1st Sunday of Lent (Alternative Homily Here entitled Self-Sufficiency is Fatal)
February 21, 2010
There is a story about Hell. One time Satan gathered his demons and asked them what they need to do to bring more souls to hell. One demon said: “Let us tell the people that there is no hell. In that way, they will not be afraid to commit sin.” Another said, “Let us tell them that there is no heaven so that they will not try to become good and holy.” The third idea was the most effective: “Let us tell the people not to commit sin because there is hell and to be good and holy for there is heaven. But we also tell them there is no hurry because they have plenty of time in their hands.”
The devil is the prince of lies. These are the three biggest lies of the devil that are most effective in deceiving a great number of people nowadays. Many people have already lost the sense of sin. They are not anymore afraid to commit sin. It is no longer called an offense against God. It is called by many other names: a mistake, human weakness, psychological hang-up or cultural mix-up. Horrible acts such as abortion, euthanasia, immoral and perverse behavior are being justified and even supported by government legislation and the mass media of social communication.
Secondly, the devil is not anymore portrayed as a terrifying and dangerous enemy, but as a cute and winsome creature that children can play with. Look at how children love to wear those red costumes with horns and tails during Halloween; how attractive flying witches and black magicians have become in the Harry Potter movies; and how many people patronize the horror movies of monsters and creatures of darkness.
Thirdly, preaching about repentance and conversion are now regarded as offensive to the psyche of modern man that could undermine his self-esteem and self-development. We are made to believe that the sacrament of Reconciliation or confession is no longer necessary and is even counterproductive to the development of man’s character. Confession can come later in life as a send-off favor to a dying man.
All these lies are being spread and widely accepted nowadays in the world. As a result there is the reign of what Pope Benedict XVI calls the “dictatorship of relativism.” He said, “Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, that is, letting oneself ‘be tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,’ seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times. We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” People do not know the truth anymore because of the lies and deceptions of the world and the devil.
But the Church cannot be shackled and silenced by this “dictatorship of relativism” nor by the threats and attacks of the devil. She is the depository of divinely revealed truths, and she will speak the truth in season and out of season. St. Paul said, “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”
So as we begin the season of Lent, the Sunday Gospel tells us the hard and solid truths once and for all: Sin is horrible and deadly because it destroys our soul. The devil is for real, and he is the eternal tempter. He is not charming and cute; he is horrific and dangerous. He wants to do irreversible damage and eternal harm to us. And the time for repentance and conversion is now, for nobody knows the hour when we will leave this world. So we need to go to the sacrament of Confession more often than ever before.
In the Gospel we learned of the three temptations by the devil in a bid to disrupt the mission of Jesus. Temptations are not sins in themselves. It is only when we succumb to temptation, or when we willingly expose ourselves to temptations or occasions of sin, that we commit sin. God allowed Jesus to be tempted. By the same token, He also allows us to be tempted because He knows that temptation is a test in order to make us more humble and to strengthen our souls in fighting against evil and sin.
Let us be aware of the subtle and dangerous tactics employed by the devil. The temptation to turn stones into bread is the temptation of pleasure and comfort. The temptation to have dominion over the whole world is the temptation of worldly power by worshipping the devil. The temptation to jump from the parapet of the temple is the temptation of vanity and pride. All these are being used to the hilt by the devil who is determined to drive us to hell. Should we be worried and afraid? By no means!
That is precisely the reason why we have this season of Lent. It is a season filled with grace from God: the grace of repentance, conversion and forgiveness. Time and again we have succumbed to temptations and have fallen into sin. But the Lord never tires of forgiving us; He never runs out of mercy and grace for us. St. Paul said, “Where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.” Let us take advantage of this holy season. Let us find time to pray with more attention and focus. Let us urgently seek God’s mercy and forgiveness in the sacrament of Confession. And let us more zealously practice penance and self-denial in order to uproot selfishness and sin from our hearts and follow Jesus more closely. Then, no matter how the devil does his worst, we have the best defense ever: Jesus, our victorious Lord.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002