Sunday, June 25, 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time A


June 25, 2017


First Reading (Jeremiah 20:10-13)  
(10) Yes, I hear the whisperings of many: 
“Terror on every side!
Denounce! let us denounce him!”
All those who were my friends
are on the watch for any misstep of mine.
“Perhaps he can be trapped (tricked); then we will prevail,
and take our vengeance (revenge) on him.”
(11) But the LORD is with me, like a mighty champion:
my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph (prevail).
In their failure they will be put to utter shame,
to lasting, unforgettable confusion.
(12) LORD of hosts, you who test the just,
who probe (you see) mind and heart,
Let me witness (see) the vengeance (revenge) you take on them,
for to you I have entrusted my cause.
(13) Sing to the LORD,
praise the LORD,
For he has rescued the life of the poor
from the power of the wicked (evildoers)! 

Commentary of First Reading by Reginald H. Fuller
This reading has clearly been chosen to match the Gospel, which speaks of the persecution that the apostles will encounter on their mission. Jeremiah was preeminently the prophet who suffered persecution because of his prophetic activity.
His fate influenced the development of the later Jewish view that rejection, persecution, and martyrdom were inseparable from prophetic vocation, a view echoed in a number of dominical sayings (Luke 11:51;  Luke 13:33-34;  Mark 12:1-9) 
To be a bearer of the word of God means to suffer, because that word inevitably encounters hostility and rejection.
It is illuminating that apparently, according to the sayings of the Lord referred to above, Jesus regarded his own fate as the culmination of the rejection of the prophets and their message.
But it was Paul, more than any other New Testament figure, who regarded Jeremiah as a model for his own apostleship.
Certainly Paul regarded suffering as a supreme manifestation of the cross in his own apostolic ministry (see especially the catalogues of his sufferings in Second Corinthians 4:7-12;  6:3-10;  11:22-33)

Responsorial Psalm: 69:8-10, 14, 17, 33-35
(R. 14c) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
(8) For your sake, I bear insult,
and shame covers my face.
(9) I have become an outcast to my brothers,
a stranger to my  children.
(10) Because zeal for your house consumes me,
And the insults of those who blaspheme you fall on me.
(R. ) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
I pray to you, LORD,
(14) for the time of your favor, O God!
In your great kindness answer me
with your constant help.
(17) Answer me, O LORD, for bounteous is your kindness;
in your great mercy turn toward me.
(R.) Lord, in your great love, answer me.
(33) “See, you lowly ones, and be glad;
you who seek God, may your hearts revive!
(34) For the LORD hears the poor,
and his own who are in bonds he spurns not.
(35) Let the heavens and the earth praise him,
the seas and whatever moves in them!”
(R.) Lord, in your great love, answer me.

Second Reading (Romans 5:12-15)   
Brothers and sisters:
(12) Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
(13) for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
(14) But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.
Grace and Life through Christ
(15) But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.


Gospel  (Matthew 10:26-33)   Courage Under Persecution

Author:  •  Homily notes for June 24, 2017
The Lord speaks to us today of one of the  most central struggles in our life: fear. Yes, fear is one of our deepest drives and though it has a positive purpose, too often we miss the mark in directing its energy. The positive role of fear is to alert us that something is wrong and to divert us from danger. With our fallen nature, though, we often fear the wrong things while lacking a sober fear of the right things. We major in the minors of life; we get all worked up about passing things but do not have a sober and reverent fear of eternal things. We fear sinful and weak human beings, but not God, who is just, who sees all, and who will assign us our eternal destiny.
The Lord thus teaches us today in order to help us to “get fear right.” He sets forth the proper object of our fear, points to the outcome of succeeding or failing in this matter, and reminds us of our proper role in this world as we master our fear.
I.  The Object of Fear  Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one … And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna … Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
Wrong Fear  In speaking to the object of fear, Jesus is asking us to consider what and whom we fear most. We are going to fear someone and something. We are just too tiny and weak to be wholly free of fear. Yes, fear has its place and purpose; the problem is that we often fear the wrong things. We are a bit like Chicken Little, who was afraid of an utterly false threat (that the sky was falling) and in her panic ran right into the wolf, who devoured her.
Jesus is clear: Fear no man. The worst thing a human being can do to you is to kill you physically. Even if that happens, though, if you are faithful, dying is the path to Heaven; it’s a maximum promotion! Maybe people can steal your things or make your brief life here a little less pleasant, but life does not consist in our possessions. As an old gospel hymn says, “Trouble don’t last always.”
In a moment, Jesus will tell us whom we should fear. For now, consider again Jesus’ teaching: Fear no man. Yet the fact is that we do fear human beings. It’s incredible to find out how afraid we are. We’re afraid of everybody and everything! We’re more afraid of men than we are of God. We’re afraid of physical dangers, certainly, but even more so we’re afraid of being rejected by other people; of not being liked by others. We’ll do just about anything to ingratiate ourselves to others and to assuage our fear of being rejected or laughed at. We’ll gossip and lie; we’ll spend a lot of money on clothes, cosmetics, fancy cars, big houses, or the latest iPhone. Desperate to fit in, young people may join gangs, drop out of school, use drugs, fornicate, and/or engage in self-destructive behaviors, all in a desperate quest to be thought “hip” and loved.
Yes, too many of all ages have a mighty fear of rejection and humiliation by other human beings. And because we’re afraid of not being liked, we’ll do almost anything.
Not only does this fear drive us to do many things we shouldn’t, it also keeps us from doing many things we ought to do such as preaching the Gospel and insisting on what is right. Think of the martyrs of old who died professing the faith, and here we are afraid that someone will raise an eyebrow!
Fear is one of the chief habit patterns of sin, and it brings about countless other sins. It has to go.
Thus Jesus says, “Fear no one.” That is, fear no man. Whom do you fear more, men or God? Honestly?
Right Fear  God is the proper object of our fear.
Jesus teaches very provocatively, … rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna …
Some think that this text refers to Satan, but it does not. Luke’s version makes this even clearer: But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear the One who, after you have been killed, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him (Luke 12:5).
This cannot be Satan because Satan is not our judge. Although he can tempt us, he has no authority to determine our final destiny. Scripture says that Satan, our accuser, has been cast out (see Rev 12:10). Further, it declares, The Father judges no one, but has consigned all judgment to the Son that the world may revere him (Jn 5:22).
Many are uncomfortable thinking of the Lord in this way. They prefer to think of Him as an affable fellow, a harmless hippie who’s not all that concerned with things like holiness and conversion, and who in the end will just wave everyone through.
This is simply not what Scripture teaches. God is holy, and His holiness exudes a power and glory that we must be purified in order to endure, let alone enjoy. Frankly, Heaven would be a miserable place for anyone who has not been brought up to the temperature of Heaven or been accustomed to the bright light of God’s truth. 

Heaven is not our personal “designer paradise.” It is the Kingdom of God in all its fullness and with all its values: forgiveness, generosity, love of one’s enemies, chastity, and so forth. There are many who don’t want anything to do with some or any of these values. They are much like the older son in the parable of the prodigal son, the one who stands outside angry and unwilling to the enter the feast given by his father. He finds forgiveness untenable; he loathes the feast because his wayward brother is honored there. 

Judgment Day is something to have a holy fear about, for it is the day when God will ask this question: “Do you want the Heaven I offer on its terms or not?” On the Day of Judgment, God will assess what our decision has amounted. He will either welcome us into the feast or close the door and consign us to the “other arrangements” we ourselves have made and perversely preferred. Jesus says, As for anyone who hears My words and does not keep them, I do not judge him… The word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day (John 12:47-48).
Balanced Fear  This proper fear is not a cringing one, rooted only in the dread of punishment (though if that’s all you’ve got, go with it). Rather, it is a reverential fear that remembers God’s love for us and His desire to save us. Jesus says, Are not two sparrows sold for a small coin? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Although this proper fear remembers God’s love and does not give way to the imbalance of purely servile fear, neither does it swing to the other imbalance, which disregards the loving respect we should have for God and His holiness. God is who He is and Heaven is what it is. We simply cannot endure such realities without being purified and prepared for them first. God must have our repentance in order to do the work necessary to enable us for Heaven’s brightness and His fiery glory.
A reverential and balanced fear acknowledges God’s love and mercy, but also His awesome glory. Such a fear takes seriously our need to prepare for judgment and to avail ourselves of God’s graces in the sacraments, the Liturgy, His Word, and prayer.
II.  The Outcome of Fear  Jesus adds, There is nothing that is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known … Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.
Our fear is going to have an outcome for either good or ill. If we have the wrong fear (fearing man more than God), it will lead us to silence and even outright denial of God and His truth before others. Fearing the opinion of the world and human beings more than God makes us silent and too easily conformed to a world opposed to Him. This amounts to a tacit denial (by silence) or to an outright denial wherein we publicly scorn God and/or His revealed truth in order to ingratiate ourselves to this world. The consequence of this denial is Jesus’ affirmation of our denial of God the Day of Judgment. The martyrs and confessors of the faith shine brightly before God, but we cannot endure their brightness because we have hidden out in the dark places and preferred the darkness of error to the light of truth.
If we have the right fear, we want to please God rather than man. We delight in representing Him and His teachings before others, even joyfully enduring the world’s scorn. 
If we fear God, we fear no one else. 
If we can kneel before God, we can stand before any man. 
If we fearlessly, charitably, and joyfully acknowledge God before others, we will be acknowledged before God the Father as someone who truly sought Him and witnessed to Him. 
A proper and balanced fear brings an outcome of glory and happiness. An improper fear (of man rather than God) brings denial, because we fear and prefer the opinions of men and this world rather than God. On Judgment Day the Lord will acknowledge our preference to His Father.
For a good outcome, make sure you have the right and balanced fear!
III. The Office of Holy Fear  What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.
The Lord is summoning us to speak fearlessly to the world on account of a holy fear of Him.
1. But in the face of strong opposition, we were bold in our God to speak the gospel of God to you. … We speak … not in order to please men but God, who examines our hearts. As you know, we never used words of flattery or any pretext for greed. God is our witness! Nor did we seek praise from you or from anyone else (1 Thess 2:2-6).
2. Do you think I am seeking the approval of men, or of God?… I would not be a servant of Christ (Gal 1:10).
3. From henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear in my body the brand marks of the Lord Jesus (Gal 6:17).
4. But Peter and John replied, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to listen to you rather than God. For we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).
What about you? Do you speak the word of God to an often-scoffing world? Or do you fear the world more than God, and therefore stay silent, hiding out? If we reverently fear God more than the world, then we will speak out even in the face of opposition. We love the Lord more than we love the world. Therefore, we speak!
Summation – Make sure you fear the right thing, in this case the right One. Here is what Jesus teaches: Do not fear man. Rather, have a holy reverent fear of God. Get fear right. Stop getting so anxious about what mere mortals think of you. Your destiny will hinge on getting fear right. Fear the Lord; acknowledge Him before men and proclaim His world, and you be acknowledged greatly by him in Heaven. If you fear men and the world, just watch how quickly cave in, compromise, and deny the Lord, preferring worldly trinkets and the praise to eternal glories. But if you go that route, that’s all you’ll get. Beware, the Lord will one day have to acknowledge your preference: “Father He denied. He said no to our offer.”
Decide now whom you will fear. Your destiny depends on that decision.


Sources:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Servant of the Word - First Sunday of Lent (cycle A) March 5, 2017

First Sunday of Lent (Thank you Deacon Jim Miles! Pax!)

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 394, 538-540, 2119: The temptation of Jesus
CCC 2846-2949: “Lead us not into temptation”
CCC 385-390, 396-400: The Fall
CCC 359, 402-411, 615: Adam, Original Sin, Christ the New Adam




Readings and Commentary:[4]


The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground
and blew into his nostrils the breath of life,
and so man became a living being.

Then the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east,
and placed there the man whom he had formed.
Out of the ground the Lord God made various trees grow
that were delightful to look at and good for food,
with the tree of life in the middle of the garden
and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals
that the Lord God had made.
The serpent asked the woman,
“Did God really tell you not to eat
from any of the trees in the garden?”
The woman answered the serpent:
“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’”
But the serpent said to the woman:
“You certainly will not die!
No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods
who know what is good and what is evil.”
The woman saw that the tree was good for food,
pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom.
So she took some of its fruit and ate it;
and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her,
and he ate it.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they realized that they were naked;
so they sewed fig leaves together
and made loincloths for themselves.
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Commentary on Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7

This selection from the Book of Genesis follows the second creation account, and includes the creation of man (the creation of woman followed in the verses omitted). The story resumes in the third chapter of Genesis.  Adam’s wife, now settled in the Garden of Eden, is tempted by the serpent, and, with her husband, falls into the original sin, the disobedience of God's commands.

"The account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents" (CCC 390). The Bible is teaching us here about the origin of evil--of all the evils mankind experiences, and particularly the evil of death. Evil does not come from God (he created man to live a happy life and to be his friend); it comes from sin, that is, from the fact that man broke the divine commandment, thereby destroying the happiness he was created for, and his harmony with God, with himself, and with creation in general. "Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness" (CCC 397).[5]

CCC: Gn 2:7 362, 369, 703; Gn 2:8 378; Gn 3 390, 2795; Gn 3:1-5 391; Gn 3:1-11 397; Gn 3:3 1008; Gn 3:5 392, 398, 399, 1850; Gn 3:6 2541, 2847; Gn 3:7 400
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Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13,17

R. (cf. 3a) Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me from my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
R. Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
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Psalm 51 is a lament and the most famous of the seven penitential psalms. In this first section, the singer asks God to wash away the guilt of sin. In the final strophe a closer relationship is asked for as the familiar: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise,” is uttered in concert with all those who pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

CCC: Ps 51:6 431, 1850; Ps 51:12 298, 431
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Reading II: Romans 5:12-19

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned—
for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world,
though sin is not accounted when there is no law.
But death reigned from Adam to Moses,
even over those who did not sin
after the pattern of the trespass of Adam,
who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression.
For if by the transgression of the one, the many died,
how much more did the grace of God
and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ
overflow for the many.
And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned.
For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation;
but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.
For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and of the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act,
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one,
the many will be made righteous.
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Commentary on Rom 5:12-19

The first verses of this longer form of the reading recall the original sin of Adam and Eve recounted in Genesis 3:1-7. Through this action, says St. Paul, sin entered the world, although before the Law of Moses, sin was not defined and therefore “…sin is not accounted when there was no law.” "Although to some extent the People of God in the Old Testament had tried to understand the pathos of the human condition in the light of the history of the fall narrated in Genesis, they could not grasp this story's ultimate meaning, which is revealed only in the light of the death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We must know Christ as the source of grace in order to know Adam as the source of sin. The Spirit-Paraclete, sent by the risen Christ, came to "convict the world concerning sin",(see John 16.8) by revealing him who is its Redeemer."(CCC 388)

St. Paul continues describing how, through one man, sin entered the world. But, the mercy of God was even greater in providing Jesus, his Son, through whom all sins were forgiven in his one heroic action, the Passion.

CCC: Rom 5:12-21 388; Rom 5:12 400, 402, 602, 612,1008; Rom 5:18-19 605; Rom 5:18 402; Rom 5:19-21 1009; Rom 5:19-20 411; Rom 5:19 397, 402, 532, 615,623; Rom 5:20-21 1848; Rom 5:20 312, 385, 412, 420
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Or
Shorter Form: Romans 5:12, 17-19

Brothers and sisters:
Through one man sin entered the world,
and through sin, death,
and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.

For if, by the transgression of the one,
death came to reign through that one,
how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace
and of the gift of justification
come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
In conclusion, just as through one transgression
condemnation came upon all,
so, through one righteous act,
acquittal and life came to all.
For just as through the disobedience of the one man
the many were made sinners,
so, through the obedience of the one,
the many will be made righteous.
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Commentary on Rom 5:12, 17-19

In the sorter version the specific reference to Adam and the Law of Moses are omitted focusing the emphasis on Christ’s righteous act through which “acquittal and life came to all.” This selection specifically recalls the original sin of Adam and Eve recorded in Genesis 3:1-7. Through this action, says St. Paul, sin entered the world although before the Law of Moses, sin was not defined and therefore, “sin is not accounted when there was no law.

CCC: Rom 5:12-21 388; Rom 5:12 400, 402, 602, 612,1008; Rom 5:18-19 605; Rom 5:18 402; Rom 5:19-21 1009; Rom 5:19-20 411; Rom 5:19 397, 402, 532, 615,623
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Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert
to be tempted by the devil.
He fasted for forty days and forty nights,
and afterwards he was hungry.
The tempter approached and said to him,
“If you are the Son of God,
command that these stones become loaves of bread.”
He said in reply,
“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city,
and made him stand on the parapet of the temple,
and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.
For it is written:
He will command his angels concerning you
and with their hands they will support you,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.”
Jesus answered him,
“Again it is written,
You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain,
and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence,
and he said to him, "All these I shall give to you,
if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.”
At this, Jesus said to him,
“Get away, Satan!
It is written:
The Lord, your God, shall you worship
and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold,
angels came and ministered to him.
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Commentary on Mt 4:1-11

The temptation of Christ highlights the fact that one of the remarkable characteristics of temptation can be that the devil may use our own moral core to attempt to overthrow us.  We note that the evil one uses scriptural quotes to invite Jesus to sin.  However, the Lord's knowledge of God's will and purpose refutes the devil.

“Jesus, proclaimed Son of God at his baptism, is subjected to a triple temptation. Obedience to the Father is a characteristic of true sonship, and Jesus is tempted by the devil to rebel against God, overtly in the third case, more subtly in the first two. Each refusal of Jesus is expressed in language taken from the Book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 8:36:1316). The testings of Jesus resemble those of Israel during the wandering in the desert and later in Canaan, and the victory of Jesus, the true Israel and the true Son, contrasts with the failure of the ancient and disobedient "son," the old Israel. In the temptation account Matthew is almost identical with Luke; both seem to have drawn upon the same source.”[6]

"Catholic teaching tells us that there are three levels of temptation: 1) suggestion, that is external temptation, which we can undergo without committing any sin; 2) temptation, in which we take a certain delight, whether prolonged or not, even though we do not give clear consent; this level of temptation has now become internal and there is some sinfulness in it; 3) temptation to which we consent; this is always sinful, and, since it affects the deepest part of the soul, is definitely internal."[7] The Lord underwent his temptation only in suggestion, an example to all his followers that sin never bears consideration.

CCC: Mt 4:1-11 394, 2849; Mt 4:4 2835; Mt 4:10 2083, 2135; Mt 4:11 333
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Homily:

At one point in my life I decided to get my private pilot’s license.  It was something I had always wanted to do, and I had some connections with a flight school that made it feasible.  If any of you are considering, or want to consider, doing the same this story may be instructive.  I spent six weeks going through ground school. I learned all about navigation, flight rules, centers of gravity calculations, and the like and took my FAA written examination.  I passed with flying colors (massive pun intended).

Armed with my incredible head knowledge, I went off to see a fellow parishioner, Dr. John Freitas.  Not only is John a good friend and doctor, he is a certified Flight Surgeon.  John gave me my flight physical and something surprising happened.  Part of the exam is a test for visual acuity. It tests for, among other things, color perception.  Of the 12 cards John showed me, all of which he alleged had numbers displayed in them of various colors, I got two right.  We said earlier that this might be instructive for others considering general aviation, here’s a hint:  take your flight physical before ground school.  I was given a student pilot's license but in big letters it said: “Not valid for night flight or under visual color signals.”

Some of you may be wondering what this has to do with the Holy Scripture we were given today or even Lent for that matter.  Well, as a footnote to the story, John told me that I might be able to get an unrestricted license if I went out and practiced with a person who could show me different lights at night so I would learn to recognize them.  Now it should be coming clearer.

In Holy Scripture today we hear a great deal about sin and temptation.  In the first reading from Genesis, Eve and Adam had been told by God that they could eat from any fruit in the garden except from the fruit of the tree of “knowledge.”  God’s incredible love for them had caused him to create humankind in his own likeness, and then provide and idyllic life for them, free from the stress and pain of modern existence.  But the serpent, taking advantage of our weakness, tricked Eve into violating that command, and sin entered the world.  Had she been told not to eat of that tree?  Yes.  Did she know that the evil one would send the serpent to delude her into violating that command?  It probably did not occur to her.  She made a choice, and it was a bad choice.  Just so we’re clear, Adam was with her.  We quote: “…and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her.”

Neither of them stopped and thought: will not God be angry if we disobey him?  We know what happened as a result.  Because they could not recognize evil, they fell prey to temptation with disastrous results.

St. Paul provides a nice bridge for us with his second reading.  He reminds us that through Adam and Eve sin entered the world, Original Sin.  And just as the gates of death were opened in that act of disobedience, they were closed by Jesus as he defeated sin and death in his passion and resurrection. 

At last we come to the Gospel story today.  Setting the stage, Jesus had just been baptized in the Jordan River by St. John the Baptist.  He came out of the water, and St. John saw the Holy Spirit descend and rest upon him, “like a dove.”  Jesus was immediately led into the desert where we are told he fasted for forty days.  Scripture says “…and afterwards he was hungry.”  Fasting for that long, Jesus was probably more than just hungry; he was on the verge of starving.  Into this time of vulnerability came Satan.  Using passages from Holy Scripture, he first tempted Jesus to use his power to make bread to ease his hunger. When that failed, he tempted him with a test to see how much God loved him, and finally he offered the Lord power over the earth (this would have been excruciatingly tempting since it would have allowed him to avoid the coming passion).  At each of these temptations the Lord refuted Satan.  Unlike Adam and Eve, Jesus saw the evil one’s plan and defeated him.

We are given two examples of temptation from the sacred texts; one failed and the other succeeded.  The examples place new emphasis on the final sentence of the Lord’s Prayer.  “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  Temptation, as we have seen is what Satan is best at.  When we are at our weakest, he will show up in one guise or another. 

When we are hungry, he will tempt us with food.  When we are struggling financially, he will tempt us with money that is not ours.  When we are lonely, he will surely provide unsavory company and comfort.  It is what he is best at. 

We saw him in the Gospel.  He used tricks, even with Jesus.  He quoted scripture to try to entice the Lord to fail.  He will come to us the same way.  It won’t be like the horror movies where Satan is hideous or repulsive.  He will come to us in charming or sweet ways.  His proposals will seem reasonable, his words fair sounding.  It may not be easy, but under the surface we will see the motives of the fallen angel. 

This is where the analogy with my color perception test above comes in.  We may not be able to distinguish the good from the bad at a glance.  We need to practice seeing what God wants and does not want.  To do this we need to practice.  We practice this in a few ways that are especially appropriate during our Lenten Season.  First and foremost is prayer.  Getting to know the Triune God through speaking with him is one of our best exercises.  Especially when we pray the Lord’s Prayer, let us make the words meaningful.  If we really want to be saved from temptation and delivered from evil, we can make that prayer intensely personal. 

Another excellent way is to review our past mistakes.  Taking advantage of the Sacrament of Reconciliation with its examination of conscience and discipline of atonement will move us forward along the path of understanding the traps laid for us. 

The discipline of Lent also includes almsgiving and fasting.  Using these tools we sharpen our perception of what God calls us to and what the evil one would like to call us away from.  The most important thing is for us to sharpen our understanding of God the Father, His Only Begotten Son, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit so we will not fall to the traps set for us on our path to salvation.

Pax


[1] Catechism links are taken from the HomileticDirectory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The picture used is “The Temptation of Christ” by Tintoretto, 1579-81
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[5] The Navarre Bible: “Pentateuch”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2003, pp. 51
[6] See NAB Footnote on Matthew 4:1-11
[7] The Navarre Bible, “Gospels and Acts”, Scepter Publishers, Princeton, NJ, © 2002, pp 69