Hi everyone, this is my homily for MARCH 10, 2019 – FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT. This weekend, I’m enroute with a group of our students from Newman Catholic to Appalachia in Kentucky for a week long Mission trip with Christian Appalachia Project. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to record the homily this week as we’ll be having Mass probably in a hotel room. If it comes out okay though, I’ll send it along. The readings for today’s Mass can be found HERE Thanks as always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week – God Bless – Fr Jim. Audio: Also you can get the audios of the homilies from iTunes as a Podcast: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/fr-jim-cherns-homilies/id1440618142?mt=2
One thing abut the devil – something I’ve learned from personal experience is how logical he can sound. Not that he is logical, but he sure as hell can sound logical (pun intended). When I came close to leaving the priesthood about 13 years ago – that wasn’t a decision that came up one day that just presented itself as an option like “why don’t you doubt, undermine and plunge yourself into a spiritual crisis for a few years?” Most rational people would immediately say – UH NO. For me, it started with laziness in my prayer. Anger and bitterness about some things going on in my parish assignment and in the Church at the time. And then seeing an advertisement that the FDNY was accepting applications to become a firefighter in New York City – which was a boyhood dream. The line jumping off the bottom of the ad: You must not reach your 29th birthday by the close of the Application period. I would make that cut off by a month. So I cut that ad out. And kept thinking about it. And just sent the $25 in – just to keep my options open. And then I got the instructions to come and take the written test – and I decided to go take it – just to see how I would do on it. And then I wondered if I could even do the physical test – and so I started to train (good excuse to get into physical shape) and I aced that – beating out some of the most physically built guys that were taking the test the same day I did.
But the point is, each little step I made rationalizations. I wasn’t really, techincally sinning with any of this. What’s wrong with taking the test? But the reality was, in a lot of ways they were very sinful and if I was being honest with myself at the time I would’ve absolutely recognize that. I had already made my lifelong promises and commitment to God as a priest. What was I doing even entertaining these thoughts. But hell if they didn’t sound so logical and innocent at the time.
Which is why the Church wants us to focus on the fact that the devil is very real and \what his ultimate desire is: to entrap us, and turn us away from God. Just think about this Gospel we just heard. The devil is arrogant enough that we see how he actually goes after Jesus. And he tries to use his twisted logic in moments of weakness or vulnerability. Here Jesus has gone into the desert, to be fast, to pray… He’s gone to be away from the world, away from all its distractions desiring to be alone with his Heavenly Father – listening to His voice, he’s reflecting on what His Father was saying to Him. After those 40 days, the devil tries to be logical and clever with Jesus. 40 days of fasting and praying is a LONG time. A difficult thing to do! For those who’ve given up drinking coffee or eating chocolate for these 40 days, we can only imagine… So here’s the Son of God, and He’s hungry. It’s probably going to be a little while before he gets back to town – to His family, His friends, His disciples. He’s probably wondering about getting something to eat. Maybe he’s thinking, I wonder if Peter was even able to catch some fish without my help… And so the devil starts putting these thoughts to him – you’ve spent 40 days with your Father – you’ve reflected on how you’re God’s son, right? You’ve grown – you KNOW he Loves you – You Love Him… so you’re hungry (you should be…) Go ahead – do one of your tricks – why don’t you just take that stone and make into some bread for yourself… what’s the big deal?
The other two temptations are similar – they try to attack that same sense of vision, relationship, and understanding that Jesus had of what the Father was asking the Son to do and how to do it… The devil proposes to Jesus “You’re GOD’S SON – why not just be King – why do you have to answer to a bunch of purported religious authorities, debate them, be questioned by them… Who are they to tell you who YOUR FATHER is??? Here, you can be ruler, king over all of them…” When that didn’t work, the devil comes at it another way “Alright, alright you know what would really get these people’s attention… imagine you jumping from the highest height of the temple. You know God’s going to take care of you. Forget all this selflessness and service. You want attention – That would DEFINITELY create a buzz!”
If the devil can be that arrogant to go after Jesus and to even present somewhat logical, persuasive arguments to try to even for a moment enter into His mind and twist it, how eager do you think he is to do that to each and everyone of us who are trying to follow Jesus Christ today? And he uses the same approach:
The guy or gal who has an extra marital affair never planned on it, and usually after it’s happened doesn’t know how they got to where they are. But if they look back, they see those moments where there was a slight whisper “what’s the harm in having a cup of coffee with that person?”
The drug addict never ever would’ve chosen that life for themselves, but in a moment of weakness and vulnerability the promise that “you’ll feel better, just try it” seemed too good to be true.
The student who cheats his way through school never imagined he would do that, but that one time when he felt frustrated or unprepared and that voice saying “hey everybody does it once in awhile” seemed reasonable enough for them to find a shortcut that seemed easier to give into with each new challenging course.
Which is why at the start of Lent it’s important for us to be clear about this enemy whose twisted logic continues to diminish and destroy so many. To identify that he is a threat and how he operates. Trying to sound so logical and persuasive. We have to recognize how the slight compromises to what is right that we make, the seemingly most insignificant “venial” sin isn’t slight or insignificant – they are openings, steps in the wrong direction to make us that much more comfortable with living slightly less noble, less righteous lives. “It’s only a ‘white lie,’” “Don’t be such a prude, it’s only a joke…” “What’s the harm, you’re not going to end up like so and so…” We have to identify all those lies, all those ways the devil slowly eases in to twist us with his twisted logic and persuasions.
Fortunately we have a savior who’s love defies all logic. Who’s love is assured on the cross for each and every one of us for all eternity. Who the minute we become aware of how we’ve allowed this enemy into our hearts and minds is instantly eager and ready to defeat him once again – particularly in the Sacrament of Reconciliation where we make a good confession and turn away from those lies and into his loving embrace. May we move forward these 40 days of Lent vigilant in our rejection of the devil and single minded in our following of Jesus Christ alone