Saturday, February 16, 2013
What's really at stake in Lent (Sunday homily)
Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent,
we always hear about the Lord going into the desert to fast and pray--
and be tempted by the devil.
Let’s talk about a fact of life: each one of us is tempted.
I don’t just mean to eat another cookie or have another drink,
although that is part of it.
In the Gospel, it doesn’t say for 40 days Jesus gave up chocolate;
it says “he ate nothing.”
So may I suggest that temptation--and the conversion we seek--
is about more weighty matters.
I am reading a book by Father Aiden Nichols,
and he makes the point this way:
the three temptations of our Lord are, first, about materialism:
It’s all about bread and stuff;
Second, about power: if only I were in charge of everything!
And above all, about trusting God--or not.
We all saw this on display this week,
when the holy father stunned us by announcing
he will step down later this month.
Notice the reactions:
Some, especially in the media, started saying--
as they did the last time--
oh, maybe the new pope will change everything
the way we think the Church ought to be!
All they are thinking about is power--totally missing the point!
Then you have good-hearted folks who became very fearful--
is this some sort of sign of the end of the world?
Meanwhile, at the center of all the storm is Pope Benedict:
completely at peace.
He said: “I am strengthened and reassured
by the certainty that the Church is Christ’s,
who will never leave her without his guidance and care.”
The reason we give up things for Lent;
the reason we change our routine for Lent;
the reason it is good to give ourselves extended time of quiet--
it’s why a retreat is so important--if you can’t do it for a week,
how about a weekend of silence? Or just a day?
The reason we do these things is to confront these deeper temptations.
Because the fundamental choice involved in every sin we commit is:
Is Jesus the Lord; or am I my own god?
When we get fearful or worried or angry,
isn’t it, at bottom, a refusal to trust God?
If I trust God, why worry?
If I really trust God, why be afraid?
If I let God be in charge, then I can let him be angry.
On this first Sunday of Lent, we might ask ourselves:
How far into the desert do I want to go this Lent?