply to us?
Even when Jesus himself said it: “yeah, but…”

Notice how Jesus “fought” this battle:
No force; no demonstration of power;
He simply quoted Scripture.
He didn’t prove himself—because he didn’t have to.

This is the daily struggle you and I face:
Could we go a single day with that much trust in God?

For myself: No.
Someone challenges me, a decision I made,
I’m going to be defensive, try to justify myself.

Each of the temptations in the Gospel is about
the enemy trying to separate Jesus from trust in God.
And he does exactly the same to us.

Will God supply our needs?
If you want to win—you have to use power and force;
Hmm…does God love you? Better test it and see!
Jesus doesn’t argue with the devil,
and neither should we.

Jesus trusts his Father—that is the foundation.
How many people we know, without jobs, money…
yet they know peace?

We are often tempted to resort to power and force.
As a nation; as members of a family; as people in charge.
But the deeper our trust in God,
the easier we will find it not to respond in kind.

The devil says, “Are you sure God loves you?
Some people are very destructive toward themselves…
because they can’t believe God loves them.
Others are overwhelmed by sin and guilt,
To the point even after going to confession,
they doubt God’s mercy.

As I said—this Gospel story shows Jesus,
fighting this battle for us.

If we do it our way, we’ll have to fight—and we’ll lose.
We let Jesus be Lord—he fights. That’s how we win.

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