February 22, 2015
Catholic Church of the Holy Trinity ECC, Long Beach CA
Rev. Dcn. David Justin Lynch
Genesis 9:8-15 Psalm 25:4-5,6-7,8-9
1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:12-15
+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.
      Earlier this week, the Church observed Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time when we look at who we are and where we are going. The ashes we received on our foreheads remind us that we may not be on this earth forever, that we have to use our lives to make a difference, not only in our own lives, but those of others.
       Lent is a season of preparation for Easter. It requires us to ask ourselves, \”Why are we here?\” The acts of discipline and self-denial associated with Lent, that is, fasting and the things we give up for Lent,  tell us to examine what is really important in our lives, and what is not.  In that category, God should be at the top of the list.
     Lent forces us to ask, who am I, really? Are we alive just to have fun and have a good  time, do we live just to buy stuff at the store to make the big corporations rich, or are we here to do what Jesus wants us to do?
     Jesus wants us to love each other, not get into fights or hold grudges. Jesus wants us to be kind and generous to people who don’t have enough to eat or a place to sleep or who need to see a doctor but don’t have money to pay. That’s how things are in the Kingdom of God, where we and God are altogether on the same page.
     The Forty Days of Lent ask us to look inside of ourselves in a very serious way, to look at whether we’re following God’s commandments.  Why do we do that? So we can repent, that is, turn our lives around, and forgive others who’ve done bad stuff to us, just as God forgives us, because God loves us. That’s why Lent is a good time to make your confession, to confess your sins to a priest, so you can be forgiven and get your life right with God. Just as you want to have a good relationship with God, God wants to have a good relationship with you, too. Making your confession enables you to clear the air, to make God more a part of your life. Making your confession helps you to repent, to turn your life around, to follow what Jesus wants you to do, instead of the bad stuff you may have been doing.
        Today’s Gospel has Jesus going off into the wilderness for forty days. That’s what Lent is all about, a forty day fast, beginning on Ash Wednesday. Remember that you fast only on the weekdays, Monday to Saturday, not on Sunday. That’s because Sundays are not part of Lent.  
         The Forty Days in the Desert story appears in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. Today we hear what Mark had to say, and it doesn’t give much information. It just says that The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days. He was among wild beasts, and when it was over, angels ministered to him. That’s typical of the Gospel of Mark, short and to the point. Next year we will be reading the same story from Luke and the year after that from Matthew, where you will hear the story in more detail.
         The brief version in Mark invites us to use our imaginations about exactly what was going on with Jesus. It says Jesus was “tempted.” What does it mean to be tempted? It’s like going to a store without any money, and seeing something you want, you think, “Can I get with taking it and walk out the door without paying for it?” Or it’s thinking about watching your favorite television program instead of doing your school assignments.  Or if you are a working person, it’s thinking about skipping work and going to a ballgame. What causes all this is Satan, or the devil. Satan is there, tempting you, when you’re thinking about doing something that you shouldn’t be doing, or not doing something you should be doing. What Jesus did was to say NO to Satan, and that’s what you can do, too. 
      God rewarded Jesus for resisting temptations from Satan. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded, just as Jesus was at the end of the forty days – Jesus had angels to come and be with Him, and probably gave Him good things to eat.  You can be sure of that, because God, who lived on earth in the person of Jesus, made a promise to all the people of the world that God has kept to this day.  You probably recall the story of Noah, where God got upset with the way things were going and flooded the earth so God could start the world over again, kind of like rebooting your computer. Today’s lesson from Genesis has God promising that God will never again flood the earth and drown everyone. God has definitely kept that promise, because while we’ve had some severe weather, God has not flooded the entire earth like God did in the days of Noah.
Remember that Jesus was a human person just like you. He had all the same feelings as you did, including feeling tempted, yet He said a loud NO to Satan. As you look deep inside yourself, think about why you’ll have a happier life if you say NO to Satan and think about Jesus instead.  
      Lent is a time for important decisions. The most important decision you’ll make is to repent, to turn your life around and decide to follow Jesus, and not turn back and give in to temptations from Satan. What does Jesus have to offer us? Jesus loves us, and because Jesus loves us, Jesus has a message for us. That message is, we’re supposed love God with everything within us, and to treat other people like you want to be treated yourself. It doesn’t get too much more complicated than that. AMEN.

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