First Sunday of Lent
Reading 1 GN 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Responsorial Psalm PS 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
- Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
Reading 2 ROM 5:12-19 OR 5:12, 17-19
Verse Before The Gospel MT 4:4B
Gospel MT 4:1-11
Homily for Nativity on the First Sunday of Lent 3/1/2020
Good morning everyone. Thanks for being here to worship on this first Sunday in Lent. You’ll notice a couple of things different because of Lent. A couple you may have already noticed. For the Penitential Act, we will recite the Confiteor, the “I Confess” prayer, followed by the Kyrie. There is no Gloria during Lent.
And you may have seen the front page of the paper on Wednesday that the kids at St. Anthony buried the A-word that we would typically say before the proclamation of the Gospel. We don’t use the A-word at all during Lent, but we will bring it back out at Easter in grand fashion. (Alleluia)
Then there are a couple of changes coming up in the liturgy, so right after the Homily, rather than recite the Nicene Creed like usual, we will recite the Apostles Creed, now through the end of the Easter season. That is a subtle difference in the start, but I will announce the page, at least for a couple of weeks.
For the Eucharistic Prayer, I will be mixing it up more than usual, often using one of the 2 prayers for reconciliation, so be sure to listen for some differences there.
But one difference that is not related to Lent is that today and until further notice we will not be distributing the Blood of Jesus from the Chalice. If you are scheduled to EM today, please count as people come up, we will only need 3 to help me.
Interestingly, in the United States, the Pope has granted us a couple of exceptions in the liturgy, one is that we routinely distribute the Body and Blood of Jesus under both species.
We know that by receiving one or the other, we receive Jesus’ full body, blood, soul and divinity, we don’t need to receive both, but the Pope has made an exception for laity. The priest is required to receive both to complete the sacrifice.
Anyway, the reason we aren’t going to offer the precious blood is because of the threat of illness. It’s still cold and flu season, and everyone is taking extra precautions with the Coronavirus so in consulting with some parishioners, and after receiving an email from the Archbishop, we thought it would be wise to suspend the extra chalices for the time being.
And I know I have said this back in January, but just to reiterate, it is not a mortal sin to not go to Mass when you are feeling sick, because we don’t want to risk getting others sick.
But there is one exception to that rule, there is a terminal condition that will kill us, which should not prevent us from going to Mass, rather it is in fact the reason we should go to Mass. That terminal condition is called sin.
Today’s readings focus on sin, on Adam and Eve’s original sin, and how Jesus was even tempted by it.
But as the second reading said, “Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, … For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”
See, when God created humans and planted a garden in Eden, this earth was supposed to be heaven. The humans were supposed to live there with God in harmony, loving God, doing His will, but they chose to take the temptation offered by the serpent, the first sin, and thus sin and death entered the world.
Because of that original sin, we all suffer from a terminal condition. Our ancestors allowed death into the world, but in order to provide an eternal remedy, God sent Jesus into the world to unlock the gates of heaven.
He was tempted in all ways, we can see that from today’s Gospel. We see the devil’s exact game plan. First, he twists God’s words, as he did in the garden with Eve; he makes us question God’s love for us; and he makes us question who God is and what God has promised us.
Then, the devil tempts us with the things of this world, his three favorite things to tempt us with: comfort and pleasure, recognition and pride, greatness and power. Pleasure and pride and power.
Listen again to the three temptations to Jesus: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” The devil knew Jesus was hungry after a 40 day fast, so he tempted him with the pleasure of eating comfort food.
Then the devil took Jesus to the top of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.” The devil knew Jesus could take a swan dive off the top of the temple and live, thus tempting him with the pride of recognition from everyone there.
“Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, ‘All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.’” This is clearly an attempt to get Jesus to take the power and greatness that comes with it.
Jesus was prepared for these temptations through 40 days of fasting. He gave us a model for how we are to prepare ourselves for similar temptations, because we know that the devil still tempts us today with these three things, pleasure, pride and power.
But occasionally, even knowing the game plan that Satan has, we still fall to those temptations, knowingly or unknowingly.
The beautiful thing is that we are here, here at Mass, during Lent, full of repentance, seeking reconciliation with our God. And our God loves us so much that He wants to honor that, He wants to give us the reconciliation which we desire, He waits for us here to pour out His mercy on us.
We are part of the “many” that Jesus came to save. I am often struck in the Eucharistic prayer by this word “many” - When I am consecrating the wine, the big red book tells me to bow and speak slowly, and I say, “...this is the chalice of my blood, the blood of the new and eternal covenant, which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.”
So why is it just for many and not for all? Why did Paul say in that second reading, “the many will be made righteous.”
It is because not all will recognize their sinfulness, not all will recognize their need for a savior. Some will be tempted through their pleasure, pride and power to think they are god, as they are in control of the world, and they will continue on in their sinful ways.
But we who are here recognize that we aren’t god, we aren’t perfect people, that we need a savior to rescue us from the mess we’ve made. We are part of the many who are happy to accept the body and blood of Jesus as a remedy for our terminal condition, the forgiveness of our sins.
We recognize that it is only through this lived relationship with God that we will find true happiness, lasting joy and peace, now and for all eternity, and we pray for others who have yet to encounter God’s loving mercy.
May God bless us this Lent as we prepare our hearts to celebrate the death and resurrection of our savior.