Jesus spent 40 days in the desert; we have 40 days of Lent.
The connection is obvious. Our Lord,
who became man to be in solidarity with us –
to fight not just for us, but side-by-side with us – leads us into battle.
And the three temptations from the devil sum up all that tempts us.
Like Jesus, we are tempted by the flesh, by worldly greed,
and by the arrogance of power.
One way to understand the temptations
the devil presents to Jesus is this.
The devil appeals to that part of us that says,
take the shortcut; go ahead and cheat to get ahead;
win through power.
The devil tells Jesus: you can have all the kingdoms of the world –
meaning, all the souls they contain –
and you only need to do one, little thing: just worship me.
This is how a lot of temptation works out for us. Take the shortcut.
We have candidates for public office saying, sure, let’s use torture.
Others say, sure, we take unborn children, at the early stage of life,
and destroy them for “research,” but they justify it,
because it’ll go for a good cause.
The state of California recently legalized killing sick people –
so called “assisted suicide.” After all, it’ll save money.
A lot of this is also about the arrogance of power.
We are unwilling to let God be God. We want to be God.
The whole movement today, not only for redefining marriage;
it’s moved now to redefining what male and female mean.
The bottom line is arrogance of power.
Who cares what God has designed? We are god.
We make our own design.
And so you have scientists who want to manipulate human life
at the genetic level, and “edit” the genetic structure of life.
They want to create babies on order;
and they want to mix human and non-human genes together.
But let’s come back to where you and I are.
The main battlefield most of us will face
is not 1,000 miles away, not 100, not even one mile away.
It’s inside us: our own heart.
It’s in the choices we make
from when the alarm clock buzzes in the morning
until we return to bed each night.
It’s in what we do at work each day,
and on the Internet each afternoon and evening.
In the words we share with our families –
and in the refusal to share ourselves with one another.
Our hearts are the battlefield.
And this Lent is our time to enter into desert silence,
so that we’re alone with ourselves.
Who among us can say, I don’t need this?
I have no temptations; I have no weaknesses to overcome?
The one man who really could say that was Jesus Christ.
And he went into the desert.
He went there to say, you’re kidding yourself
if you think you can win these battles
without prayer, without cost, without Me!
There are lots of tools that help us.
We know three of them: fasting and self denial. Prayer.
Giving generously to others, especially the poor.
Under the rubric of prayer, let me highlight
the most powerful weapon of all. The sacrament of confession.
I go to confession about every 2-3 weeks; although, at present,
I’m overdue. So I promise, I’m going to go this week if I possibly can.
What do I confess? Like a lot of people,
I tend to confess the same sins again and again.
That said, I can tell you:
there are some sins I don’t confess very often anymore.
Over the years, with help from God prompting my conscience,
and the priest giving counsel,
and my own desire to make something happen,
and going back to confession again, and again, and again,
I have beaten down some of my sins.
I don’t know that anyone is ever cured, this side of Purgatory.
But, we can learn –
with the help of the Holy Spirit and frequent confession –
to silence our tongues a little more;
to avoid certain sections of the Internet
and to refuse certain pleasures;
to trust that our business will be OK
even without cheating and cutting corners.
We can learn to tame our anger and cool our passions.
And, we can learn to forgive.
But none of these things will ever happen
if we cannot humble ourselves and go to confession.
And, while I’m on the subject, I want to make an announcement:
starting this week, I’ll be here an hour earlier on Thursdays,
hearing confessions from 6 pm, before Stations.
In the first reading, when God’s People would come into the temple,
to offer the first-fruits of their harvest,
they were bowing down and acknowledging:
they didn’t do it themselves, they needed God.
My soul is my battlefield; your soul is yours.
Can you become who you want to be without God? I cannot.
That’s why we go to confession.