Feb. 18, 2018

First Sunday of Lent


As we do every First Sunday of Lent, today we ponder a Gospel account of the 40 days Christ spent in the desert following his baptism. During this time of solitude, fasting and intense prayer, Jesus was tempted by the devil. Today’s Gospel reminds us of the two historical focal points of the Lenten season: the meaning of our baptism and the confrontation with our own sinfulness.

We, the baptized, have been united with Christ’s death and resurrection, and we find ourselves on a challenging and sometimes perilous journey following Christ in our lives. Particularly during Lent, we allow the Spirit to drive us into 40 days of fasting, intensified prayer and almsgiving. We should expect to confront temptation as Jesus did. We, too, will face dangers; but we can also count on the ministry of angels, provided that we trust God.

Each year we enter the Lenten “desert” to voluntarily strip away the distractions, the excuses and the rationalizations that so quickly (and repeatedly!) can lead us into comfortable complacency. With God’s Spirit strengthening us, we find the courage to honestly ask whether we are becoming the disciples that we are called to be.

Konosuke Matsushita, the founder of the electronics-maker Panasonic, in his book “Velvet Glove, Iron Fist,” recounts the story of Chinese politician Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character.

After he was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit.

As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen, who refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, “There’s no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know.”

“You say that no one will know,” Yang Zhen replied, “but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know, too.” Wang Mi was ashamed and backed down. Even if nobody witnesses our sins, and not a soul knows of them, we cannot hide the truth from the eyes of our conscience. In the end, what is important is not that other people know, but that we ourselves know.

Pull of Temptation

Homily Helps for the January issue were written by FATHER DAN RUFF, SJ, who teaches homiletics as an adjunct faculty member at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynne-wood, Pennsylvania, and is a full-time member of the campus ministry staff at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia.