Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
March 9th, 2014
Year A

During the Easter recess of my fourth year in seminary, a friend of mine from Sheffield, England invited me to spend Holy Week and Easter at his parish. One day while we were driving around the city, we noticed something quite unique – a billboard that read: “Temptation Today, Sin Tomorrow, Habit Thereafter.” It was an advertisement for the Season of Lent. I never noticed who sponsored the sign but I found it very captivating. “Temptation Today, Sin Tomorrow, Habit Thereafter.” What does the sign mean? No matter what the content of a temptation it can be very enticing – whether we are tempted by food, drink, procrastination, peer pressure, etc… you name it. What happens is that once we give in, even just one time, we have opened the door to doing it again, and again, and again. Hence a temptation, that turned into a one-time sin has now become habitual – and not in a good way. The continual giving in to temptations tears down the walls of resilience to the point where we not only are weak but we can become desensitized to sin in general. This is precisely the meaning of sin – from the German word ‘sünde’ which means to tear apart. And what is it that gets “torn apart” is our relationship with God.

It seemed appropriate to me to recall that story as the gospel for this First Sunday of Lent is the temptation of Jesus. He is tempted in a very real way by the devil Himself. In this He teaches us something. First, that just as we are tempted, so He was as well. He knows what we go through when faced with temptation. Secondly, He has been fasting for 40 days and therefore is in a weakened state. More often than not, our sins come from a weak will and a lack of strength to stand up and fight them off. Jesus knows how this feels. He is tempted in three ways: by food, by trust, and by power.

Food: Satan knows that Jesus is hungry, so he tells Him: perform a miracle. The focus of the temptation is on the Lord’s identity and His power. Jesus’ response: “man cannot live on bread alone” is a lesson in the priorities of our lives. He teaches us that physical needs are not our greatest needs. God’s Word is the sustenance of our lives and obedience to His Word is something for which we ought to “hunger and thirst.”

Trust: Satan wants Jesus to throw Himself off the Temple. Satan is looking for the proof of Scripture by making Jesus take a daredevil leap off the roof of the Temple. Yet God cannot be forced to prove Himself and Jesus will not give in to such tempting of the Father.
Power: The gloves are off here and the foul ambition of the devil is made clear. Jesus is being offered a shortcut to the objective of His mission – Kingly power and glory. Again, Jesus does not back down. Shortcuts are a way out of difficulty; they are prideful. Jesus teaches us here that the way to glory, the way to the Father’s heart is through humility, suffering, service, and love.

Now, Jesus could have vanquished the tempter by His divine might but He chooses to endure with His human will and overcome the trials. He faced His tempter in a human way, in full solidarity with all humanity. He never ceased being the Son of God but won the battle as a man. As such He shows us that resistance to temptation is possible and God is on our side in that battle.

This ought to give us great hope and bring us encouragement in our own Christian lives – temptation can be overcome, Satan can be defeated, but we need the tools to do it. In His temptations, Jesus gives us those tools. First, if in order to overcome temptations of the flesh, like the temptation to gluttony, we must be deeply imbued in God’s Word. Filled with His Word, we can know Him from the heart. Secondly, in knowing God from the heart, we are given the grace to trust Him and in trusting Him we become less reliant on ourselves and place the whole of our lives in His hands. In so doing, thirdly, by knowing Him, trusting Him, our hearts expand to greater love, greater humility before Him and others and we learn to serve Him in everything that we do and say. In knowing, loving and serving God, we are far more capable of trusting Him and making Him known to others.

Sometimes, too, it is helpful to gain insight from outside sources – from your pastor, priest-friend, a good Catholic author, etc. Often, many people go on retreat during Lent. The upcoming Men’s Conference on March 29th is one such opportunity that the Diocese of Springfield sponsors in order to help to build a resistance to sin. This year’s speakers are: Catholic apologist Bryan Mercier; popular author Ralph Martin; musician and author Vinny Flynn; and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Archbishop of Boston. The day includes talks from these fine men on the subject of reconciliation, expounding on this year’s them of “Return to Me with Your All Heart.” There is, as always, great music, adoration, time for confession and fellowship. It is a way in which we can help ourselves learn something about the nature of penance in order to build up strength against sin.

This is the spirit of the Lenten Season. We take on acts of penance, we do a little more praying, go on retreat, make a good confession once or twice, and so on. We take on these things because they aid us in building up a resistance to sin. They help strengthen our will, so that we can courageously stand up and fight off temptations and turn away from the devil’s lies and trickery. In this way we can reword that billboard phrase to: “Temptation Today, Resistance Tomorrow, Holiness Thereafter.” I pray that you men will make the Men’s Conference apart of your Lenten journey and allow us to help you grow in greater holiness.




Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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