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The 1st Sunday in Lent – The Homily

I was preparing material for a Valentine’s Day Retreat for Couples at Malvern Retreat House. I mentioned this to a few women in my parish. In preparation for the retreat, they recommended reading two books – one for and about men (Wild at Heart: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul) and one for and about women (Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul).  Ironically, or perhaps providentially, both books deal with the topic of spiritual warfare, temptation and the struggle with “the world, the flesh and the devil” – all relevant to today’s Gospel reading, and much of my homily today is drawn from the material of those two books.

During Lent – in fact during life – you will always encounter three enemies: the world, the flesh, and the devil. They always conspire together so it’s a bit difficult to talk about them individually. But in any battle, in any challenge, in any difficulty, at least two of them are involved, and often it’s all three.

The first is “The spy in the castle” also known as “The Flesh.” The Flesh is the traitor within. It is the voice that speaks to you saying:

  • “You don’t measure up. You’ll fail. You don’t have the college degree, pedigree, training, experience.”
  • It’s a lie. It’s the flesh. Your flesh is NOT you!
  • Your heart is good, but realize that there is a war within us, but it is a civil war.
  • The spy within uses sabotage – this is when we give our strength away. Examples:
  • Taking a bribe,
  • Being bought off,
  • Accepting flattery in exchange for loyalty,
  • Refusing to confront an issue,
  • Pornography,
  • Sexual involvement with a man or woman not your spouse.

It saps your strength and erodes your strength. Look at the story of Samson and Delilah. He wouldn’t confront her; she just wore him down and sapped his resolve until it was too late.

 

The World is the carnival of counterfeits—counterfeit battles, counterfeit adventures, counterfeit beauties. They are all a corruption of your strength.

  • Example #1: Ambition and “Corporate Climbers. “Battle your way to the top”, says the world. Why is it then that the people who get there are often the emptiest, most frightened, prideful imposters around? They are mercenaries, battling only to build their own kingdoms. There is nothing transcendent about their lives.
  • Example #2: Adventure addicts. No matter how much they spend, no matter how far they take their hobby, it’s still merely that—a hobby. At some point the hobby becomes an addiction – and loved ones suffer.
  • Example #3: Counterfeit beauties. The world is constantly trying to tell us that the Golden-Haired Woman, the ultimate romantic Prince Charming, is out there—go after them. You deserve to be happy. It’s a lie.

The world of imposters is shaken by a real men and women of competence, character and courage. They’ll do whatever it takes to get you back in line—threaten you, bribe you, seduce you, undermine you. They crucified Jesus. But it didn’t work, did it? Let your strength show up. Let people feel the weight of who you are and let them deal with it.

The Lord will not let you stumble.

Finally, The Devil – Besides the world and the flesh is an even more deadly enemy . . . one we rarely speak of and are even much less ready to resist. It is an enemy that is easily dismissed in today’s “sophisticated, scientific society.”  Yet we live now on the front lines of a fierce spiritual war that is to blame for most of the casualties you see around you and most of the assaults against you.

We live in parallel worlds. One world consists of hills and lakes and barns and politicians and shepherds watching their flocks by night. The other consists of angels and sinister forces and the whole spiritual realm.devil

Has it ever crossed your mind that not every thought that crosses your mind comes from you? What you experience in the midst of traffic today happens all the time in marriages, in ministries, in any relationship. You are being lied to all the time.

It’s D-Day, and you’re the prize. What are the tactics that he will use?

  • First the Enemy will try to jam communications with Headquarters.
  • Second, he uses propaganda, lies and half-truths.
  • Third, he probes the perimeter, looking for a weakness in your defense, your “Achilles’ heel.”
  • Fourth, he uses intimidation.
  • Finally, he offers “a deal.”
  • warrior

But you’re not weak; you’re a warrior! What are the weapons of a warrior?

  • First, a warrior has a vision; he has a transcendence to his life, a cause greater than self-preservation.
  • Second, a warrior is cunning. He knows when to fight and when to run. Don’t complain – don’t explain.
  • Third, a warrior has a strategy and uses the weapons of war. Some examples:
    • Commit yourself to your prayer life – every day, no exceptions.
    • Make sure to build in some quiet time into your day. It doesn’t have to be much and, for busy parents with young children, it won’t be long. Use your spouse to build a buffer. Have him/her watch the kids for just 15 minutes and have some “me-time” alone in silence with the Lord. Or come to Mass 15-20 minutes early instead of rushing in at the last minute. Yes getting the kids up and ready earlier will be a fight but this is one worth having. It builds in quiet time and gets the children in front the the Eucharistic Lord for a few minutes of silence for them as well.
    • Academic Study – read something about your Catholic faith on a regular basis. Attend a seminar or workshop or program at your parish.
    • Brotherhood of the Battlefield / the Sorority of the Sisterhood.  Isolation is the Devil’s playground. But don’t accept the counterfeit. We don’t need a meeting of Really Nice Guys to Cheery Church Ladies. We need a gathering of Really Dangerous Men and Dedicated Warrior Women.

wound 1

Final warning: You gonna get beat up. Just because this battle is spiritual doesn’t mean it’s not real. It is, and the wounds a man can take are in some ways more ugly than those that come in a firefight.

 

The audio version of the homily is here:

 

 

 

 

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