Sept 20, 2015 25th Sunday in Ordinary Time Deacon Steve Whiteman

Twenty-fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sept 20, 2015

Reading 1 Wis 2:12, 17-20

Responsorial Psalm Ps 54:3-4, 5, 6 and 8

R. (6b) The Lord upholds my life.
Reading 2 Jas 3:16—4:3

Alleluia cf. 2 Thess 2:14

  Watch Where you Step

We have a small backyard in Asbury with a chain link fence around it. We put the fence up when the kids were small. Since they are adults now, the fence has a new purpose keeping our dogs corralled.  We have two lovable Shetland Sheepdogs that spend most of the day inside but they use the backyard to do their business. The fence is nice because you don’t have to worry about the dogs wondering off. The challenge we have is keeping the yard clean. If the yard hasn’t been mowed recently, we have to watch where we walk or we can step in a mess.

Our readings today talk a lot about the evil in our world. The devil does his best to put evil and temptation in our path and like our backyard, we need to watch where we step. If we don’t pay attention and step in a sinful mess, it can cause problems in every part of our life and for those around us.

So how do we navigate through our daily lives and avoid sin? How do we walk through the journey of life without stepping into a sinful mess?

  • The first way is to know your enemy.

1 Peter 5:8 tells us: “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for [someone] to devour.”

The devil is known as the father of lies. He will tell us what we want to hear and helps us justify our behavior when we are being tempted. He knows our fears and temptations and will try to use them to push our buttons. He’s really good at creating turmoil in our lives and sabotaging the good things we try to do.

I’ve heard there are 2 guaranteed ways to bring the devil into your life:

  1. Actively seek him out like members of a satanic cult
  2. Ignore him completely and pretend he doesn’t exist.

If we can recognize the patterns he uses to tempt us, we can avoid them. If we are always tempted to sin in a certain place or with a certain group of people, try to break the pattern. We may not be able to avoid them completely but be we may be able to break the pattern of behavior that leads us to sin.

C.S. Lewis wrote a book called The Screwtape Letters. The book is a series of letters between 2 demons. The senior demon is named Uncle Screwtape. He tries to give advice to his nephew who is assigned to lead a mortal man into temptation. It’s funny, but very insightful. If you haven’t read it yet, consider listening to John Cleese narrate the book on Youtube. It’s very entertaining and you may learn a lot about how the devil maybe working in your life.

The evil in this world shouldn’t create overwhelming fear in our lives. From Isaiah 41, God tells us:  Do not fear: I am with you; do not be anxious: I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.   The 2nd way we can overcome sin is through prayer and the Sacraments.

The end of the Lord’s Prayer is one of my favorites:

“…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

“…lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”

Sometimes I find myself repeating it over and over when I’m dealing with temptation. Asking for our Blessed Mother’s intercession works well too.

If we are trying to overcome sin in our life, God will never allow us to be tempted beyond our strength. The more often we overcome a temptation, the stronger we become.

It may be as easy as acknowledging our temptation and asking God for help:

  • If we are tempted by greed, pray for charity
  • If we are tempted by lust, pray for pure thoughts
  • If we are tempted by anger, pray for patience
  • If we are tempted by pride, pray for humility

So if we do step into a sinful mess, what can we do? Since Father Jim grew up on a farm, I’m sure he won’t mind if we walk into the confessional with messy shoes. You will walk out with the cleanest soul around.

  • The 3rd way we can deal with sin in our lives is to follow the example of Jesus in our Gospel today.

He has just announced to his disciples for the 2nd time that he will be killed and raised from the dead but they don’t seem to show any concern.

Jesus then overhears the disciples trying to convince each other who the greatest is. He knows they were being tempted by the sins of selfishness and pride and took advantage of this teachable moment. He gives them a way to cope with their temptations. He tells the disciples that they can’t be great unless they humble themselves and be servants of all.

To make the image stick in the minds of the disciples, Jesus uses a child to show them what He means. A child in this culture would have had no status or influence. When Jesus gives the child a hug, he shows the disciples how to be humble…how to seek out and serve the lowliest people in society. By serving and accepting poor, ordinary people who have no chance to repay us, we are accepting God into our lives.

It’s natural and easy to develop friendships with other people who look, talk and act like we do. It can be tempting to promote friendships with other people who can help us get ahead or have more influence. The challenge God has given us is to be open and accepting to people that need us more than we think we need them. In helping others, we often help ourselves.

So if your faith journey has a lot of messy obstacles, watch your step. Keep your eyes open to the evil around us. Use prayer and the Sacraments as a defense and follow the example of Jesus in the Gospel by serving others with humility.