Sunday Sermon for March 6, 2022, the First Sunday of Lent, Year C

Readings: Deut 26:4-19; Rom 10:8-13; Lk 4:1-13

In the Gospel reading today we are told that Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  We do not know what occurred during those forty days our Lord spent in the desert, but we are told what happened on the final day.  It is important to note that Jesus had not eaten for those forty days, so not only was He hungry, but He was probably also very weak physically.  This is important because the vile creature always look for a person’s weakness in order to exploit it.

I do not want to consider our Lord’s actual temptations, but at the issue underlying the devil’s attempts to cause our Lord to fall.  We notice that the evil one begins his temptation by saying: “If you are the Son of God.”  This, of course, was Satan’s problem from the beginning.  He fell from Heaven because he could not accept that God would take on our human nature in order to save us.  So, the enemy of our souls rejected God’s plan for our salvation and, in so doing, rejected the Incarnation.  Therefore, in his demented mind, Jesus could not be the Son of God, because Satan decided this could not happen.

I bring this up because we sometimes lose sight of why we live our faith as we do.  We live as good Catholics because of Jesus.  It is because we believe He is the Son of God Who loves us so much that His love could not even be comprehended by the highest, most intelligent, and most perfect angel God created.  As a seraph, a word that means “fiery one,” Satan was “on fire” with the love of God.  In his creation, his entire being was filled with God’s love and love for God.  Even with this, God’s love for humanity was so much greater than the love the highest angels had for God, that it made no sense to them. 

In essence, the angels needed to make an act of faith (although it was really an act of love) in order to enter into the Beatific Vision.  They needed to accept that the second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, out of a love that is beyond understanding, would take to Himself the nature of His fallen human creatures, that He would be born of a woman, and after living a human life, would suffer and die so those who rejected Him and put Him to death could live with Him forever.  Since this does not make sense to the intellect, the only motivation for what Jesus did is love. 

Sometimes we might take Jesus for granted.  Perhaps some struggle with the question of whether or not Jesus is God.  Is all this just a myth or does God really love us so much that He would become man and the highest angel would not accept it?  How amazing it is that a simple human woman accepted God’s love because she loves God even more than the highest angel!  But I digress. 

As Lent begins, we each need to consider the question of our faith.  Do I truly believe in Jesus?  This is not merely a matter of giving intellectual assent to what the Church teaches; rather, faith is about putting into practice what we profess to believe.

In the second reading St. Paul tells us that if we believe with the heart, then we will be justified; if we confess with the mouth, we will be saved.  This is not merely a matter of words or intellectual consent.  Jesus wants us to receive His love and to love Him. If we believe and profess our belief in His love, then it is necessary to act on that belief.  Jesus is the Son of God, but the Son of God became Jesus, that is, He took on a human nature, because of love.  To say we believe in Jesus is to accept not only the objective truth of Who He is, but to accept His love for us. 

Since love is a relationship, if we accept God’s love, then we need to love Him in return.  In the first reading Moses lays out for the people of Israel not only the sacrifice they are to offer to God, but the reason for their offering: because God loved them and freed them from their slavery.  Love is the reason they offer their sacrifice to God.  For us, too, Jesus loves us and has freed us from a far worse slavery to sin and Satan.  Therefore, we who receive His love, need to love Him in return.  Our Lenten sacrifices then, should be motivated by our love for God: to express our love and open our hearts to love God even more!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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