First Sunday of Lent

Scripture Readings:     Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7;   Romans 5:12-19;     Matthew 4: 1-11

This weekend’s traditional First Sunday of Lent Gospel Reading about the Devil’s tempting of the Jesus, may well remind us “older people” of the phrase: “The Devil Made Me Do It,” made famous by comedian Flip Wilson in the early 1970’s.

Truth is…we are responsible for our choices in life.

Yes, we may be tempted in any number of ways in our lives.   But, it does not mean we need to give in to the temptation.

We may think to ourselves about today’s Gospel that I’ll never have to address the temptations that Jesus addressed. Maybe not. But, temptations come our way every day…

  • The Temptation to put others or other things or other activities before God.   Like a sporting event or party before going to Mass on the weekend.
  • The Temptation to help or support some person or organization, but not help or support another person or organization – that is part of our everyday lives.
  • The Temptation that excuses one’s self from any number of obligations and responsibilities, but expects others to bear our responsibilities and obligations.
  • The Temptation to think, I am entitled to any number of things or benefits.
  • The Temptation to think, others have no clue, like parents, like co-workers, like fellow students, like neighbors, like leaders in government and in our church.
  • The Temptation to appreciate, to respect some people, but not others.
  • The Temptation to speak ill of people, without knowing the person, without knowing all the facts.

I saw a very interesting Tweet this week by Fr. Jim Martin in which he said:

Two words for Lent:   BE KIND.

Three ways to do it:

–          Don’t be a jerk;

–          Don’t say mean things about others;

–          Give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

There was a cartoon in the New Yorker that offers an interesting take on Hell:

In the cartoon, Satan and his smirking assistants are welcoming a group of condemned souls to the dark, burning landscape of his domain.   The Prince of Darkness explains to the sad collection of new arrivals, “You’ll find there is no right or wrong here. Just what works for you.

It is exactly that attitude that makes our lives “Hell” in the first place, that everything is about us, that our needs and wants trump the needs of everyone else, that right and wrong are all relative to our moods and feelings and desires.

Can you imagine such a “Hell” this would be if everyone acted only in his or her own interest?

True love would be impossible, healing forgiveness would be a non-starter, and there would be no way out of spiraling poverty and brokenness.

But on this First Sunday of Lent, like Jesus, the Spirit of God is with us.

It is that same Spirit of God that leads us into the desert of our own hearts to confront the attitudes and values that really do work for us… THE GRACE of GOD that enables us to let go of our self-centeredness that makes our lives “Hell” for ourselves and for those we love.