Feb 14, 2016
First Sunday of Lent
When we open the book of the gospel and hear it read from this place, in a certain sense we do not simply hear words spoken out loud. We do not simply follow along in our books, or just listen. Instead, the source of these words come from God himself. Go beneath the surface of the page, God invites us into the actual event.
On this First Sunday of Lent, God invites us to put ourselves into the very heart of a battle between good and evil. We are not detached observers watching a fight break out at a hockey game or watching from the comfort of our home a youtube clip of a huge tsunami wrecking damage and destruction. Instead, incredibly, when the Scriptures open up a window into the Christ's one-on-one with Satan, we have been thrown into the very arena itself!
Because it is a familiar image to us, especially living on the Pacific coast, consider the similarities between, for example, that much covered tsunami, some years ago, that destroyed so many lives and livelihoods; compare that tsunami with the devil and the forces of evil that likewise destroys lives and livelihoods. When Satan appears on the horizon, he can often be ignored. If we ignore the signs and signals of danger, looking out to the edge of the world, Satan appears distant, non-threatening. It’s easy to dismiss him, even to conclude that he’s not real nor dangerous.
But as he gets closer, there is a certain curiosity, even a fascination with his potential power. Let’s wait and see what happens. It’s so easy to be drawn to its power, it’s form, and you want to watch it, study it, in a way – to entertain it. Evil seduces, it excites - evil always begs our curiosity, demands our attention, entices us into its own adventure. But notice how it does so.
It captures our attention, it literary “captures” our attention, and we become frozen. Our rational thinking becomes twisted, illogical. You stand in front of a giant monster and you want to take a photo of it, you want open up a dialogue – you think you can outrun it, or tell it to go back where it came from. But then, as if with one click on a keyboard, like the mighty wave that crashes on the land, evil revels itself.
When we allow sin, in all its disguises, to entertain us, in a way, we are surrounded by the force of darkness and we loose our freedom. We surrender our mind to its madness, our body to its rage and our soul to its poison.
When we ignore the signals, when we allow ourselves to be curious, when you want to get closer for a better view, when we sense the shimmering of excitement like a wild animal tasting blood for the first time, what message do we send Satan? Consent, consent to overpower us, and upon us to heap all the junk and debris which comes with the wave of destruction.
And if we come out of it alive, with a dumb look on our faces, we say, it just happened. Amazing. We see it coming our way, we know the signs and signals that alert us to danger, and we say to the power of the devil, “bring it on”. The arrogance we have, thinking that we can, with our own strength, defeat and outrun Satan.
But we can defeat him and be free from our curious attachment to evil. Only by running to Christ, standing with him on higher ground can we hope to be delivered and win back our freedom.
To do so, first we have to be honest with ourselves and with God. We have to acknowledge our stupidity, our arrogance and our weakness, and do so before God. God always shows mercy to the sinner who wakens up, who wakes up, the sinner who comes to their senses, the sinner who has the humility to confess their own sins and trust in His divine mercy.
For this reason, after He conquered the devil's power over death itself, the resurrected and victorious Christ breathed his Holy Spirit into his apostles and told them, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven" (John 20:23). The power of this sacrament Christ has given to His Church, unleashes the powerful but gentle breath of God that pushes back waves of sin and darkness that too often engulfed us.
During the Sunday mornings of Lent, here at St. Margaret's, we are offering a continuous opportunity to go to Confession (even while Mass is being offered!) If it has been a while and you know in your heart you should go, don't let the battle between good and evil, subtle as it sometimes is in your life, become a spectator sport. Know that God invites you (and me) to His side and take encouragement that Christ our savior has won the good fight to leads us, as a good shepherd does, to a place of safety and freedom from fear and all that could harm us.
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