Today’s homily is for the 1st Sunday in Lent, March 6, 2022, and the readings can be found by clicking here.
As we begin our journey to Easter joy over these next forty days, I would like to take just a moment to reflect on Lent, its symbols, meaning, and the problem of sin. In previous posts I’ve shared that Lent begins with ashes on Wednesday as a reminder of the brevity of life, the admission that we’ve not lived well, and that now is the time to return to God. We mourn this human condition, receive ashes, and recommit ourselves to holiness and right living.
We have sinned in what we have done, and in what we have failed to do. When we sin we sin three times. All sin is personal, but no sin is private. My brokenness affects my relationship with God, the God of love, who I reject in small and great ways. My sin affects me, and who I am supposed to be as a child of God, and with every sin that I sin I fall deeper into selfishness and greed–a life inherently opposed to the Gospel of love, sacrifice, and generosity toward others. And that’s how I sin against others, by turning away from them, closing myself off to the cry of the poor. I think only of my own wants and needs at the expense of others whom I am called to love and serve.
Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving is the antidote to death. It mends my relationship with God, disciplines myself, and commits me to generosity towards those in need. This is why Lent matters. Lent is a forty-day boot camp that reorients me to the love of God and neighbor–the ONLY commandment that Jesus gave us. Our Lord made it so simple, and yet I fail. Not month by month, but daily I fail. It’s no wonder that we begin with ashes on Wednesday to mourn this human condition of weakness and depravity. It’s no wonder that in the only prayer Jesus taught his disciples they should pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from us evil.”
Today’s Gospel gives us a clean and simple snapshot of our life on earth. Jesus, like us, is filled with the Holy Spirit. We, like Jesus, enter the desert and are put to the test. We are tempted by the devil, who promises us satisfaction and happiness in material things. He promises us strength and wholeness through power and glory, and all we have to do is worship him. And for those of us who know our joy comes from God and not wealth, and know that we are to serve no one but the Lord, he tempts us with pride. Those whose faith is so strong and are convinced that their Lord lives would think nothing of throwing caution to the wind and putting the Lord to the test.
As we journey through these next 40 days, my prayer is that we not give up chocolate or the radio, but that we give up selfishness and greed, immorality and impurity. My prayer is that we spend less time on social media with our Facebook friends, and spend more time with family and friends. My prayer is that we sacrifice time each morning and evening to begin and end our day in prayer to the Lord, as a family and individually. My prayer is that we take a good hard look at how much we have and question whether or not we have been generous enough to those in need.
My prayer is that during this Lenten season we die to the attractiveness of earthly wealth, power, and influence, and that we grow not only in holiness but also in humility before the Lord. For these next 40 days, let us get into the habit of rejecting Satan—though he tempts us, and unite ourselves tightly to the Lord our Savior and Redeemer so that when he rises on Easter morning, we are sure to rise with him.