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

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Homily - First Sunday of Lent - February 14, 2016

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

St. Augustine says that our Lord went into the desert to be tempted so that He would be our mediator against temptation not only by aid, but by example.  Each of the temptations in today’s Gospel is a temptation to choose some other way than the cross.  The cross is the one means of salvation, and the devil knows it, and he will do anything to separate us, and even our Lord, from the cross.  The cross is a sacrifice, the great exchange.  In sacrifice one stands in the place of another.  In the cross, the Lord Himself stands in our place, bearing the weight of our sin and weakness, and, by His power as God, overcomes it in the resurrection, so that we may stand in His place, beloved sons and daughters of the Father.  Only He can accomplish this, and only through the sacrifice of the cross.

There is the temptation to our Lord to use His miraculous powers to turn stones into bread, but our Lord says, “Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.”  It is possible for men to eat, but to die inwardly for lack of spiritual food.  How often in our lifetime has a conqueror appeared on the scene promising food for everyone.  And everyone ate, for awhile, but to the great offense of human dignity and freedom.  We need the life of God, we need sanctifying grace, which can only come from the cross.  And where there is sanctifying grace, there is conversion, and where there is conversion, there are works of mercy, and where there are works of mercy, everyone will eat.  But it is only possible through the cross.

There is the temptation to spectacle.  The devil tempts our Lord to cast Himself from the temple, after the words of the ninety-first Psalm, that the angels will not let Him strike His foot against a stone.  This is presumption and empty glory.  God has not chosen to reveal Himself in this way, but inwardly, through our interior conversion, which we encounter in the cross.

There is the temptation to worldly power, adopting the standards of the world, to build the kingdom of God by ourselves.  But we cannot do it.  Only God can build the kingdom.  It begins here, but it goes beyond the world’s capability on its own.  Only the cross can bring it about, that great exchange, from which emanates the power of God.  And so our Lord chooses the cross.

St. Paul has chosen the cross also.  In our epistle, to the Corinthians who have been enticed by the Judaizers to reject him as an apostle, he gives his credentials.  And it is not his achievements.  It is his weakness, his hardships, his perseverance, because in weakness, power reaches perfection.  When we face our daily challenges and difficulties with faith and perseverance, we encounter the cross.  And it is not our power, then, but the power of Christ, whose grace is sufficient for us, and which sees us through.

In this world, things pass from life to death.  But it is different in the order of grace, and in the Lenten season.  We pass from death to life.  On Ash Wednesday, we begin with death.  We were signed with the blessed ashes, and the words, “Remember, man, that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.”  And where do we end up?  At Easter, around the baptismal font, the font of life, renewing our baptismal promises, and renewed in the grace which has seen us through the Lenten season.  But it is possible for us, too, to avoid the cross.  We can take on practices during Lent which do not touch our lives very much.

Once in awhile, someone will say to me, “Father, I don’t go to confession anymore, because I keep on committing the same sins.”  To which a priest friend of mine replies, “Do you think you should be getting some new ones?”  We have the weaknesses we have, we have the sins we have.  When we face these, we choose the cross.  One Ash Wednesday morning, I was coming out of the sacristy after Mass, and there was a group of people talking on the patio.  I said good morning.  One of them said, “Father, we’re giving up our favorite sins.”  Now, we all despise our sins.  But what is that tendency or sin which keeps coming back?  That is what we should address.  Why?  Because if it is in the way, it probably is the way, the way of the cross.

And by choosing the cross, by our free will and with the grace of God, we choose our one hope.  When we choose the cross, we are not alone, but are united with Christ, whose power comes to perfection in us.  When we choose the cross, we choose the way to resurrection, the way to life.