Fr John's Homily - 1st Sunday in Lent

13 March 2019 | General Interest


Temptation, temptation, temptation! Project Compassion for Caritas Australia

Lk 4.1-13, Deut 26.4-10, Rom 10.8-13

This weekend’s Leunig cartoon with poem puts our dilemmas well, headed “TRAUMA”: “I am a victim of everything. It’s all too much for me. This pain and strife of earthly life, It will not let me be. It’s all too loud, too fast, too mad, too ugly, mean and cruel, Too hard to bear and so unfair, It makes you feel a fool. Fooled by life, it takes too long. Before you’ve realized that being here is so severe that we’re all traumatized.”

Whilst I have not personally been traumatized by recent events emerging about our Church, I can appreciate that others have been, with the shock of the conviction of George Pell, following the earlier negative and appalling revelations of the dark side of denial and denunciation of victims in particular. I say again, we are the Church, the People of God, and this is where the action is for you and me, at the local level. No-one can question that the Gospel is Good News!

Perhaps our recent experience with the condemnation of the Royal Commission and its exposes of the institutional Church’s mismanagement and cover ups, fits in with this image of being reduced to ashes, so that new life, in terms of transparency and protocols of management, can emerge, as with the mythological story of the phoenix rising from the ashes. As a result, we would hope that such transgressions do not occur ever again. All too late, we might say, but at least the wrongs are now exposed and addressed, and the victims heard and compensated, and the perpetrators punished as they should be. At the Vatican conference, Pope Francis spoke of abuse being the work of the devil, but isn’t it the demons within each of us (and which can get the better of us at times, in our weakness), that we have to deal with, in making good choices and using free will and conscience in a mature and considered way.

It’s easy for us to blame others for causing our problems, but at the heart of it all is a thing called free will and responsibility for consequences of our choices and behaviour. Human nature, being what it is, provides us with excuses for weakness and doing the wrong thing. At the same time, our faith is that in the mystery of Incarnation, Jesus immerses himself in our human condition, facing the same emotions, fears, trials and temptations that we all do.

The metaphors here of desert, stones, power and seeking adulation or admiration of others, remind us of the illusions of life that can tempt us to give in to our inner demons, rather than responding to our good angels, also within!

The symbolism of Ash Wednesday evokes a strong response in our Catholic tradition, as we come forward to receive the ashes and be reminded of our ongoing need to ‘Turn away from sin and believe the Good News’. From ashes can come renewal and growth, as we see with the devastating effects of nature in our own environment with the destruction wrought by bushfires, experienced again recently, as a result of the early autumn heatwave. Our indigenous people understood this far better than us, given the way they have become used to living in this challenging and fickle environment of the Australian bush.

The portrayal of Jesus in the desert, a place of barrenness and darkness, where the wild things are, so to speak, for 40 days is symbolic of a period of preparation, prior to his entering into his itinerant public ministry, challenging the status quo and in particular the religious leaders of his day. Like John the Baptist, who comes wild and woolly from the desert to the riverside of repentance and cleansing, he seeks review and renewal of life, such that change in people’s lives is real and lasting. John the Baptist speaks of Jesus bringing fire and the Spirit.

Brendan Byrne sums it up: “Jesus emerges from the conflict with the true direction of his mission irreversibly set. Son of God, though he is… he will not be exempt from treading the ordinary path of human life. Obedient as God’s Son to the pattern of divine love and grace which drives him, he will enter fully into the pain and evil of the world to transform it from within and thereby claim it for true humanity.” His mission is not about self-serving, power and glory and notoriety or kudos, but self-effacing service in humility. The temptations are very real in human terms, but so is Jesus’ resolve in countering and resisting them.

Hope is at the heart of his message, and it is the theme taken up by Caritas Australia in its Project Compassion Appeal for 2019, as we look at areas of need in our troubled and needy world, to be informed as to the good work done by our generosity and support.

And here is this week’s story from the heart of Zimbabwe, where water just can’t be taken for granted, as we turn on the tap without even thinking!

john hannon   9th  March 2019


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