March 24, 2019 Third Sunday of Lent Deacon Steve Whiteman
Mar 25, 2019
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord
Reading 1 IS 7:10-14; 8:10
Responsorial Psalm PS 40:7-8A, 8B-9, 10, 11
- Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will.
Reading 2HEB 10:4-10
Verse Before The Gospel JN 1:14AB
The Word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us;
and we saw his glory.
Gospel LK 1:26-38
24 Mar 2019 step away from the edge of the cliff
Pike’s Peak is a mountain in Colorado that stands over 14,000 feet tall. It’s unique because there is a 19 mile toll road that leads to the summit. When I visited there several years ago in the winter I was surprised there were no guard rails along the winding roads. If you miss one of the many curves in the road, your car could plummet several hundred feet down before crashing.
The city of Colorado Springs maintains the road and plows the snow as much as possible in the winter to keep the road open to the summit. During my visit, I had the chance to talk to a man named Bob, who drove one of the snow plows. I asked Bob if he ever got nervous plowing snow on such a treacherous road. Bob told me he had gotten used to the risk but once in a while he found it difficult to know where the edge of the road was without a guard rail. He said that sometimes on cloudy days, the sky will blend in with the snow on the road and if he wasn’t careful, his right front tire would run off the edge of the cliff. Bob said the first few times that happened he panicked but realized there was enough weight in the back of the snowplow to keep him from going over the edge. Bob seemed a little numb to the hazards in his job and was not able to convince me it wasn’t dangerous.
I was reminded of Bob’s story when I saw our 2nd reading today. St. Paul is warning the Corinthians they should not be too certain of their salvation. They have become over confident as Christian converts and are living on the edge of the cliff with their faith life.
St. Paul challenges their complacency with a story about the Children of Israel who struggled during their journey to the Promised Land. The Israelites were privileged to have God’s daily help and guidance on their journey but they took these blessings for granted. St. Paul tells us that God was unhappy with many of them and they were struck down because of their grumbling, idolatry and evil desires.
The Corinthians may have assumed their token participation in the Christian Community would prevent them from going astray. St. Paul encourages them to learn from their ancestor’s experience and turn to God for the strength that will help them resist temptations. His warning to the Corinthians is just as relevant for us today when he says:
“whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall.”
Since we are in the season of Lent, this may be a good time to reflect on our faith life and determine if we are driving too close to the edge of the cliff.
We all have temptations that we deal with in our daily life. The devil is an expert at leading us astray and many types of sin are associated with a pattern of behavior. When we find ourselves dealing with too much stress or fatigue or frustration our mind and body are in a weakened condition. If we can’t give ourselves a break from this routine we naturally look for an outlet or coping mechanism. Unfortunately these outlets can lead us into sinful behavior like anger, pride or jealousy. More serious problems can lead to addictions like drinking, pornography or gambling. The devil is happy to take advantage of our situation and try to lead us into an addiction and off the edge of the cliff.
So how do we break a pattern of behavior that leads us to sin?
Thomas Merton said the physical pleasures of the body are like children. They are gifts from God but they need discipline. Without the right discipline, these children…or physical desires…will take over our life.
This basic concept is why the Church continues to promote fasting and why religious orders of men and women may have very austere ways of life. When these physical desires are controlled, our spiritual desires are more likely to emerge. We need to find the right balance that allows us to become the best version of ourselves…the person that God made us to be.
Lent is a great time to probe deeper into the patterns of behavior that lead us astray and reflect on them in Reconciliation. Facing these challenges head on will give us the best chance to overcome them.
If we continue to struggle with a sinful behavior, we can take comfort in our Psalm today:
· The Lord is kind and merciful
· He hears our cries and knows our suffering
· He redeems our life and pardons our iniquities
· The Lord is kind and merciful
Of course, the most important step in this process is taking the time to understand the challenges and temptations in our life. In light of the Gospel, let us ask for God’s help to honestly examine our faith life, maintain our physical discipline and allow abundant fruit to grow on our spiritual fig tree.