Sunday, February 10, 2008

1st Sunday of Lent - homily

“Get away Satan!” Jesus says these words in response to the Devil’s temptations and lies, and the Devil leaves him. I wish I had said these words during our last DC ‘Hood game! We were playing against a parish team that was very competitive and they had a couple of players who were trying to get me riled up. I gave into the temptation of pride and played a bit more competitively than I should.

DC ‘Hood is such a great thing, thanks be to God. It’s always a great night for families, especially kids. Our last game was a great night and the kids enjoyed it; we even showed a video on the priesthood that is very powerful. A priest on our team said after the game that the Devil is not happy with what we’re doing and that he is trying to break it up. He might be trying to tempt us with pride and too much competitiveness, and to take away from the good spirit of the games. I need to work on this and just be cool during the games.

Jesus says three words and the Devil leaves Him. That’s the power that He has; we don’t have power over Satan but Jesus does. It’s only when we call upon the name of Jesus and live in Him that we can resist the temptations of the Devil. Normally, the Devil acts invisibly in our world. He makes a rare outward appearance in today’s Gospel. There are many situations in our lives and in the world where the Devil is active but we may not notice him. Here are some situations where we can say what Jesus said, “Get away, Satan!”

Get away, Satan, from our courts. In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe vs. Wade that unborn children are human beings, not persons. I remember studying their decision in college and being floored by it. They actually had several criteria which determine whether someone is a human being or a person. They ruled that unborn children are not persons and so they don’t have the rights of persons, specifically the right to life. They gave into temptation for whatever reason – historical or political motivations or whatever. The Catechism says that the fruit of temptation ultimately is death. Since 1973, 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States.

Get away, Satan, from our politicians, especially the ones who used to be pro-life and are now pro-choice. They have given into the temptation to abandon their principles in order to advance their political career; we would figuratively say that they have sold their souls to the Devil. Some of them are still very prominent in our country. Some of us will be tempted to vote for pro-choice candidates this year. Again, the fruit of temptation is death.

Get away, Satan, from our schools. In many of our schools, God has been kicked out, prayer and moral teaching are gone. What has come in is immoral teaching, especially in sex education. Many of our schools teach and promote contraception and immoral, illicit sexual behavior.

Get away, Satan, from our culture. The Church has aptly named it a “culture of death”. We see so many examples every day of how prominent drugs and violence are in our society. It’s a culture that says life is disposable at every stage, starting with conception.

Get away, Satan, from our families. The family is the most important unit in the world and it is under great attack. There is so much division in families for several reasons; divorce is at the top of the list. The best weapon against the attacks of the Devil is prayer; the family that prays together stays together.

Get away, Satan, from our faith. Many people have given into the temptation to believe that there is no God…there is no Truth…there is no sin. Many Catholics believe, for example, that skipping Mass on Sunday is not a sin, or that leaving early from Mass without a good reason is not a sin.

Finally, get away, Satan, from the Eucharist. The Devil knows the power of the Eucharist and he hates the Eucharist. We see how he has attacked the Church. For the first 1500 years of Christianity, there was one Church and all Christians believed that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ. Now, we have 30,000 Christian denominations and only two believe in and have the Eucharist: the Catholic and Orthodox churches. On top of that, we know of stories where demons have literally come into churches and desecrated the Eucharist.

I say all of this not to scare us or to paralyze us with fear. I say all of this to make us more aware of the presence of the Devil in our world and to have a holy fear of his power. As we unite with Jesus in the Eucharist today, let us ask Him to help us with the temptations in our lives. Let us say the words that He said for ourselves, our families, our country, and our world: Get away, Satan!


At 11:11 PM, Anonymous mindy said...

I find that some of my biggest weaknesses are attached to my biggest strengths. It’s almost like God gives us both so we learn to have balance. To use FG’s example about the basketball game, I think that in order for pride to be present, so too must passion (in this case). So, it can be a real challenge to maintain a focus and act purposefully rather than be reactive. That’s the field where I think Satan plays often- not so much in the actions of others, but in how we handle ourselves in response to the actions of others. It can be a real challenge!

At 3:09 AM, Anonymous Maryann said...

“Get Away, Satan”, and let us remember and pray for our priests.

I was trying to find an answer to a question on when I stumbled on an article, totally unrelated to my original search; “How Imperative Faith is in the Life of a Priest”.

Lent is a season to focus on Jesus’ wonderful formula on unending love, wholeness, peace and happiness. It is a time to build our strength, through recognition of our weaknesses and faults. Jesus was tempted during his 40 days in the desert. Had he fallen or given in to Satan and the temptations He offers; flesh, money, power, possessions, what state would our redemption be in? I’d suspect it would be seriously damaged. But, Jesus stayed focused on the Father’s will, the reason for His mission, and His unending love for His people, especially the lost. He remained humble, obedient and loving, despite the available daily temptations.

Lent is a time for us to examine our conscience and be prepared to act on our faults. It is a time for reflection and reparation for personal sins and the sins of our world, a time to repair our deliverance of the words and works of Jesus. It is a time to say, “Get away, Satan.” The short two page article I mentioned above was my gentle reminder that I often fail to include certain sectors of people, professions and circumstances in my prayer life. I am ashamed to admit this, but priests are unintentionally included in this group. Perhaps this is Satan at work. Priests seem to pray for everyone and everything. It dawned on me that they seem perfect to me, with such few needs for prayer. Yet, intellectually, I know they are not perfect and they need prayer as much as I do, well, maybe not quite as much! Priests are just like the rest of us and I need to spend extra time in prayer, making a conscientious effort to think of those I forget. “Get away, Satan”, and let me pray for faith for all. When society’s prayer life, of which I am a part of, becomes weak, our faith as a society becomes weak. Satan then patiently sits, waiting for any one of us to join his club. Any priest or blogger reading this can correct me, but I don’t think Satan is particular about his club members. Given a chance, I bet he’d take a priest any day. In fact, I wonder if He wouldn’t prefer one.

When I attend church and listen to the readings, the homily, partake in reconciliation and receive the Eucharist, I am in awe. What a gift we Catholics have. I am in awe of God and the eternal Peace he offers, but also in awe of his messengers and spiritual guides, our priests. They are the living, human representatives of God, here to help us in our journey to heaven. What a calling, what a mission, what vows to love and live for. When I think of it, what an incredible amount of faith this calling takes. We, or perhaps I should speak in the singular, I, fail and fall on a daily basis. I fall to the temptations of evil, and sometimes to my own lack of thought and stupidity, the wonderful quality that comes with being human. I suspect I am not alone with these characteristics. And while Satan sits and gloats with a big wide grin on his face, our priests are there to help us clean up our mess, to pray for us and remind us that God’s love is never ending. What a gift we Catholics have.

So I think to myself, let me keep the Catholic gift of priests in my prayers this Lenten season. Let me remember they are human beings, with strengths and weaknesses, just like the rest of us. Let me remember that they sit in the same chairs I sit in, eat the same food, well maybe, and drive in the same congested Washington, DC traffic that I wish I didn’t drive in. They are different from me in that they have a much better theological education than I, and they wear black clothes, boring in my opinion, day in and day out (yes, I’m assuming their day starts with a fresh set of black pants and a black shirt with a smidgeon of white. And what a blessing it must be to wake up and not have to think of what to wear! No worries about making sure an outfit matches and looks somewhat put together for another work day.) But are they really so different from you and I that they do not need prayer, prayer to keep the faith, just like the rest of us. I don’t think so.

“Get away, Satan”, and let me not judge if I perceive a priest has made a mistake, or he’s having “a bad hair day”, or he does not see life through my glasses. He is doing the best he can, just like myself, living and spreading the word of Christ through daily actions and words. “Get away, Satan”, and let me not forget the challenges our culturally diverse world presents to all of us. It is a world that does not always embrace Christianity and Catholicism. I must remember that we are our priest’s family, and they are ours. As I continue to reflect on my shortcomings and sins during this Lenten season, my prayer time needs to increase to include those I unintentionally forget. As a Catholic, it is my responsibility to say “Get away, Satan” and let me remember to pray for continued faith for our priests, for our world. As a parish, it is our responsibility to say, “Get away, Satan” and let us remember to pray for continued faith for our priests, for our world. Where will our redemption be if we do not take care of and pray for our priests?

At 12:21 PM, Blogger fran said...

If it is for God's glory, it is about passion.
If it is for my glory, it is about pride.

Great line from "In the Blink of an Eye," from MercyMe

"How can I further Your kingdom when I am so wrapped up in mine?"

At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Fran-
That’s a good guide to follow, but it’s not always easy for me to discern what is for whom in the heat of the moment. Often, I find my intentions are honorable when I begin something, but then, and I don’t mean this sound as bad as it does, but people get in the way. What I guess I mean is that I can loose focus on the goal, my mission, my general plan of action when someone throws me a curve I don’t expect. My gut reaction is to “protect” both myself and what I’m about, and in that moment, I can easily negate any good I set out to create.

Take the example of being committed to an issue- abstinence, for example. I think you and I are on the same page regarding this topic. When someone questions my views on this- fine, I can explain what I’m about and why. However, when someone overtly and aggressively challenges me and calls my viewpoint ridiculous and unrealistic, it frustrates me. There have been times when I have not responded in a way that is always nice. I’ve actually been in the situation when I have, not so respectfully, told someone how it’s about respect (with an expletive). So- in that moment, I wonder- why was I arguing? Was it to make sure someone else understood how strongly I feel and maybe consider what I was saying, or because I didn’t like being challenged and wanted to give as good as I got? In times like that, I don’t always know the answer (sometimes I do), but to keep my focus in the heat and be certain I’m maintaining my purpose is really hard, especially when my actions revolve around something I think is important and good.

At 4:52 PM, Blogger fran said...

It seems, anon, that you and I are on the same page, in some respects, on this topic too.

It is not difficult for me to speak with others on topics which are important to me. There have even been times when I think I have not said enough, because I did not want to appear judgmental or opinionated. With others, I can make my point rationally and calmly, on topics about which I am passionate.

Now, here is the rub. When it comes to being rational and calm with my own family I am often quite the opposite. If there is something which is important to me, or if I think I need to make a point, I often run the gamut of emotions - from being calm and reasonable, to being irrational, disrespectful and downright un-Christian. None of which I am proud, I might add. I find myself continually working on, and working on, and working some more on trying to take the emotion out my tone and behavior in situations like these. Quite the challenge.

So, not only do passion and pride overlap at times, but they also walk hand in hand with self-control. If I can just learn how to stay in control of myself, not in control of the situation or of making my point, necessarily, but in control of my own emotions, then maybe I can remain passionate about something, without it dissolving into a situation which is only about what I want. Instead, it would be something that God would want - something that would make Him proud.

At 11:47 PM, Blogger fran said...

In re-reading the original post and the comments which have followed, it is easy to see that it is not "people" who are getting in the way, in your set of circumstances, nor is my irrational behavior strictly driven by emotion.(it is, but at the same time isn't - sort of.) Instead, it is both of us giving into a temptation - the people, and the emotion being Satan. It is up to both of us to resist yielding (self-control) to this temptation, so that we can accomplish the good we attempted to do in the first place, thus furthering His kingdom.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Self-control and pride- what I have come to learn is that I can often control my actions with others (I can simply close my mouth and walk away), but controlling what happens internally is difficult. I can control lashing out at another when they say something with which I have an issue, but I can’t control the hurt and insecurity I sometimes feel in response to what may have been said or done. I don’t know how to keep pride from working in my life. I can tell myself that how I react isn’t about pride, but I’ve a feeling that most often it is. I get my feelings hurt because I think someone doesn’t value me or my thoughts in the way in which I “deserve” to be valued. I get insecure about what I should do or say in a situation, not so much b/c I don’t know the “correct” thing to do or say, but b/c I worry about how my actions and words will be received- “What might they think of me?” Or better, “What will they say about me?” When I honestly look at the core of what I’m dealing with in my emotional world, most often what I experience isn’t about serving a greater good- it’s often about serving myself. It’s a pretty humbling thing to recognize.

At 1:47 PM, Blogger fran said...

"I don't know how to keep pride from working in my life.""I get insecure about what I should do or say..." "It's a pretty humbling thing to recognize."

There are no easy answers, but recognition of something we would like to change is a beginning, because it is acknowledgment that something needs to be changed in the first place.

It is all about heeding the call to conversion, through prayer, the sacraments, Mass, Adoration.

The path to conversion... Easy? No. Possible? Always.


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