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Pastor's Letter 20210221 - 21 February 2021 - Overcoming the Power of Evil


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February 21st, 2021

First Sunday of Lent

Today’s Theme:   “Overcoming the Powers Of Evil”

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A Message from Father †Michael

Reflection on today’s Scripture Readings

The Liturgy of Lent is that of confidence.  The days of Lent are days of salvation.  More than any other, Lent is the “acceptable time” to amend our lives.  The Church emphasizes this so, at Easter, we may celebrate the mystery of the passion and resurrection of the Lord with purified souls and bodies.

We begin our readings with the theme of “covenant” (Genesis 8: 8-15.)   Today, we learn of the first in a series of patriarchal covenants, which served as a preparation for the covenant at Sinai, which, in turn, prepared the way for the New Covenant, formed with God and humanity in Christ.  

Christ was tempted, just like the Chosen People who followed Moses through the desert.  Today’s Gospel introduces us to Jesus’ victorious struggle against temptations of the Devil during His 40-days in the desert (Mark 1: 12-15.)  By appointing this Gospel for the beginning of Lent, the Church proclaims this victory should also be ours.  All around us, and within us, Christ’s temptation, His struggle, and His victory are prolonged.  Our effort and our strength are His.  His victory at Easter is ours.  Therefore, we should confidently persist in our own struggles.  

Like, Noah, Christians are saved by passage through water—likened to the waters of Baptism, as we hear in our Second Reading (1 Peter 3:18-22.)  Through our baptism we enter in to the New Covenant relationship with God, and Christ’s victory over sin and death is thereby communicated to us.

Tempted by “Good”

The popular meaning of temptation is, “enticing a person to do wrong.”  When we think of temptations, we immediately thing of “bad” things.  However, it is not only evil that can lead a person astray, “good” can do so just as effectively.  When you think about it, all temptation arises under the guise of “good.”  The strength of temptations is in direct proportion to the attractiveness of their disguised purpose—which is to hinder our quest for salvation.

It is not only when the path is difficult and strewn with obstacles that we fail to reach our goal, but also when it is easy, and littered with attractions.  In the latter case, we are tempted to “dally” along the way.  We allow ourselves to get sidetracked, so that before we know it, we’ve forgotten our true objective and wasted our strength.  Earthly food dulls the appetite for heavenly food.  We succumb to temptation when situations that are not evil, in and of themselves, present themselves and trap us..  

Lowly insects and flies are lured by the scent of sweetness.  Many times, they discover that by following a sweet scent, they are led to a life of imprisonment, or worse.  Unable to resist the lure, they crawl further into a flower, only to become so covered in pollen they can’t escape.  Some carnivorous plants, like the Venus Flytrap, seem to “intoxicate” insects, who are then captured by their closing jaws.  Others, afford a “pool” of nectar into which the victim is then drowned.   There is no shortage of similar examples of such situations that capture people, in the Gospels.

On one such occasion, Jesus invited a rich, young man to become His disciple (Mark 10:17-22.)  It wasn’t evil that caused him to refuse Jesus’ offer, but, rather, something good in itself: his wealth.  

When Jesus went to the house of Martha and Mary, Martha was too busy to listen to Him.  It wasn’t something bad that kept her from listening, but, rather, something good—even praiseworthy—the details of hospitality (Luke 10:38-42.)  

Another time, Jesus told a story about guests who refused an invitation to a banquet.  By refusing, they were not acting from bad motives, but from perfectly good ones (Matthew 22:1-14; and Luke 14:16-24.)  One wanted to inspect a piece of land he just bought; another wanted to try some oxen; a third was newly married, and didn’t want to come.  Though their reasons for staying away were perfectly good, the effect was the same as if they had been vile.

We recall the parable of the sower, when Jesus said some seed was choked by thorns.  Applied to human situations, the worries and cares of the world and the lure of riches were like the thorns—again, things that are not “evil” in and of themselves.

What we can deduce from all this is that we may have as much to fear from good things as from bad ones!  After all, when we see something that is manifestly evil, we are more likely to be repelled than attracted by it.  Alternatively, if we are offered something manifestly good, we are probably attracted to it.  Therein lies the danger:  Something good may tempt us to abandon our goal.  Then, we won’t be on guard; its true consequence may be hidden; and we will not be able to resist.  

“The Devil”—a manifestation of temptation—doesn’t always appear as a “repulsive character/situation.”  We may be beguiled by an attraction that is ingratiating; charming; or even in the guise of personal benefit, like a “friend.”  It may seem that our best interests are being served thereby, as when in our Gospel story, Jesus was offered bread, or all the kingdoms of the world (more graphically described in Matthew 4:1-11; and Luke 4:1-13.)  We need wisdom and strength to be able to resist temptations, especially those that come under the guise of “good.”  

Reforming our Lives

Habit plays a big part in our lives.  It is said that we live the second half of our lives according to the habits acquired during the first half.  That will bring comfort to those who have formed good habits, but it is a terrifying prospect if we have formed bad ones.  

Lent touches something in all of us.  Jesus’ temptation in the desert may move us to look at our own situations—to challenge and improve ourselves.  But sometimes our efforts at renewal do not go “deep” enough.  To develop a new way of living is similar to casting off an old garment in favor of a new one.  In order to change the outer aspects of our lives, we must first change the inner attitudes of our minds.  This requires substituting new habits for old ones—to command and make ourselves do what needs doing.  The change of heart to which Lent calls us can be accomplished most of all through the power of meditative prayer—something especially appropriate during Lent.  

There is such a thing as a “moment of grace.”  As the Church’s “holy spring,” Lent affords us a great window of opportunity.  It can be a time of rebirth, penance and concerted effort; but it can also be a time of great joy, like springtime brings new life to nature that has languished in the cold of winter.  

We are called to turn to the power of love: to be kind; to act justly; to “walk humbly” with God.  It’s not an easy prescription to fill—but like acquiring any new skill, “practice makes perfect.”  The first time we try to commune with the Holy Spirit in quiet meditative prayer may not be comfortable, and may seem less than productive.  But consistent effort, like physical exercise, will yield positive results.  Eventually, we can become as comfortable in prayer as when we visit with an old friend….

May God Richly Bless You!

"O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen."                

~~Henri Noewen-Dutch Catholic Priest (1932-1996)~~  

To view a live stream of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/LbN10bypTk0

Come, Ye Sinners.docx

Edited by Father Michael
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