February 18, 2010
We can become so obsessed with the nature of Christ’s temptation – was he really tempted? did he feel temptation like we do? and so on – that we miss the point of Sunday’s gospel. The plain fact is that Jesus resists the devil’s temptations and triumphs over them. We are called to do the same. And we can if we rely on Jesus and not on ourselves. If we think of Lent as a time when we ‘just try that little bit harder’ then we won’t make much progress. If we think of Lent as a time when we grow closer to Jesus then we will travel quickly along the road of holiness.
It’s interesting to note that the things that the devil tempts Jesus with are not so much ends as means. Jesus is tempted to take short cuts to show his faith, power, and sovereignty. He does not because he realises that these things will shown as clearly as possible in his death and resurrection. The faithfulness of Jesus, the power of Jesus, and the Kingdom he comes to establish will be made manifest in all their splendour in the cross and empty tomb.
Lent is a time when we can take stock and ask ourselves what we really want but also how we want to achieve those things. It’s also an opportunity to remind ourselves that we will achieve, not through our efforts but in union with Jesus himself.
February 12, 2010
Next Wednesday is Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent. During Mass we are told the truth about ourselves: ‘dust you are and unto dust you shall return’. There is no escaping this reality. No politician, no lifestyle coach, and certainly no celebrity would be so daring as to tell us that. And yet the Church does because it is the truth. We are mortal and our life is finite. Many people want to run away from this truth. With the ashes used today the Church brands us with it.
But as well as telling us that stark, blunt truth the Church also tells us that this is not the end. Eternal life can be ours is we live our lives in union with that of Jesus. The whole of Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the great Easter mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection. We are called not just to remember those events but to experience them for ourselves through the celebration of the Liturgy. But to do that we have to listen to the other message we are given on Wednesday. We are not told to try harder or be more resolute and determined. Rather we are told to ‘Repent and believe the gospel’.
February 5, 2010
The saint we celebrate today is one of the countless early martyrs of the Church. From the fifth century onwards Agatha was held in great veneration by the people of Sicily, and her cult spread across Europe very rapidly. She is one of the saints mentioned in the Roman Canon – the first Eucharistic prayer. As well as being a martyr she is honoured as a virgin.
Although we know little for certain about her, the evident devotion to her is an eloquent testimony of her holiness. Later accounts of her martyrdom are particularly brutal but they key point is that through all her sufferings Agatha trusts in Christ as her saviour.
Although it is highly unlikely that we will be called to die for our faith we are certainly called to live it. And this is our challenge. But as ever we need to remind ourselves that we are not alone. We have the whole company of heaven praying for us and urging us on. May St. Agatha pray for us that we, like her, may be faithful witnesses to Christ. PD