My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
I guess it is not easy to go to Church on Sunday anymore, especially when you have the LA Marathon going around the Cathedral. Thank you for coming and for making the effort to be here for out Sunday celebration.
So we have begun our first week of Lent and we are on our spiritual journey to Easter.
In this holy season, we are all following Jesus on his way to the Cross. We are trying in these days, to share in some of his sufferings. So in these 40 days we fast and pray, and we make sacrifices and deny ourselves — just as Jesus did.
Every Lent — year that we celebrate Lent — is a reminder to us that our Christian life is a journey, that we are all following the call of Jesus in our lives. And lent, especially, reminds us, as I said before, that we are walking with him.
So it is a special time in the life of the Church, in the liturgy of the Church, and it must be a special time in our own lives when we have a new opportunity to be more serious about our conversion to Christ. More serious about becoming the people that God wants us to be.
In our Scripture readings for this first Sunday of Lent, we go all the back to the creation of the world and the creation of the human family.
And I guess the question is: why do we begin Lent this way?
Because we need to know where we came from. Because we need to know who we are and who we are meant to be.
So our first reading today from the Book of Genesis tells us that we are children of God — made by God himself, each one of us! We are made in his image and likeness. Filled with his Spirit of life. And, as we also heard in our first reading, God gives us the gift of freedom — he gives us free will to choose which path we will follow in his world.
So our first reading tells us something beautiful. That we are children of God. But it also tells us that we have the possibility of committing sins and that in the end we are all sinners.
That’s what St. Paul is talking about in our second reading today. He is talking about the original sin of Adam and Eve. Through their sin — sin and death entered the world. And through their sin, we are all made sinners.
But God does not leave his creation alone. He does not want his world filled with sin and death. So he sends us Jesus Christ. St. Paul calls Jesus — God’s gracious gift!
And he is. Jesus is God’s gift to each one of us — and to every one. God sent Jesus to break us free from the cycle of sin and death. God the Father sent Jesus, second person of the Blessed Trinity, to save sinners. To save each one of us.
It’s a beautiful reality that we have to be aware and keep in mind as we accompany Jesus throughout our lives and especially during this time of the Lenten season.
So finally in our Gospel passage for today we hear about how Jesus is tempted — just as Adam and Eve were.
Jesus endured the Devil’s temptations in order to show us that we can overcome all the temptations and sin in our lives. Because he suffered and was tempted, he can help us in our temptations.
And the reality is that we all have temptations. But if we follow the example of Jesus we can win the victory over our weakness. That’s the lesson of this first Sunday of Lent.
Jesus, in our Gospel today, shows us how to resist those temptations. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, as I’m sure you noticed, he is tempted three times — and three times he answers by quoting the Scriptures.
So Jesus is showing us today that when we face temptations, we have to trust in God. He is showing us that we have to rely on the teachings we find in the Scriptures and in the teachings of the Church. And especially in the grace of God.
That is why it is so important for all of us to look for the grace of God that comes to us in a special way: through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Eucharist, the real presence of Jesus in the Sacrament.
So God is providing us with everything that we need in order to reject these temptations and be in the state of grace. But we need to faith and trust in him. We need to be obedient to the things that God tells us — through his Church, through the Gospels, through those inspirations of the Holy Spirit that are helping us to make the right decisions in life— because the path that God wants for us is the way to true happiness.
This morning, Pope Francis, in Rome gave us beautiful practical advice about how to resist temptations. He said that when we have a temptation, following Jesus’ example, we should not dialogue with the Devil. He said, we should remember this when we are tempted, to not argue with Satan. Always defend ourselves with the Word of God and this will save us. Simple, beautiful advice from our Holy Father Pope Francis.
So as we enter into this spiritual journey of Lent, the Church, through the readings of today’s Mass, is reminding us what it means to be human. It means that we are children of God but also that we are sinners.
The Church reminds us that we should not be discouraged when temptations come into our lives. That’s what it means to be human.
We should always remember that everything we face in our lives — Jesus has already faced before us. If we walk with him, he will show us the way. He has an extraordinary, great love for each one of us, a great love for sinners. And a great tenderness towards us.
And let us especially ask Mary, our Blessed Mother to watch over all of us this week and this Lent. That we can really have a conversion during this Lenten Season — in which we grow stronger in our spiritual life and closer to Jesus Christ. And let us accompany him during these forty days in a special way, offering him our support and our love.
1. Readings (First Sunday in Lent, Year A): Gen. 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Rom. 15:12-19; Matt. 4:1-11.