by Fr. Tommy Lane
What is the most important event in the history of the world? It is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the “center of gravity” of all time. It is so important that the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night celebrating Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest celebration of the Church each year. It is so important a celebration that we spend over six weeks preparing for it, this season of Lent.
We will renew our baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. Paul says, when writing to the Romans (chapter 6), that when we were baptized we died to our old way of life to live a new way of life. He says that when we were baptized we went into the tomb with Jesus and rose out of the tomb again with Jesus to a new life. The season of Lent is to give us time once again to die to our old sinful ways of life and rise out of the tomb with Jesus to a new way of life so that by the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night when we renew our baptismal vows we will also have renewed our lives. So it is a time when we resist sinful desires and exercise self-control. The second preface of Lent states,
“This great season of grace is your gift to your family to renew us in spirit. You give us strength to purify our hearts, to control our desires, and so to serve you in freedom.”
The Gospel today tells us of the time Jesus spent in the desert. Jesus’ forty days in the desert, not yielding to sin despite temptation, is our model for overcoming sin during Lent. In the desert Jesus was tempted by Satan to totally wreck his Father’s plan. The three pieces of Scripture that Jesus quoted show him overcoming temptations and submitting to his Father’s plan:
“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
“You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”
“You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”
Jesus submitted to his Father’s will. During Lent we die to ourselves like Jesus so that the Father’s plan can be accomplished in our lives.
During Lent, in order to die to ourselves and rise to new life with Jesus, we make sacrifices and do things we do not normally do. All the “doing” of Lent is expressing what is meant to be happening inside each of us during Lent, dying to our old sinful way of life and rising to new life with Jesus. The focus of Lent is on renewing our lives in service of the Lord, becoming more like Jesus. Jesus in the desert is our model during Lent, inspiring us to die to ourselves so that the Father’s plan can be accomplished. That is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of Lent because as we die to ourselves we realize that we need to come before the Lord confessing the times when we didn’t die to self in order to rise to new life with him. Throughout the centuries, to help us die to ourselves and rise to new life with Jesus during Lent, the Church proposes that we consider taking on ourselves three things during Lent: praying more, fasting from something, and helping the poor.
Very often we hear people saying “we are so busy we don’t have time for anything.” During Lent I encourage you to find extra time for prayer. A life lived without prayer can never be a happy life. Remember what Jesus said on one occasion, “What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?” (Matt 16:26)
In the early Church Christians used to fast two days a week, on Wednesdays and Fridays. We have only two fast days in the entire year now, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, but it would be good to do fasting of some kind throughout Lent or abstaining from something we like. Remember that fasting is expressing what is meant to be taking place inside us during Lent, dying to ourselves and rising to new life with Jesus.
We all have been given an opportunity to help the poor by donating to the aid agencies of the Church which do so much good helping the underprivileged all over the globe. As we look at different scenes from around the world on our TV sometimes we cannot but say that we have a lot for which to be thankful to God.
May this Lent be a time of special grace for each of us. The highpoint of our year is our celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week and during the next six weeks we also want to prepare for that celebration by dying to sinful ways and rising to new life with Jesus.
Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013
More homilies for the First Sunday of Lent Year A
stories for Lent