Lent with C.S. Lewis

(Homily for First Sunday of Lent, Year B)

To help you enter more deeply into this season, I made available a pamphlet: A Clean Heart Create in Me. It contains daily Lenten reflections from the writings of C.S. Lewis. I first discovered Lewis when I was a young priest (a friend gave me a copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe). Since then I have read all his works, except for highly technical ones, many times over. He has helped me through periods of dryness and doubt. If you have not read him, this Lenten pamphlet will give a taste. And if you are already a Lewis’ fan, you will enjoy the daily reflections.

His reflection for the First Sunday of Lent helps understand the meaning of temptation:

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could 'be like gods' - could set up on their own as if they had created themselves - be their own masters - invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history - money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery - the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Today’s Gospel states tersely that Jesus was “tempted by Satan.” (Mk 1:13) While Luke and Matthew elaborate on what the devil offered him, Mark places before us a stark mystery: Jesus, “the Son of God” (1:1) experienced Satanic temptations. How that can be I do not know, but in his person he must have faced everything we do – and more. However, there was a crucial difference. Whereas you and I tend to fall before the smallest test – a perceived slight, a seductive image, quick financial gain – Jesus stood up to man’s enemy.

Jesus came to set things right. He alone could do it. Why? Because of his relationship to the Father. He existed before the world began in the loving union of Father and Son. From that energy, the world was created. But Satan and then our first parents stepped out of that harmony. As Lewis observed, we are constantly looking for some kind of happiness on our own. If only we could just find the right person or the right job or the right vacation or the right fitness program… With typical bluntness, Lewis explains why such a desperate search ultimately disappoints us:

“The reason why it can never succeed is this: God made us, invented us as a man invents an engine. A car is made to run on gasoline, and it would not run properly on anything else. Now God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just no good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

Mark tells us Jesus spent forty days in a desert – a place inhabited by wild beasts, but that “angels ministered to him.” Here in Seattle we have a difficult time conjuring up the image of a desert, yet we do know wild beasts – those chaotic forces within our souls and surrounding us. Fortunately God sends us good angels – the ones who did not abandon the original harmony. Accepting their ministry, we can find the way back.


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

Bulletin (Novena to Infant of Prague, Liturgical Changes)


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


(A child in Peru who needs your help)

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