March 10, 2019 First Sunday of Lent Fr Jim

First Sunday of Lent
Reading 1 DT 26:4-10

Responsorial Psalm PS 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15.

  1. (cf. 15b)  Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.
  2. Reading 2 ROM 10:8-13

Verse Before The Gospel MT 4:4B

  Gospel LK 4:1-13

First Sunday of Lent—March 9 & 10, 2019

             The first reading from Deuteronomy describes a liturgy.  The people’s offerings are put into the context of history so that the liturgy will remind them of who they are, where they came from, and how they have come to the point of being able to offer something to God.

            The people making this kind of offering have had time to settle and grow crops in the land that Moses only saw from a distance.  Although they entered the land with jubilance, they gradually lost the sense of wonder at all they had been given and saved from.  This ceremony is designed to remind them of who they are as a people blessed by God.  Sometimes we forget how blessed we are.   The wealth that they accumulated begins to appear more natural than miraculous, they can take their freedom for granted rather than recognize it as a free gift. 

            As we enter the 40 days of preparation for Easter we are reminded that the sacrifices we make are to be sacrifices of praise and we are called to become more mindful of the reasons for our gratitude to God.  The Israelites understood their national history as salvation history.  Their arrival in the promised land was both a political and a religious event.  A primary reason for remembering their background was to have compassion for others who suffered as they had.  Remember Exodus 22:20 which states “You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens,”.  This is one of more than 50 references to aliens in the Torah of the Bible.

            As people of the United States, we might take a page out of their book and recall our ancestors’ reasons for coming to America.  There would be very few of us whose forebearers immigrated for motives very different from the Israelites’ need to escape a situation of oppression.  Just as they were to remain mindful of their humble background, so too we would do well to remember where we have come and how little we have done to deserve what has been given to us.  Our past calls us to have compassion on the immigrant and refugee.

            Please take and read one of the pamphlets from the United States Conference of Bishops and reflect upon it.   It is entitled “Welcoming the Refugee and Migrant”.  You will find them in the pews and at the tables in back of church and at the side door.

            The gospel is about temptation.   One line I read in The Magnificat stated “Our temptations are moments of grace moving us to call on the name of the Lord in our powerlessness and weakness, longing to be saved.”  I don’t think of temptations as moments of grace but it does make sense to call on God’s help when we are tempted.

            After the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan he is filled with the Holy Spirit and is led into the desert where he fasts for 40 days!   Moses and Elijah also fasted for 40 days.   In the wilderness Christ experienced the temptation that faces everyone today.  The temptation is to make ideals of materialism, presumption, and power. 

            The first temptation was not only for Jesus to make bread from stone, but also to use his divine authority over creation to satisfy his hunger.  The second temptation was not just the enticement of royal power but rather a temptation to accede to the world’s fantasies of kingship (which the devil had corrupted) rather than to proclaim the true kingdom that God has established.  The third temptation was not just a testing of trust in divine grace, but rather an abuse of God’s favor for Jesus’ own glorification.  Jesus had divine gifts of power, but they were for mission.  As Jesus repelled each temptation, he resisted using these gifts to satisfy his own needs.

            The Bible reminds us that Satan is “a liar and the Father of lies” (Jn. 8:44).  Remember the lie made to Eve in the garden.

            What are our temptations today?   Scam artists call to take advantage of people.   They call and ask if you need a brace for your back and if you say yes boxes will begin to arrive at your home.  E-mails are being sent now trying to trick parishioners into believing that their pastor is requesting money or gift cards for various parish needs through a series of email messages—not true.

            Other temptations happen when children are told to do something as a dare that will cause harm to them or to someone else.

            Young people may be challenged to use alcohol or drugs or to look at  or send images on a smart phone or a computer or tablet that are not appropriate.  Do not fall for these temptations.

            Jesus is not drawn in by the deceptions of Satan, even after 40 days of desert fasting.  The devil may quote Scripture, but Jesus does it better, because he knows and trusts its Author.  As Jesus overcame temptations to use divine grace for himself, so Christians must continue to seek God’s purpose in every gift they receive.  Only then will they fulfill God’s saving mission.

What gifts has God given you?

Do you use them for yourself or for the needs of others?

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