Into The Wilderness

WeeklyMessageHomilist: Campion P. Gavaler, OSB

First Week of Lent
February 26, 2012

Gospel Summary

The Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness where he is tempted by Satan. We should recall that this event in Mark’s gospel comes immediately after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. As the heavens are torn open, the Spirit descends upon him, and a voice comes from heaven: “You are my beloved Son.” After the stark, matter-of-fact statement that Jesus was tempted by Satan, Mark tells us that after John’s arrest, Jesus begins his mission: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Matthew and Luke in their narratives of the temptations include Jesus’ triumph over Satan in a dramatic verbal exchange between them. Mark does not present the temptations in this way because his entire gospel is a narrative of the trials that Jesus undergoes. Satan tempts him to doubt that he is God’s beloved Son, and likewise tempts him to betray his mission on behalf of God’s kingdom. Satan will use every means to tempt Jesus in order to save his own kingdom that has dominance in the world.

Jesus is tempted by his own disciples. “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as humans do,” Jesus said to Peter (Mk 8:33). He is tested frequently by enemies from among his own people and by the Romans. His own relatives say that he is out of his mind (Mk 3:21). The most severe temptation comes when he appears to have failed in his mission; he is misunderstood, betrayed and abandoned by his disciples; he is arrested, undergoes the humiliation and torture associated with a criminal’s public execution; and finally he apparently has the experience of being forsaken by God while dying on a cross. Yet, his dying prayer in this dark night of the soul is also a cry of unconquered hope and trust (Mk 15:34, Psalm 22).

The Letter to the Hebrews reveals the good news that the triumph of Jesus over the most severe temptations imaginable can be a source of hope and trust in the trials that we undergo. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned” (4:15). “Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested” (2:18).

Life Implications

No one with the consciousness of freedom escapes the testing that reveals where the heart’s true treasure lies. Only the accidentals of the testing differ for each of us. The heroes of faith down to the present day triumph over their trials because they share the single-minded, childlike faith of Jesus. Jesus in his human consciousness and freedom loved God with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his strength (Dt 6:5). A person with a divided heart, on the other hand, easily fails in a test of faith, and particularly in a trial of suffering constantly asks God, Why? Further, the double-minded person demands some evidence of God’s presence and care.

The life-implication of Mark’s gospel is that we must pray as Jesus prayed if we hope to love God as he did with an undivided heart when our time of trial is upon us. Like Jesus before his great trial in the garden of Gethsemane, we may pray that if possible the hour of trial might pass by us. Nevertheless, with the power of his Spirit we must also pray: “Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will” (Mk 14:36). Jesus then said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep” (Mk 14:37)? Shortly after Jesus was arrested. Peter, standing among the crowd, was tested by the high priest’s maid. Unprepared by prayer and fearful for his life, with a curse Peter denied that he even knew Jesus.

At the Eucharist for the first Sunday of Lent a good prayer would be to ask the Spirit to heal the illusions, desires, and the doubts that divide our hearts. Only with this grace can we say the Lord’s prayer with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength. And with Christ’s Spirit we can live without fear because we trust that God’s will for us can only be love.

Campion P. Gavaler, OSB

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
February 26, 2012

“Weary or bitter or bewildered as we may be, God is faithful.”
An Irishman walks into a pub one day and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. The next evening the same man returns to the pub and does the same thing again – three beers at once. Soon the town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers. Finally, a week later, the bartender broached the subject on behalf of the town. “Folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?” The man smiled and answered, “Well, you see, I

If Christ could not sin, how was he tempted in the desert?
1st Sunday of Lent, Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.

We know that Jesus was truly tempted in the desert, for such is the teaching of Sacred Scripture. And yet, it should be clear that Our Savior could not – he simply could not – sin. The Lord Jesus is impeccable, he cannot sin.

If the Church teaches that Jesus could not possibly sin, in what sense can we affirm that he was tempted in the desert?

40 Ways to get the Most out of Lent
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list of Lenten ideas. But it’s a start! Many of the resources mentioned here are available on my website at or can be found by visiting my links page.

1.Take 30 minutes to pray, ask the Holy Spirit’s guidance, look over this list, and make a few practical Lenten resolutions. Be careful. If you try to do too much, you may not succeed in anything! If you need to get up early or stay up late to get the 30 minutes of quiet, do it. Turn off your phone and computer. Don’t put it off and don’t allow interruptions.

Lent FAQ: From Mardi Gras to Holy Week, Everything You Need to Know About the Season of Lent.
Lent is a liturgical season of the year during which many Christians prepare themselves for Easter by an increased focus on spiritual practices. It is always six weeks long, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on the Thursday before Easter. Since Easter is a moveable feast day—fixed in relation to the full moon following the northern hemisphere’s vernal equinox—the beginning of Lent also moves. The word lent simply refers to Spring. The beginning of Spring almost always occurs during Lent.

Being One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic
Every Sunday in the Creed we affirm that we believe in “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” What does this mean in real life? Too often we treat the Creed like one of those terms of agreement you have to click on before the website will let you on to a website. We rattle through the Creed dutifully, not giving it too much thought.

What Does Jesus Mean by Hypocrisy? It’s Deeper than You Think
In the Gospel from Ash Wednesday’s Mass, Jesus gives an extended teaching on the problem of hypocrisy. You can read it here: Matthew 6 – On Hypocrisy. In the modern age we have tended to reduce the notion of hypocrisy to duplicity. The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, who is inconsistent or phony. Jesus’ teaching on Hypocrisy does not exclude this notion but is far richer.

How Not to Become a Catholic
A little over a year ago my status changed. Having been a Presbyterian minister for over twenty years, I became a Catholic layman. How that happened is a long story.

In a nutshell, though, reading a Catholic author here, meeting with a priest or two there, befriending groups of faithful Catholics, and attending lectures, meetings, and (occasionally) Mass all added up. At the same time, my questions about the viability of Protestantism in a post-modern environment became more pointed and my answers more frightening. The Protestant mainline, oldline, sideline is in theological, moral, and cultural freefall as it approaches becoming little more than a sideshow. And the evangelicals, I believe, are not all that far behind.

Faith: A Virtue of the Intellect
I know what my students would say.

A few weeks back, I published a column here entitled Faith as Commitment in which I suggested that “faith” in the fullest sense means being changed by God’s love in such a way that we respond with love. Unless faith is given birth by love and bears fruit in love, it will remain empty.

Just Pray.
I hate to tell you this, but you’re going to have to pray today.

Any Lenten penance you’re doing—any fasting, any sacrifice, any alsmgiving, any good works —these are all very well. But if you’re not praying regularly, all your efforts are like buying someone a present, wrapping it carefully with a big, beautiful bow, and then putting it away in a closet forever. It’s like cooking someone the perfect omelette and then leaving it in the pan. It’s like calling someone your best friend and then—well, not talking to him.

Humanae Vitae: 12 Quotes on On Marital Love and Parenthood
Listers, the following quotes represent in full Humanae Vitae paragraphs 8-10 by Pope Paul VI. The pope has laid down the groundwork for understanding the family as natural and sacramental institution. Marriage is unique among the sacraments, because it is the only sacrament that is also a natural institution among the peoples of the earth. Resounding within the following quotes and echoing throughout the Sacred Doctrine of the Church is the principle that grace perfects nature. Regarding Holy Matrimony, the invisible grace given at the visible sign of marriage perfects the natural institution of marriage. The Church is the guardian of all moral law – both natural and revealed – and thus the authority and the duty to articulate the true nature of marriage.

Remembering You Are Dust, in the Hope of the Resurrection
Yesterday, as we went up for ashes, there’s a good chance that as he applied them to our foreheads, the priest said, “Remember, man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,” a reference to Genesis 3:19. A friend of mine asked how we, as Catholics, should understand this, in light of our belief in the resurrection of the body. I’d been thinking about the same thing yesterday. The short answer is that to believe in the resurrection of the body, you must first believe in death and decay. So let’s explore this seemingly-grim topic today.

10 Random Thoughts on Confession
A post over at Fr. Z’s place got me to thinking about confession. Since we’re heading into Lent, I though I type out some random thoughts on the subject. . .

1). Confession is all about receiving the forgiveness we have all already been given. We cannot earn forgiveness by works, attitude, or even confession itself; if we could, it would be a wage not a grace (i.e. a gift).

Frodo Is in Africa
For all those films’ flaws, the last Lord of the Rings movie ends perfectly (the first ending, I mean, before it keeps ending over and over again.) Our heroes are at the gates of Mordor, swords drawn, ready to die fighting, as the orcs surround them. There is no question how that lopsided battle is going to turn out … until little Frodo and his faithful friend Sam change everything

Hitchens, Chesterton, and “The Fall into Mysticism”
Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel-prize-winning Polish poet, once remarked that in his country (before he finally moved to America) people would say of some thinker that he had “fallen into mysticism,” meaning he had become religious and, therefore, was no longer interesting.

Milsoz himself was a Catholic, though one unsettled by modern challenges to belief. But it’s clear what he meant. Evangelicals have long lamented the “closing of the evangelical mind.” Most Catholics don’t pay attention to Catholic thought, and don’t know that the Church embraces both faith and reason.

Democracy Alone is Insufficient
John Adams, our second President, wrote these words: “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

Other Founding Fathers said the same, because they did not establish a democracy. Instead, they established a republic.

Prayers Against Enemies
Years ago, I attended a parish where the people were accustomed to shout out their intentions during the prayers of the faithful at Mass — a practice I abominate…but I digress. There was a woman in the front row who used to always shout out the same intention: Lord, give us the strength to go on fighting the war against abortion.

Why the Believer Knows More About Science
If I had to name the most important topics in science during our time, they would probably be evolutionary biology, cosmology, particle physics, and psychology to understand the human person better.

However, if I had to name the most important issue in science today, it would be something more over-arching. It would be the general issue of metaphysics and philosophy applied to scientific research and interpretation.

*EXCLUSIVE REPORT* Alarming New Evidence May Exonerate Imprisoned Priest
■ Rev. Gordon J. MacRae, sentenced to 33½ to 67 years, has been in the New
Hampshire State Prison For Men since 1994 on abuse charges.

■ Newly released signed statements in a recent court motion contend that the
primary accuser, Thomas Grover, made up the accusations to extract money
from the Church.

■ Grover’s former stepson: “On several occasions, Grover told me that he had
never been molested by MacRae.”

■ Grover’s former wife: Grover is a “compulsive liar” and a “manipulator” who “can
tell a lie and stick to it ’til its end.” Most notably, Grover “never stated one
word of abuse by [MacRae].”

■ Former friend of Grover and accuser who recanted: I knew “full well that it was
[all] bogus … I did not want to lie or make up stories.”

Pope’s Twitter followers jump 400 percent in a day
The number of people following Pope Benedict XVI on Twitter has increased 400 percent over the last 24 hours.

On Feb. 23 his account had 2,500 subscribers, but today that figure is at more than 12,500 and is rising.

“It is quite incredible,” said Monsignor Paul Tighe, Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, to CNA on Feb. 24.

“And not just the numbers who are now following the Pope’s Tweets but also the number who are then re-Tweeting his message to others. It’s great.”

Lenten Reflections from CATHOLICISM, Week 1 Part1

Lenten Reflections from CATHOLICISM, Week 1 Part2

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