Homily for February 13th, 2005.
Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.
Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.
1 st Sunday Lent A
The “décor features proper to Lent are in place: the ashes, the burlap, the cross, the purple banners, the music for Lent, the summons to prayer, to fasting, to almsgiving.
A seasonal change of scenery?
There is more to it. In the Christian tradition they evoke the desert that we are summoned to enter. The desert – the wilderness not as a geographical place, but as an image of the place where decisions are made concerning vocation and basic orientation of life, a place where allegiances are sorted out, a place where temptations are being faced.
And part of the Christian tradition is the conviction that those who are serious about seeking their true identity and freedom, those who are serious about their identity as people of God, they cannot avoid having to enter such a place; they have to realize that true freedom, true identity is not obtained without a struggle. True allegiance and obedience to God do not come naturally; there are powers at work that will do their best to detract us from such allegiance and obedience.
The Christian tradition knows of no exception to this. Not even Jesus as the Son of God, filled with the Holy Spirit, is exempted from this. Hence, today’s Gospel passage: Jesus too had to struggle to remain faithful to God’s will. The tempter tried to have Jesus break faith with God, his Father. But Jesus resists that temptation, and because of that he is the supreme agent of God in our world.
It would be rather presumptuous on our part to think that as disciples of Jesus we can get by without such a desert – wilderness experience. The church’s 40-day Lenten period reminds us of that: we too will have to struggle to confront our demons. Obedience, allegiance to God does not come naturally; it implies choices and conflict.
The story of Adam and Even being tempted (1 st reading) and of being tempted (Gospel) are not simply stories that took place a long time ago; they are stories that still take place in us. It is the clash between two kingdoms: that of God and that of false gods. It really is a battle between loyalties, allegiances. The Lenten season is given to us as a grace-filled opportunity to sort out where we share in Jesus’ resistance to the tempter and where the tempter still has a good grip on us. Christ may have grown on us, but there may still be a fair bit of the failing Adam and Even in us as well. The point of the Lenten season is to be liberated from the grip that the tempter and the false gods still have on us. Or to put it another way: how much has our being baptized in Jesus’ name really taken?
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