Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


1st Sunday of Lent
Fr. Joseph Palermo
March 9th, 2014
Year A

Have you ever gone to a store and watched someone pay for a purchase with a $100 dollar bill?  I’ve seen that a few times, and I’ve watched as the Store Clerk pulled out a special pen with an iodine solution, marked the bill with the pen, and then examined the bill to be sure no discoloration occurred, thus assuring that the money was real, not fake.  What merchant wants to get stuck with counterfeit money?  They won’t be in business for long if they do.  It’s good business practice to check whether large bills are real or fake.  It’s bad business not to check money in a world with criminals and con-artists.

Just as prudent business owners check the authenticity of money given for purchases, so too do prudent people check out the authenticity of values that are promoted in the world before embracing them.

Today’s reading from Genesis, the epic story of humanity’s fall from grace, records the greatest con-job ever in passing off counterfeit values as true ones.  The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were created by God out of love and made in God’s own image and likeness.  They lived in perfect harmony with God and with each other.  They wanted for nothing.  God took care of their every need.  They trusted God and believed that God’s only intention was for their good.  If God said something was good, they accepted it, and if God said something was bad, they accepted it.  When God told them not to eat the fruit of a particular tree because it was bad for them, they believed God and willingly went along.

Enter the serpent, the mortal enemy of God and the incarnation of evil.  The serpent enticed the man and woman to eat the forbidden fruit by telling them the lie that God actually didn’t love them and didn’t have their best interests at heart; that, in reality, God was only protecting his turf; that God didn’t want them to eat the fruit because they would “be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.”  That is the core claim of evil:  we can be god; we can decide what is good and what is bad; we can be our own master.

Ignoring their graced experience of God, and blinded by ambition and pride, the man and woman bought the lie and ate the fruit; they disobeyed God; they sinned.  And then their eyes were opened to the truth.  They realized they had rejected Perfect Love for a bald-faced Lie.  How tragic – and the rest of us have repeated their sin throughout history.  Having distrusted and defied God, the man and woman ruptured their relationship with God.  Chaos and confusion about goodness and truth entered the world.  The man and woman were banished from Paradise by God as punishment for their disobedience.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, became human to reverse the division in man’s relationship with God and to heal the disorder that sin brought into the world.  In today’s gospel, the same serpent (called the devil) told the same lie to Jesus that worked with Adam and Eve:  God doesn’t have your best interests at heart, so you must be God.  But Jesus was so secure in his Father’s love that he recognized the lie and rejected it outright.  He refused to change stones into bread for food or jump off the Temple to impress people or bow down and worship the devil for power.  He saw the counterfeit nature of the values of instant gratification, human approval and self-glorification.  By Jesus’ faithfulness to God and rejection of the devil’s temptations, he advanced the redemption of the human race which he would complete on the cross.

As it was of old, so it is today.  The spiritual battle continues between good and evil, between true and counterfeit values, in our world.  In one corner is the Truth of Christianity, which teaches:  God is real; God is sovereign – not man; God created humanity in God’s own image and God loves humanity perfectly; God ordains what’s good and what’s evil; God deals life and death; God defines the truth about sexuality, marriage and family; God defines the fundamental values of life:  love of God and love of neighbor; God created the Church as his instrument of formation and sanctification; God designed humanity for eternal life, which is the reward of a faithful life.

In the other corner of the battle, courtesy of the government, media and entertainment industry, are the Lies of the world and the devil, namely:  God doesn’t exist; but, in case you believe God does exist, God is a benign grandpa who approves every action and  behavior man can think up; man is sovereign – not God; man ordains what’s good and what’s evil; man deals life and death; man defines the truth about sexuality, marriage and family; man defines the fundamental values of life: pleasure, leisure, possessions, sex, fame and power; life is all about the here and now; if there is eternity, everybody makes it there, so don’t worry.

We will need to reflect on our own experience, of course, but in my experience, people who embrace Christian values are the most happy and fulfilled.  Their lives aren’t free of challenges or crosses, but they live in peace because they trust in God’s care and love; by following God’s laws, they experience God’s blessings here and now, and look forward to eternal life with God.  In my experience, people who reject Christian Values and live the values of the world are neither happy nor fulfilled; by rejecting God’s laws and defining their own good and evil, they bring great confusion, chaos and pain into their lives and into the lives of their families.  Without a realignment of values, their hope for eternal life is imperiled.

The Season of Lent is a graced time to recognize the spiritual battle for souls ongoing in our world.  It’s a time to embrace the True Values of God (ministered through the Church) and reject the false values of the world and the devil.  The call to play God and define for ourselves what is good and evil in life is a colossal lie.  The question is:  Will we be like prudent business owners and reject what is counterfeit or will we be like imprudent business owners and allow ourselves to be swindled by crooks?

Lord, through our Lenten prayer, study, penance, repentance, charity, and especially by our participation in Eucharist, grant us the grace to recognize and reject the values that are false and evil and embrace the values that are true and good.




Fr. Joseph Palermo is a priest for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, Louisiana.
He serves serves as spiritual director at Notre Dame Seminary and spiritual advisor for the St. Thomas More Catholic Lawyers Association.




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