February 22, 2013

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

“The same Lord is Lord of all – enriching all who all upon him – everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved”

For all of us this has been a momentous week with events from Rome and the intended abdication of Pope Benedict the XVI. Many could not make head or tail of it asking why one would want to walk away from such a position. Why desert people in need particularly when they have a hunger for his teaching and he still has so much to say? For many his influence on the world stage is second to none so why give that up? He is probably the most acknowledged teacher and for many leader in the world today.

I would want to suggest a simple truth which comes most clearly from today’s gospel and is at the heart of Lent. That truth is that life is not about me but about God’s purposes and plans. Life most certainly does not revolve around me but around God. Until we accept that our lives will remain disembodied and pained. Humanity will be fractured and broken and there will be no peace and joy in our hearts.

Lent is about discovering that truth that we are not the centre of all things but God is and he is the one that we must ask to determine our plans. For that to happen we have to go into the desert, that place of quietness and stillness. Moses and our Lord in the word of God today are to be found in the wilderness. We hear in the Gospel that the Spirit led Jesus into the dessert, in other words he goes to face temptation in obedience to the Father being led by the Spirit. It is a journey of humility and surrender and we have to surrender ourselves to God at this time to make the same journey. Let us be ready to go to that place and ask of ourselves what is fundamental, basic and necessary to our lives. It is God who wants to search us and know us and until we let that happen we will never come to know who we truly are.

Very deliberately God leads the Lord and us through the three temptations. The chocolates, alcohol, meat or marmalade we give up during the season of Lent help to remind us that the material should not determine, run or disfigure our lives. “One does not live on bread alone” but rather on every word that comes from the mouth of God. The organiser of our lives must be God’s will and work. That Benedict wants to teach us.

When the Devil showed the Lord the kingdoms of the earth he wanted him to be seduced by honour and glory. How easy it is for us as Jew, Greek, Pope, priest, postman or footballer to want honour and glory. In truth God may want our dishonour, humbling and disappointment. Remember that we are making the journey to the Passion in which the Lord is to be crushed and broken. Why should we be any different?

Finally he takes him to the top of the mountain promising that Angels will bear him up. In other words our Lord is being tempted to that most deadly of sins namely Pride. He tempts him by inviting him to become the centre of the universe. How easy it is for us to fall into that trap... 

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