Jesus' Temptation & Ours

(Homily First Sunday of Lent)

On this first Sunday of Lent I'd like to tell you about an interesting study, perhaps you already saw it, on the relationship between toughness and longevity. What they discovered was that men in their middle years, 30's & 40's showed a high degree of competitiveness, hard work and toughness. But as they got older, 50's, 60's and beyond they tended to soften, become self-indulgent. However a small group remained tough, even got more disciplined. That smaller group lived longer.

And among women, while they tended to be "softer" in their early years, as they grew older, a larger group actually showed more toughness and discipline than men. The study suggested that this was perhaps why women on a whole live longer than men. They get strong with age, we men wimp out.

The season of Lent, which began on Ash Wednesday, is a call to discipline, to spiritual toughness. Our goal is not so much lengthening this life, but achieving eternal life. Jesus showed a remarkable discipline by fasting forty days. During Lent, we try to imitate Jesus' discipline.

The Church sets a certain minimum as far as fasting. Ash Wednesday and Good Friday which falls on March 28 this year are fast days. The seven Fridays of Lent are days of abstinence from meat. This is pretty minimal. Still, I don't know about you, but even though I can often go w/o meat, somehow these Fridays of Lent, I wake up and think, "A Big Mac would be great today." But as Catholics we witness to our faith by not eating meat on Fridays of Lent.

Sometimes we imagine the devil is going to try to bring us down with a huge temptation, like a million dollars or a beautiful woman, but we have to remember the devil is stingy. He would love to trip us with something as small as a hamburger—and then give us indigestion to boot!

Today we hear St. Mark's account of how Jesus was tempted. He does not go into much detail as do Matthew and Luke, but he does tell us something interesting which they do not He says that while Jesus was in the desert 40 days, "he lived with wild animals and the angels ministered to him." The wild animals represent the destructive forces, what Holy Father has called the whole culture of death. We need to face that culture head-on knowing we have the help of God's angels.

This week Archbishop Murphy gave a powerful witness for life and a challenge to the culture of death. At the Monday evening Mass for the World Day for the Sick, he spoke about his own life threatening illness. He has leukemia and even though he has gone thru grueling treatments, he has not had a remission. Having cancer has made him reflect on our society present call for "doctor assisted suicide." Those who want it legalized say assisted suicide will protect the dying from what they fear most: intractable pain, loss of control and dignity and financial stress.

Yet, said the Archbishop, "assisted suicide is not compassion. True compassion is willingness to share the pain of others, be present and learn from them." It was a powerful statement and a challenge to all of us. More and more we are going to be asked to accompany the dying, but always respect life as a gift from God, from the moment of conception to natural death.

And when our own time to die comes, we also will be called upon to be stewards of the gift of life. The Archbishop talked about what treatments he would and would not receive and some of the criteria he is using to make those choices. We do not have to accept every medical treatment, but choose the ones that offer a reasonable hope of benefit and do not impose an excessive burden on oneself and others. But remember: there is a huge difference between responsible stewardship and the deliberate taking of a human life. The latter is a crime we can never tolerate. If anything deserves zero-tolerance, it is the taking of a human life, because our life is not our own, it belong to God.

Lent is certainly a time to reflect on the gift of life and what it means to be stewards of that gift—and all the other gifts God has given us. We express our stewardship by helping the poor, those in our neighborhood and in the broader world. This can be hard. As your pastor I am aware of the financial needs of our school, our parish programs and maintenance of our buildings. Each one of those areas requires a lot of money and could use more, but during Lent particularly, we broaden our vision and remember the poor in our world. After this homily, I will bless the Rice Bowls and at the end of Mass they will be available so each family can have one on the dinner table. It is a reminder to fast, to pray and to share with the needy. On the Third Sunday of Lent, two weeks from today, and on Easter Sunday, March 30, we will bring our Rice Bowl offerings for the two-bit collection. And on the Fourth Sunday of Lent, March 16, we will have the special collection for Catholic Relief Services. These are ways we can effectively help the poor of our world.

One final reminder about the season of Lent: this is a time of baptismal renewal as we accompany those who will be brought into the Church on the Easter Vigil. One of the greatest ways of renewing baptism is by receiving that second baptism, the sacrament of penance or reconciliation. Fr. Peterson has made an additional time, besides Thursday at 1, Saturday morning at 9. I would like you to know I am available Wednesday & Saturday evenings after the Spanish Masses and during this Lent on Fridays at 3 p.m. we will be having a Holy Hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and opportunity for confessions. It will be in Spanish, but it will be the closest you will get to the old Latin Benediction!

I encourage you to take advantage of our parish opportunities for spiritual renewal. Jesus calls to discipline, a certain spiritual toughness which will give us a good life here on earth—and eternal life in the world to come.

Information about Archbishop Murphy

From the Archives:

First Sunday of Lent, Year B 2012: The Convenant with Noah Today
2009: Knee Mail
2006: Sir, Go on the Other Side
2003: Lent with C.S. Lewis
2000: The Rabbit's Foot
1997: Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Complete List of Homilies for First Sunday of Lent ("Temptation Sunday"):

2012: The Convenant with Noah Today
2011: The Purpose of Temptation
2010: Who Is Like God?
2009: Knee Mail
2008: The Devil is a Logician
2007: More Powerful than Satan
2006: Sir, Go on the Other Side
2005: The Temptation of Sloth
2004: Temptation of Spirituality
2003: Lent with C.S. Lewis
2002: First Signs of Spring
2001: How Satan Operates
2000: The Rabbit's Foot
1999: Original Sin & Temptation
1998: Hidden Sin of Gluttony
1997: Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Ash Wednesday homilies:

The Purpose of Lent
Two Cheers for Catholic Guilt
Don't Waste This Crisis
When You Give Alms
Back to the Basics
Dealing With Guilt
Exercise of Holy Desire

Other Homilies

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

my bulletin column

SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)

40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)

Q&A about Planned Parenthood

Archbishop Dolan: Letting Crisis Pregnancy Centers Do Their Work


my bulletin column

SMV Bulletin (be patient - sometimes we have problems uploading)

Parish Picture Album

Separated at birth?

SMV Bulletin


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