posted on February 17, 2013 15:19
Homily: Father Mike Kuse
Blessed Sacrament Parish
February 17, 2013 - 1st Sunday of Lent
10 AM Service
There are certain things in Scripture that we remember. We always hear the same Gospel passage on the first Sunday in Lent so we all say, “Yeah, I remember. It's about the three temptations.”
It is important for us to notice the first paragraph of today's Gospel reading. Jesus is baptized in the Jordon. The Spirit of God comes upon him, and within him, and he goes away to pray. And when he prays - then he is tempted. Then if you skip the three temptations and come down to the very last line it simply says, “For a time.” Which means that Jesus was never going to be free of temptations, and you and I are not going to be free of temptations.
We have been baptized. We have catechumens with us today who are going to the Cathedral following this service and they will be baptized at the Easter Vigil. But every Lent, we too go to the desert and we reflect on our baptism. And the one thing we learn every year is that change is not cheap. If you are going to change it is not going to be the easiest thing that you do, or I do. It's going to take some reflection, it's going to take some energy, it's going to cost us our comfort. But that's what these forty days are all about.
Traditionally, if the five who are going to be baptized were to stand up here and ask everyone, “What does Lent mean to you,” then all of a sudden we're stumped.
“Oh, I give up candy for Lent,” you might answer.
Or, “I'm going to say a prayer every day.”
One might ask, “Is that all it means? I learned that on Ash Wednesday you get the ashes and that signs you as a sinner. I thought maybe it was something about turning away from sin and developing your life.”
“Well, yeah. It does mean that.”
“Tell me more. What did you do last Lent that made a difference in your life? What are you going to do this Lent that's going to make a difference in your life?”
For some it might be giving up something. For others and it might be going beyond the borders and stretching ourselves. But one thing we have to remember is that whatever we choose, we are going to be tempted. And sometimes the things we do never leave us.
I remember as a young boy my Mom's family would gather at our house every Sunday evening. Someone would go buy a jug or two of beer and some soda. Sunday night was the only time during the week my grandma would have a beer or two. But every Lent she sat there while everybody had a soda or a beer, and she had just a glass of water. Even though she wasn't drinking a beer every night - this was something she was saying to the rest of us during Lent. “It's a sign that I want to turn away from sin. I want to do something that will help me appreciate my faith.”
Temptations vary. For those here who are married, one of your strongest temptations could very well be that you are absorbed in yourself. It doesn't mean that you don't love someone, you are absorbed in yourself. A good way that might help would be that during these six weeks - take one night for the two of you to be alone by yourselves. It might just be the greatest gift you'll ever give each other.
Or as a family to say, “One night a week we are going to have supper together. We are not going to use any TV or technology in the house. We are just going to be here together as a family.” The kids might say, “I think that's pushing it a little bit.”
It is pushing a little bit. Change is not cheap. Thirty years from now those same kids may say, “You know, one of the neatest things we ever did was, during Lent, we spent one night together and there were no interruptions.”
You may have read the story in the paper recently about Jack Cornell, the young gentleman who graduated from Notre Dame High School here in Quincy. I knew him when he was playing football here. He was privileged to be on the Super Bowl team and that is an absolutely fabulous honor. But what struck me was that after he came back to Quincy and was welcomed and honored, he went with his Mom to serve the soup line. That's powerful. That's what family and Notre Dame is all about.
We have to look at our lives and be honest with ourselves. Six weeks goes by in a hurry but if we get in the mood of doing something - we just might continue it.
You know there is a flip side to all of this that can happen to any one of us. If you are going to give up beer for Lent and your family and friends have to hear you say over and over, “I've got five more weeks of this and I can get back at that beer!”
Or, “I'm giving up candy. Why did you buy all that candy? You're just tempting me. Don't buy it, I'm giving it up for Lent. All of you can starve with me. Be miserable because that's what I'm doing for Lent.”
And Jesus would say, “Where were you baptized? What's going on here?”
We are all different but we're sharing the same retreat together. And when we come here week after week during these six weeks before Easter, we are here to support each other. We don't have to tell anybody what we've decided to do during Lent. We just need to do something that we feel is beginning to change us in some way.
If we do something every Lent, without a doubt we are going to come closer to God. God is going to be in our hearts, in our homes, in our schools, and in our places of work. That's what it's all about.
May you and I remember - and may we tell those who are in full initiation - change is not cheap, and when you do business with God, everything is risky.
Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.