Tested and True: 1st Sunday of Lent

12728825_10203928534093381_8967572669744913545_n   “To begin is for everyone, to persevere is for the saints.” –St Josemaria Escriva

            The worst enemies of God are neither the demons nor the evil people but rather the indifferent persons. Indifference can be one of the greatest tragedies in today’s generation. So many people are living dead. They no longer accept the challenge of life so life no longer challenges them.

            Today’s Gospel brings to us once again the stark reality that life is an activity. Life is not meant to pass us by, we are called to live it. The temptation of Jesus presents to us the perspective that the Church is not really the possession of God’s Kingdom but the struggle for it. Nonetheless, it is a struggle assured by the victory of Christ in the desert and in His passion, death and resurrection. It is a war consoled by a promise “that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it (Mat 16:18).” So one must never expect the Church to be a museum of saints but a hospital for sinners—sinners looking for refreshment and recovery from the exhausting battlefield of life. Christians are not people who are better than others, they are people aware of their frailties yet strive to be better despite of them. We are people aware that we are not alone in this battle, that there is strength and consolation in journeying together.

            To err is human, to forgive, divine. It has always been true. It tells us to never despair of God’s forgiveness. But what is sad is that we use being a human as an excuse to sin. We are very fond of excusing ourselves saying “Sorry, I’m just a man.” Let us therefore ask ourselves today, who is the holiest man who ever lived? Many will venture to drop a name of a saint or someone they look up to. A few will give the honor to the Blessed Virgin Mary. But I wonder how many will realize that the answer is Jesus Christ. Yes, He is God, but He is also fully human. He, in fact, is what God means by a man. He is the paragon of humanity. He never used his humanity as an excuse but rather exalted it, transformed it and redeemed it. He showed that even though we are just human beings, weak and frail, we can still transcend our fallen human nature and be what God has created us to be. Thus, the words “sorry, I’m just a man” is a lame excuse that is used by cowards.

            The challenge is to take courage and really be a man. The First Reading told how the chosen people must offer to God the fruits of their work after struggling to live in the desert.  It tells us that being chosen by God is both a blessing and a test, you have to prove yourself again and again. To be courageous, we have to remember that we are never alone, we are a people that as the refrain in the Responsorial Psalm can call upon the Lord to “Be with [us] Lord, when [we] are in trouble.” As St Paul tells us, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”

            God has given us the greatest of all gifts: the capacity to choose and to determine our acts. And God helps those who help themselves. Let us always choose to be a real man then in the face of all temptations in this world. “The glory of God is man fully alive,” as St Irenaeus said. Let us live our lives then, accept the challenges that life gives us and prove ourselves true. Real men never fail because they always charge their fall to lesson and experience. The key is to never give up. Because true holiness is in the struggle. Being holy does not mean that you will no longer be tempted. Being holy is being aware that temptations will always be there but they will always give a fight. They never give up on themselves because they know that God never gives up on them. They know that God will not look on how they began but on how they continue, not on how they fall but on how they rise again and again. As a priest once told me, when Jesus comes in the Final Judgment, He does not expect us standing and victorious, but He will expect us to be struggling.

            Again, to err is human but God helps those who help themselves. So take courage and be a man!

1st Reading: Dt 26:4-10

Psalm 91: 1-2,10-11,12-13,14-15

2nd Reading: Rom 10:8-13

Gospel: Lk 4:1-13

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2 thoughts on “Tested and True: 1st Sunday of Lent

  1. This is a very interesting piece, and much that is good about it. However, I think there are one or two problems with it. Surely the greatest of all gifts is the gift of God himself, given to us in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. This is a free and undeserved gift, which comes from God’s unconditional love and mercy.

    The phrase ‘God helps those who help themselves’, can be understood to mean that human beings can take the initiative and God follows. It can be understood to mean that human beings have a power independent of God to do good and holy work. But we do not. God always takes the initiative in good work. We can claim no credit for the good we do and we can do no good without his help, but we do have the freedom to choose whether or not to be a channel of God’s love.

    May God bless you.

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    1. Thank you Sir. Of course, nothing can surpass the greatness of the gift of God’s only begotten Son but what I only want to emphasize is that among God’s creation, we have been given a gift that sets us apart from the rest, which is freedom. And it is by the very mystery of freedom which led us to the gift of the Incarnated Savior. On the phrase, “God helps those who help themselves,” may we focus on the perspective that grace has always been there, but unless we cooperate, unless we took hold of the reaching hand of God, we will not be able to triumph against temptations. It is through God’s help alone that we can triumph. And so the Psalm and St Paul reminds us to call upon the name of the Lord in our distress. And everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved. Godspeed Sir.

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