Friday, March 7, 2014

Homily: The First Sunday of Lent: 2014

If you are the Son of God

"This is a test. For the next sixty seconds, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. If this had been an actual emergency, you would have been instructed to tune to one of the broadcast stations in your area."

Temptation is a test. It might be that I should from time to time put in the Parish Bulletin: “If you are tempted, this is a test, this is only a test. If this is a real emergency you are instructed to contact your parish priest.”

A temptation is a test and if we do not understand that we will never get the point of the story of the temptations of Jesus, never mind our own temptations.

The Hollywood Devil is a gnostic god, that is, a bad god evenly matched with a good god, omnipotent, ‘all-powerful’ and omniscient, ‘all-knowing’. The real Devil is considerably dumber. He could not be sure that this man Jesus was the Son of God and he needed to know. After all the Devil was the “Prince of this world” and, if Jesus was Son of God, the Devil was about to be recalled. The Devil was conducting a series of experiments on Jesus to find out. The results were inclusive but all the evidence pointed to the truth that hell feared that the Conqueror of Hell had come to earth in man’s flesh.

The reason the results are inconclusive is because Jesus' time had not yet come. The first to recognize Jesus as the Holy One are the demons -- I suppose that boss had sent them a memo based on the what happened in the wilderness --  but Jesus commands them to be silent.  He might simply be a very holy man, a man after God’s own heart. The Devil isn’t even smart enough to ask the right questions: Can you turn stones to bread? Can you throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple and not even stub your toe? Can you resist, if I offer you authority over the whole world? A very holy man could do that.

Interestingly enough Jesus eventually, when the time is right, does everything that the Devil suggests. He multiplies the loaves and feeds the five thousand: stones to bread. He allows himself to be crucified but is raised on the third day: jumping off the pinnacle of the temple. And after his resurrection, after he has broken down the gates of hell and pulled Adam and Eve out of that infernal place, he says  “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me.”

The temptations are not the sin; the sin is almost hidden like the small print in a contract in the last temptation: if you will fall down and worship me.

The obvious question about all this is who told St. Matthew and St. Luke about it. Because no one was there besides Jesus and the Devil. The only possible answer is the Apostles who got it from Jesus himself. Why? Because Jesus knew that his temptations would be the temptations of the Church, his temptations would be the temptations of Christians.

The Church is called to have compassion on the poor and needy but the temptation of the Church is to be merely a philanthropic society rather than the one organization in the world which trains men for their supernatural destiny, for heaven.

The Church is a place of salvation and healing but it is not an Insurance Company promising to protect people from suffering.

The Church is in the world but not of the world and she cannot not trade truth for political power by accommodating herself to the world.

Temptations rarely, really never come to us as pure evil. They are always dressed up with good and noble purposes: how many poor people could be fed with the stones turned to bread; God doesn’t want anyone to be hungry; how many people would believe, if they saw me miraculously healed; I know God will take care of me; maybe I would believe, if I was healed and doesn’t God want me to believe; what good I could do if I was in charge, if I was giving the orders. And it is very easy to fail to miss  the small print: if you will fall down and worship me.

We resist as we are able because He perfectly resisted. We resist as He resisted because we cannot worship or serve anyone or anything but God, the living and true. We can resist only because He resisted. And we can only resist in the way he resisted: waiting for the Father to give us what He will, walking the Way of the Cross, and watching in the night for the paschal light of His Resurrection to pierce the darkness.

Jesus Christ is the Son of God by nature and we are sons of God by adoption. By now the devil knows about Jesus, but what he doesn't know is about us.

If you are the Son of God

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