Basic Information

Mass Location: St. Mary Magdalen Chapel, 2532 Ventura Blvd., Camarillo, CA 93010
Mass Time: Sunday 10 a.m. (check parish website bulletin for special feastdays which may be different)
Confessions: 9:00-9:45 a.m. - see schedule below

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Homily - 1st Sunday of Lent - March 9, 2014

2 Cor. 6:1-10; Mt. 4:1-11

Each year, as we begin the Lenten Season, the Gospel of the first Sunday is the temptation in the desert.  Lent is a great season of grace for the Church.  We do not go into this season alone, but with the Lord.  It gives us inspiration that He was true to the struggle.  It gives us sure hope knowing that He has overcome the temptations that face us.  It should not be lost on us that we enter into this endeavor as a Church.  The fact that all of us go out into the desert of Lent gives us encouragement and strength in time of weakness.

There is also another purpose to the temptations which Jesus faces in the Gospel today.  Matthew’s Gospel, in a sense, is the Gospel of the Church.  He is writing to Jewish Christians, and the Church is the new and true Israel.  The temptations which Jesus faces are the perennial temptations which confront the Church and us, which are to be avoided, and over which we are constantly to be vigilant.
What is common to each of the temptations is to avoid the cross.  The cross of Christ is the one source of salvation for all the world, and the devil know it.  He wants nothing more then, than to sabotage the cross.  And so, he proposes another way.

“Turn these stones into bread,” he says, as if to say to Jesus that He does not have to die, but only to think of the wonderful world we could have, where everyone eats.  We have seen a world like this.  How many times has a conqueror appeared on the world stage promising food for all?  And everyone ate, for awhile.  But there was great offense to human dignity and freedom.  But Jesus says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word which comes from the mouth of God.”  It is possible for a man to eat, but to die spiritually for want of food for the soul.  We need sanctifying grace.  And so Jesus chooses the cross.  And where there is the Cross there is grace, conversion, the works of mercy, and everyone will eat.  In this conversion, we encounter the Cross.

The devil proposes spectacle.  “Throw yourself down, the angels will bear you up,” as if to say to Jesus that He does not have to die, but only to think of all the world He could gather in this way.  But Jesus says, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.”  This is not the way God has chosen to reveal Himself, but rather inwardly, through bonds of love.  And so Jesus chooses the cross, that great exchange whereby, in love, He stands in our place, that we may stand in His.  Where we interiorize and proclaim what it means to love God and our neighbor, we encounter the cross.

He proposes the standards of the world, the glory of the earthly city, which he says, “I will give you, if you worship me.”  But Jesus says such false hope is idolatry, “You shall worship God alone.”  Only He can build the Kingdom.  And so Jesus chooses the cross.  And where we are true to the Gospel, we encounter the cross, and the Kingdom of God is built within and among us.

In the Gospel of Luke, the temptation in the desert ends with the words that the devil departed, to look for another opportunity.  Matthew gives us this moment in the last temptation of Christ.  The devil is desperate to separate Jesus from the cross.  In the Lord’s passion, the moment of redemption, the crowd shouts out, “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross.”  But the cross is the source of salvation.  Jesus breathes His last, and sanctifying grace is poured out upon the world.

We, too, hear the whispers which say to us that we do not need to die to ourselves.  It is possible that we can insulate ourselves from the cross by taking on something which does not touch our lives very much.  And yet Christianity without the cross is powerless.  When I have identified what it is in me which needs to die to itself, even if it is a small thing, I have identified the cross.

Our inspiration is St. Paul.  In our Epistle today, he is defending himself against the false accusations of his detractors and establishing his credentials as an apostle.  It is consoling for us that the proof he provides is not his perfection.  In fact, he boasts of his weakness, because then Christ is strong.  His credentials are his perseverance, the way of the cross.

We show our love of God by our desire to please Him, and that love brings us here today.  We show our faith in Him by taking up the cross, trusting that He will help us, because He has overcome it.  It is the way to resurrection.  It is the way to life.