Purpose of Temptation

(Homily for Second Sunday of Lent, Year A)

Today is Commitment Sunday for our parish Capital Campaign. In a few minutes I will introduce a speaker who will give a presentation regarding the Campaign. Before doing that, I will give a brief homily. Besides being Commitment Sunday, today is also the First Sunday of Lent and Valentine’s weekend. I begin the homily with a Valentine’s Day joke.

Once a husband was lying in bed completely awake. Next to him his wife was sound asleep. He nudges her and she wakes up. “What is it?” She asks.

“Honey,” he says, “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” she say, “I love you.”

“Well, I was thinking,” he says, “If Robert Redford were trying to woo you, would you still love me?”

“Of course I would,” she replies, “And I would miss you very much!”

Now, I don’t think any of the wives here would say something like that to their husbands, but the story indicates something about the nature of temptation. St. Augustine said that we do not know ourselves except by trial or temptation. A person can have a self-image of being strong, controlled, brave, gentle, loving, but we a temptation comes along they can find out something different.

A common example of temptation is road rage. Now, I admit I have not so much fallen into road rage as caused it. Once I was going to Westwood Village and I got in the wrong lane, blocking a car that wanted to turn right. I looked in the mirror and a somewhat older couple was in the car behind me. I could see the woman shaking her fist and shouting something at me. Fortunately, I was unable to read her lips, but I could imagine. I covered over my Roman collar and prayed that the light would change quickly.

Now that lady was probably a wonderful person in other circumstances: kind to her friends, generous with her grandchildren and so on. But road rage had revealed something else inside of her.

As Augustine observed, temptation can show us as we really are. He also said that temptations or trials are necessary so we can progress, grow in love. That was the case with our first parents, as we saw in today’s reading from Genesis. God had given them everything. In a sense he created the whole universe for them and he entrusted this beautiful planet to their care. He did make one prohibition, one command so that they could freely give themselves to him.

The first humans failed the test. When you think about, the essence of sin is the desire to hold something back from God. Instead of being grateful to God for all they had received, Adam and Eve wanted to be “like the gods.” That is, they wanted say, “this is mine. It belongs to me,” and to thus keep God out of part of their lives. That is the great lie of the devil, to convince us that we can have some corner where God does not see us, that belongs to us alone. When we imagine we can “do our own thing,” it ultimately brings sadness upon us and others.

Jesus was the exact opposite. In his human nature he knew our weaknesses and temptations. And as God he had the power and the right to anything he wanted. But he did not use his power for his own gratification. Rather he entrusted himself completely to his Father. He held nothing back. In Jesus something new has entered human history.

Our temptations teach us how weak we are, how foolish it is to rely on our strength. But there is someone we can rely upon. If we unite ourselves to Jesus, we can achieve true happiness by giving ourselves to God through him.

Ultimately that is what our parish Capital Campaing is about. On one level it is about fixing our buildings, remodeling the ground level of our school and extending the parking lot. But on a deeper level it is about entrusting ourselves to God, placing all we have and all we are in his hands, turning our lives over to him. I would like to now introduce a fellow parishioner who will speak to us about the importance of this Campaign and how each of us can participate in it.

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Earlier Version

From Archives (Year A homilies for First Sunday of Lent):
The First Signs of Spring(2002)
Original Sin & Temptation (1999)

2004: The Temptation of Spirituality
2003: Lent with C.S. Lewis
2001: How Satan Operates
2000: The Rabbit's Foot
1998: The Hidden Sin of Gluttony
1997: Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Bulletin (Five Million Mark, Walk to St. James, Valentine's Day)

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