Monday, February 26, 2007

To be human is to be tempted.

First Sunday of Lent 2007
Mass Readings:
Deut. 26:4-10
Romans 10:8-13
Luke 4:1-13

Today our Gospel text tells us of Jesus facing temptation. Jesus' being tempted is uncomfortable for many of us. How could the Son of God be tempted? God the Son would have to be vulnerable to be tempted and it is difficult to comprehend God being tempted let alone vulnerable!

Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights exposed to the harsh elements of the desert. We go without a meal and we declare that we are "starving to death"! Could we even go a couple of nights sleeping in the elements without protection? So imagine Jesus starved, physically exhausted, emotionally and spiritually worn out. Here is God the Son at the edge of human physical endurance. God in human form is stretched to the limit. On top of that, Lucifer comes along and seizes the opportunity to taunt and mock Jesus. Lucifer truly had nothing to offer Jesus. He comes along and takes advantage of God the Son's humanness and play the snotty nosed bully trying to get Jesus to abuse his power as God.

Jesus has at his disposal all the power of creation. With a simple word he could transform rocks to bread and sand to milk. Jesus could use his power to serve his own needs. There is the first temptation. Lucifer tries to get Jesus to use his power to serve his own needs, to take the easy way out. Lucifer then shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Jesus could claim them and have them at his feet. All Jesus had to do was speak the word and he would be ruler of the world. There is the second temptation, power. Why work to save humanity when Jesus could claim the authority and have creation serve him? To be served instead of serve. Finally Lucifer opens to Jesus the possibility of publicly throwing himself to the ground in order to have the Heavenly Host come forward and save him. What a sight that would have been! It would leave no doubt in the minds of the people who Jesus was. The third temptation, glory. All three of the temptations urged Jesus to claim power for himself instead of offering his power up for the salvation of the world, to take the easy and comfortable way out. Jesus was faced with giving in to self service, the desire for power, the desire for glory. I think we all are faced with these temptations in one way or another.

In Lent, we strive to rid ourselves of the things that weaken our relationship with God, self, and others. We work to face our temptations and discipline ourselves to be strong, to not give in. It isn't always easy. We are never truly immune to temptation. If we were, we would have no need for Jesus. We do give in at times. Temptation is crafty and devious and before we realize it, our desires get the better of us and we sin. We humans have enough power and wealth to make Solomon blush and we often use our power and wealth to take the easy way out. We have the ability to meet our every wish and we use that ability to serve our own desires. Our selfishness can lead us to sin. At times we work to serve self instead of working for the good of all. We yield our call to discipleship and work to satisfy self instead of the good of God's people. Because of that reality, we have Jesus. Jesus took on human form, faced temptation so that our sins could be forgiven.

May we seek God's strength to not take the easy way out, to not ignore our call to discipleship by giving into selfishness. As Jesus loves us we are to love. Jesus humbled himself to serve us and we now take on his call to serve. May this Lenten season help us all to imitate Jesus and proclaim to the world that sins are forgiven and we do not have to live in slavery to temptation.

Friday, February 23, 2007

We forgive becasue we have been forgiven.

Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time:2007
1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13,22-23
1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Luke 6:27-38

David has his enemy at hand. In fact David is looking right at Saul and has the chance to kill him. He doesn't. Instead, David shows mercy to Saul and spares his life. Saul would not waiver in his quest to kill David yet David shows mercy. To some this would be a sign of weakness. How can you not kill the one who seeks to kill you?

In our Gospel text, Jesus calls us to love those who hate us and to do good for those who persecute us. How can we do such a thing?! Our culture teaches us to fight back whenever we are wronged. It is natural to lash back at the one who has harmed us. It can be very hard to forgive, especially when we haven't been asked for forgiveness. Forgiving is a fundamental act of being a Christian. Jesus instructs his disciples that in order to be forgiven, they must first be willing to forgive.

A mighty act of being able to forgive was recently witnessed because of an Amish community that experienced the horror of having many of their children attacked and shot in their one room schoolhouse. The gunman killed some and wounded others. Some of these children are physically impaired for life. All of them will be emotionally marked for the rest of their lives. In the midst of their grief which must be beyond words, this community spoke with a unified voice and offered forgiveness to the gunman and also his family. They recognized that the gunman's family was grieving and devastated as well. Many people would probably declare that there is something wrong with these people in order for them to forgive such a horrendous action. But this Amish community expressed publicly that in order for them to begin the journey of healing, they had to be willing to set aside the quest for revenge and live the faith they profess. For many in our society today, this act of forgiveness was unthinkable. For some it may have even been viewed as a sign of weakness to forgive. To think this way is wrong. This Amish community is brave beyond description. Their faith is strong beyond description.

Forgiveness is not about the one who has wronged us. Forgiveness is about strengthening our own soul. Being willing to forgive is the ability to set aside the anger, the resentments, the attitudes that get in the way of our relationship with God, self, and others. Forgiving the one who has wronged us is an act of faith. We forgive not so that the other person gets "off the hook" We forgive so we can liberate ourselves from the downward spiral of resentment and hate. We forgive so that we may be forgiven. Jesus calls us to a very high standard when it comes to forgiving. In our Gospel text Jesus gives us his personal example of how to forgive. It is difficult to accept. To forgive pro-actively goes against what society teaches but is essential to our life of faith.

To show mercy is to be shown mercy. To forgive is to be forgiven. To love is to be loved. In order to live in the freedom of God's love we must be willing to set aside our resentments and anger. We end up destroying our own soul when it becomes filled with anger, resentment and hate. The one who has wronged us moves on while we crumble under the weight of our resentment. It is hard to forgive sometimes, yet it is even harder to carry the soul crushing weight of anger and resentment. Being willing to forgive is the first step to living free in God's love.

We love because God loves us. We live because Jesus was willing to give us the gift of life. We forgive because Jesus has forgiven us