Sunday, February 14, 2016

Today's Homily

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Holy Mass on the First Sunday of Lent. As most of you are aware, the Lenten Season began a few days ago on Ash Wednesday and it will last for forty days. Every year during this time, the Church unites herself to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 540]

Jesus' temptation in the desert reveals to us the way in which the Son of God is the Messiah. This is contrary to the way Satan proposed it to Jesus and the way men wish to attribute to Him. This is why Christ vanquished the tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." [C.C.C. # 540; Heb. 4:15]

During the Season of Lent, it is the custom of the Church to re- read and re-live the great events of salvation history in the 'today' of her liturgy. This demands that catechesis help the faithful to open themselves to the spiritual understanding of the economy of salvation as the Church's liturgy reveals it and enables us to live it. [C.C.C. # 1095]

Today's message from the Gospel of Luke speaks to us of the triumph of Jesus in the desert. Led by the Spirit in the wilderness, the Lord Jesus resisted the three temptations that were placed before Him. Through Jesus and with Him, we are reminded that we too can be triumphant in our battle against evil.

In accordance with the tradition of the Church, during the Lenten Season, we as believers are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.

By doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the Kingdom of God that we shall inherit as children of the Lord.

During today's Gospel Reading, we heard how Satan tempted Jesus the first time. He asked Jesus to manifest His Divine power by commanding a stone to become a loaf of bread. But Jesus, "though He was in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied Himself, taking form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death - even death on a cross." [Heb. 2:6-8]

At anytime in His life, Jesus, being God incarnated, could have performed miracles or could have appealed to His father and at once, He would have sent Him more than twelve legions of angels. But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled, when they say that it must happen in this way? [Mt. 26:53-4]

The answer that Jesus gave to the devil is most interesting. Jesus said, "One does not live by bread alone." If we are to associate this response with the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, it implies that the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, is insufficient in itself to assure our salvation. There is a great truth to this mystery. As words without actions are dead, faith without works is also dead. [Jas. 2:26] For, by the grace of God, our works are manifestations of the indwelling Holy Spirit who is sanctifying us and moving our living faith towards a perfect likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

So important are works in our lives that in the end of the Book of Revelation, we read, "See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work." [Rev. 22:12] In the beginning of the same Book, we read, "I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you received and heard; obey it, and repent. If you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you." [Rev. 3:1-3]

In that same Chapter, we read, "I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing.' You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." [Rev. 3:15-7]

You see my brothers and sisters, to qualify to inherit the Kingdom of God, we need to allow ourselves to be moved by the Holy Spirit to perform spiritual works for the glory of God. As the spiritual works of Jesus were Divine manifestations that He truly was the Son of God, our spiritual works by the power of the Holy Spirit are manifestations that we too are children of God, Sons and Daughters of the Almighty.

In the second temptation, the devil showed Jesus in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. Then he promised to give Him all their glory and authority if Jesus would worship him. Jesus answered, "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.'" By His answer, Jesus gave two messages. First of all, His answer echoed the first Commandment, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me." [Ex. 20:2-3]

Secondly, for what would it profit to gain the whole world but to forfeit one's life? [Mt. 16:26] What good is all the glory and authority that comes with the ownership of kingdoms if one will lose his soul? Are a few years of glory and authority of more value than an eternal life as a child of God? Certainly not!

My brothers and sisters, during the coming week, let us reflect on the actions of Jesus who was led by the Spirit in the wilderness. As Jesus resisted the temptations in the desert, we too are called to resist the daily temptations that cross our path and seek to destroy our communion with God. We are called to repent of past sins, to be sanctified in Christ, to perform spiritual works through the power of the Holy Spirit, to resist all glory and authority that may separate us from the love of God Who greatly desires to see the fulfillment of our adoption as His children. Let us reflect upon these things during the coming week.

May the grace of God be with you all as you search your hearts with great sincerity and allow yourselves to be transformed in Christ.

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