Monday, February 22, 2010

1st Sunday of Lent - homily

I always enjoy hearing the line from this Gospel, Luke chapter 4, about Jesus’ fast of forty days in the desert: “He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry”. Um, yes, after forty days of eating nothing, I think he would be hungry! (If I go forty minutes of eating nothing, I am hungry). Now, about Jesus’ fast of 40 days: our fast during Lent is patterned after the Lord’s fast. That is, it is 40 days. 40 days. I say this to settle a dispute that Catholics have every Lent about whether or not we can enjoy the things we gave up for Lent on Sundays. Let’s do the math to find out. It’s 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (the Lenten Season). If you minus out the 6 Sundays in Lent, you get 40 days of fasting and penance. Sundays are feast days; every Sunday is the feast of the Resurrection, so there is no fasting. So, have fun enjoying what you gave up the rest of the day today. We love our feast days!

Fasting does a body good! It is a real source of strength and grace for us. Fasting gives our bodies strength in the midst of temptation. Jesus fasted for forty days in order to resist the strong temptations of the devil. He was like an athlete who was in peak condition to take on his biggest opponent. This is true for us, too. We need to stay strong and healthy to win against temptation. If we are weighed down by overeating or overdrinking, we are weakest and most vulnerable to lose. We always need to do fasting in moderation, but even a small fast can bring great strength. Just as prayer gives strength to the soul, so fasting gives strength to the body.

Fasting is also a source of grace for us. We saw this on Ash Wednesday which is a day of fasting for the whole Church. There was tremendous grace at work at our GW Masses. Hundreds of students came out for Mass, of course (people love their ashes!). But, many students went to Confession which we offered during and after the Masses. The students seemed to have a very positive experience on Wednesday. As one of our students said, “it was a day of grace”.

We need strength and grace to fight temptation. Temptation is one of the three types of demonic activity in the world. Every person faces temptation, even Jesus. It is all around us. The second type is oppression. This is when someone’s spirit is oppressed by an evil force. It leads to a spirit of sadness or despair. This happens to many people. The third type is possession. This is when an evil spirit possesses a person. The key point about demonic possession is that it only happens to people who invite the evil spirits in. If you saw the movie from years ago, “The Exorcist”, you might have noticed what brought on the demonic possession for the little girl: she was playing with a ouija board with her Mom. We have to be very careful not to invite evil spirits in these types of ways. Even talking about them can invite them in!

We should respect the power of our opponent, but not be afraid of him. We hear in this Gospel and know in our hearts that Jesus has power over the devil. If we stay close to Christ and his grace, we have nothing to worry about! If we remain in close friendship with Christ in a state of Grace, then we have nothing to fear. Primarily for us during Lent, this means staying close to the Eucharist and Confession. If we are coming weekly to the Eucharist at Mass (even daily if we can) and go to Confession regularly (once a month), then we have the strength and grace to resist temptation and all the weapons of our opponent. If we are imploring the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother, the saints, and our guardian angel, then we are employing the full arsenal of Grace that God avails to us. There’s a great bumper sticker that speaks to this: “Need a weapon? Pray the rosary”.

Finally, may each one of us remain close to our Lord and His Grace , especially during Lent. Through God’s Grace, may we live out what St. James writes in his letter, “Resist the devil and the devil will flee” (James 4:7).


Anonymous said...

So, if I abstained from chocolate on Sunday, when I didn't have to, can I have some today to make up for it?

Anonymous said...

From a parish bulletin, on fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. Never thought of it this way, before...

* Fasting without prayer and almsgiving is a diet. A diet may be a good thing - but it is not fasting.

* Almsgiving without fasting and prayer is humanitarianism. That sort of giving is a good thing - but it is not almsgiving.

* Prayer without fasting and almsgiving.. Well, what would Jesus say to us about spending time talking with him without also caring for the other members of his Body and without also disciplining our own bodies in the face of so much deprivation among our brothers and sisters?

Anonymous said...

St. Paul tells us that "the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would" (Gal 5:17). And Christ warns his disciples in Gethsemane that "the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Mt 26:41).

Anonymous said...

So, in other words the answer is no?

Anon 8:50 PM