From the Desk of the Pastor

Bulletin February 18, 2018 - 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT

Dear Friends,

We have just begun the season of Lent. This is a time to let go of whatever holds us back as being saints and unite with the Lord of whom we are told today “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan” (Mk. 1:12). St. Mark does not detail the Lord’s temptations as do the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This week’s Gospel allows us to reflect more generally on temptation itself. What can we learn from the fact that the Son of God was tempted?

Firstly, we know that Jesus is both fully God and fully human. But being fully human does not mean committing sin. Sin is inhuman, and we know that Jesus never sinned, for he “was like us in all things yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). That means being tempted is not itself a sin. One of my favorite popes, Pope St. Gregory the Great, broke down the stages of sin in this way:

We have the thought to do evil (temptation).
We take delight in the evil thought.
We do it.

The thought to do evil (a temptation) is not a sin until we choose to take delight in it. Jesus never took delight in evil thoughts the way we do. Dark thoughts come to us all of the time and can trouble us, but they only become a sin when we embrace the thought in our hearts. A common example of this would be that aspect of envy called schadenfreude in German which is when a person takes delight in the misfortune of others. Sadly, we’ve all had moments in our lives when we took delight when someone we knew made a mistake in public, was humiliated or failed in some sport or task. Of course, taking some pleasure in others’ suffering is not a heavenly but a hellish thing. Jesus never took delight in such thoughts when they came to him but rejected them immediately.

So, sin is inhuman, and temptations aren’t themselves sins, but temptations are what lead to sin. A good question then is, why does God allow us to be tempted if it leads to sin? God tempts no one directly but He does allow us to undergo the trial of dark thoughts, why? He only allows it so that some good can come from it. Battling temptations can help us because the process of resisting can:

  • Rouse us from an otherwise apathetic state
  • Cleanse imperfections (by making us aware of them)
  • Humble us because we need God’s grace to resist
  • Increase spiritual strength (you can't grow in faith by standing still)
  • Make us more charitable and patient in our dealing with others

Friends, let’s try to make this our best Lent ever where our prayers, good works and fasting will really help us become the people we are meant to be. Engaging these disciplines of Lent like Jesus did, with God’s grace we can overcome the temptations of the devil. Do not be afraid.

St. Paul reminds us, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

God bless you,
Fr. Mike Grisolano

 

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