Saturday, February 13, 2016

Feb. 14, 2016: 1st Sunday of Lent C

Feb. 14, 2016: 1st Sunday of Lent C

Click here for Audio Homily
This past week, the students of Parish School of Religion (PSR) gave me a beautiful Valentine’s Day gift. It was a huge heart-shaped card written with their special intentions. One student wrote, “Fr. Paul, I will clean my room for a month [as my sacrifice for you].” One girl wrote, “I will pray every night,” and another wrote, “I will sell some of my stuffed animals and give money to charity.” Finally, one boy wrote, “I’m not going to download apps for a week.” Their card really touched me in that they were willing to do an act of sacrifice as a spiritual gift for me. Their gifts to me will be hidden from my eyes, but the impact of their gifts of sacrifice will be far reaching into my life during this Lent.

On this occasion of giving gifts to our significant other, it may be helpful for us to reflect on the nature of true love. True love propels us to offer more than just material gifts. Somehow we know that true love costs more than what money can buy. Mother Teresa had a saying, “True love hurts. It always must hurt. It has to be painful to love someone...When people marry, they have to give up everything in order to love each other. A mother who gives life to a child suffers much. The word ‘love’ is misunderstood and misused so much.”

Everything Jesus did was for love--the love for His Father and the love for us. We heard in the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus was filled with the Holy Spirit and the Spirit led him to the desert for 40 days to be tempted by the devil. Jesus was voluntarily led into battle in the wilderness by the Spirit. He, unlike us, was able to overcome temptation by His own power.

Why would someone go into something knowing that there would be much suffering? For Jesus it was the love for his Father that he took on an adversary whom we would have no hope to overcome. In his encounter with Satan in the desert, Jesus relied on Heavenly Father and His words from scripture to overcome temptations. Unshaken in adherence to God’s will, Jesus does not give in to the devil who finally leaves Jesus, awaiting another opportunity, most particularly in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross.

Hunger and lack of trust are two main areas where the evil one tempts us. Hunger is the most basic human need, and it encompasses more than just bodily craving. We all crave to be loved, honored, praised, preferred to others, and have approval of others. Do we not observe ourselves getting anxious, impetuous, reluctant, and impulsive when we seem to lack these? The temptation of the evil one is to convince us that Heavenly Father has shortchanged us. In this way, the evil one attempts to strike at the heart of our trust in Heavenly Father’s providential love for us. Jesus’ reply to this temptation is simple, “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Representing and standing in place of the whole human race, Christ defeated Satan in rejecting the way of comfort and ease, prestige and power, success and adulation. Instead, he chose the way of becoming the Suffering Servant. In so doing, Jesus won for us the ability to share in divine life.

What Jesus shows us in the desert is the ideal of every Christian life: total love for God and life of radical prayer of self-giving. To follow Jesus on this path requires commitment to daily prayer, living on God’s words in scripture, sacrificing for others, and trust. This is not something that can simply happen on one day. It’s the fruit of self-reflection and of openness to God’s love. May I offer you a radical prayer that will change your life? It’s a prayer composed by St. Ignatius of Loyola called Suscipe.

Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes
Give me nothing more than your love and grace
These alone, O God, are enough for me

I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold
I return to you your gifts untold
Give me nothing more than your love and grace
These alone, O God, are enough for me

-Fr. Paul Yi