As we move from youth to old age, human beings
go through many stages of life – each designed by God
to prepare us for the next.
As Young people we take our first steps in learning what life is all about.
- We grow and learn about life through our interactions with our parents, and later our teachers and classmates at school.
As Teens – we struggle with acceptance and fitting in.
- With Puberty and its challenges
- We seek new friends – and often painfully discover that we are not among the “cool kids”
We also ask, perhaps for the first time . . .
- What are my talents? What am I good at?
Our Young adult years are spent . . .
- Finding work and establishing a career –
- Seeking someone to love and be loved by
- Starting a family
- Earning Money for the essentials of food, clothing and shelter. Perhaps purchasing our first home.
During our years as an older Adult –
- We settle into the role of spouse and parent
- We work, not just to support our family, but also to advance our career and perhaps climb the corporate ladder.
- We learn to survive the economic and personal bumps that we encounter along the road.
- The job loses,
- Trouble in our marriage and or with the kids
- Battling personal demons
- And eventually, planning for retirement
And finally, during Senior Years –
- We perhaps struggle to find something useful to do in retirement with our newly available time.
- Some of us now have the time and the wherewithal to travel.
- Many of us end up helping our adult children in their struggles.
- All of us who have grandchildren love doting on them in ways we never could dote on our children when we were parents.
- And doing what one up in years parishioner told me she was doing with her “senior years” – “I’m prepping for my finals.”
- Perhaps by volunteering at the Food Pantry, Library, Meals on Wheels or at the parish office.
- By attending Church and parish functions more than before when there was little time.
- Perhaps by making sure my will and advance directives are up to date.
Throughout our lives, most of us here today,
have responded to an additional call – the call of God.
This call is unique to each as is where we are called to act on it. For some, the call is
- within our marriage and family
- Some are called to minister of listening to co-workers.
- Others are called to serve our parish and its outreach to the homebound or nursing home residents.
- Others minister through their service to our community.
The roles are different, but each of us has been given some-special and unique part to play in what we call the Mystical Body of Christ.
In the Mystical Body of Christ,
- all of God’s children got a place in the choir,
- all God’s children have an essential job to do.
The challenge for most of us are the same challenges we have faced in every stage of life:
- How do we know for sure what that job is?
- How do we discover which spiritual gifts we have received from God?
- Where am I to put these gifts into action?
- And do I have a choice when it comes to using my gifts.
- Do I have to use them for some higher purpose or can I just keep them for myself?
In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus in the midst of the young adult stage of his life.
- He has grown to be a man, schooled in his Jewish faith living in a land occupied by the Romans.
- He has a strong knowledge of the scriptures and an active prayer life.
- And it is time to decide how he will respond to the unique mission that God was calling him to begin.
Because he is fully human like us in all things but sin, and shares the human gift of free will, he can freely choose the path that he will follow.
- He can choose to use his gifts for himself – using his quick mind and knowledge to become wealthy and well placed like the Pharisees and Temple priests.
- He can choose to use his gifts to achieve fame – exploiting his miraculous gifts to attain the praise of others?
- He can become a religious zealot and use his talents to conspire, fight, and eventually overthrow the Roman occupiers.
- He can even decide to reject his call from God to greatness, and live a simple, uncomplicated life . . .
- Keeping his wisdom and miraculous power to himself,
- Not rocking any Roman or Religious boats
- and thus avoiding the need to suffer and die on a cross?
On his 40 day retreat to the dessert, Jesus considers these things and is tempted by the devil to abandon his call.
The temptations that he faces are the same as all humans have faced from the beginning of time:
- Should I trust in God’s love and follow his plan
or succumb to the temptation to take the easy road?
- The instant gratification road.
- The road without risk or danger?
- Should I abandon my fast and change stones into bread to meet his own personal needs.
We likewise can be tempted over the next 40 days of Lent to:
- avoid our higher call and use our time and work only to amass food and wealth for our own gratification.
During his 40 day retreat,
- Jesus was tempted to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple and expect God to intervene and save him.
Likewise, we can be tempted to
- risk our own wellbeing and
- the wellbeing of those who rely on us and choose to engage in dangerous personal behaviors like:
- Abusing alcohol or drugs
- driving while impaired,
- keeping flirtatious relationships at work and engaging in pornography at home,
- or simply – not taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.
Yet expecting God or others to fix the messes
that we, by our misguided actions have created.
During his 40 day retreat,
- Jesus was tempted to abandon God for the attraction of personal and political power and wealth.
Likewise, we can be tempted to abandon the very purpose of our existence – which the catechism told us is . . .
- to know love and serve God on this earth,
so as to be happy with him in the next . . .
- and instead spend our time pursuing personal and economic power to enhance our own wealth and ego.
As many of us heard on Ash Wednesday – the word Lent means Springtime. It is a time to shed the cold and isolation of winter and prepare ourselves for the potential for new growth.
This Lent can be a time, not of drudgery – but of hope and preparation.
This Lent can be a day of renewal when,
like our Catechumens and Candidates preparing
for the Easter Sacraments,
- we re-examine our baptismal promises and
- reclaim the Holy Spirit of our Confirmation
This First Sunday of Lent can be the first day of the rest of our lives when like Jesus,
- we reject the temptation to live only for ourselves
- and decide to trust in God’s plan for us.
Then, our slow and hilly walk through life,
will become a joyful and purposeful run with the Lord.