Evil is real. And whether you picture a guy with horns and a tail, or not, evil is real. And as it pitches its options, it will sound something like this: First, look out for no. 1. You're not appreciated around here, go ahead show them who is boss, go ahead live your fantasy. YOLO. Go ahead grab everything that is coming to you. Second, it plants division and doubt. Did God really say not to eat of that tree? God doesn't want you to eat that fruit because he doesn't want you to be his equal. You know the Beatles at the height of their popularity said they were going to make people forget Jesus Christ. God is just a "meanie"; he makes these laws just so you won't have any fun. Besides, everybody is doing it. Are you sure you are God's beloved son? I dare you to prove it one way or the other. Third, it likes to fudge the boundaries: go ahead, just a little bit won't hurt, go ahead nobody will know, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Go ahead take the short cut, fall down in front of me and I'll make you richer than Bill Gates. Fourth, If God really cared about you; you would not be suffering like you are. If God was for real he would be here, he's run out on you, besides the fruit on that tree looks so good. You can reach out and touch it but God is far away. If you were God's beloved Son you would certainly have more power and status than being born in a stable and facing crucifixion. God is not here; he doesn't care.
This past week marked the arrival of Lent with Ash Wednesday, and now we begin our spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting, and abstinence. As Brian told us in last week’s bulletin, these practices help us to strengthen our faith. They also encourage us to make self-sacrifices in our daily lives as we journey through Lent, which leads to Jesus’ self-sacrifice on the Cross – the most generous act of love ever given – and culminates with the Resurrection of our Lord at Easter.
If you have ever been on a pilgrimage or long journey, you must travel lightly. The longer you travel, the more you understand that you must shed that which is unnecessary. That includes not only the outer stuff, but the inner as well. Reputation, status, looking good, can keep our heart tied in knots, anxiety. We are simply pilgrims. On the journey we learn to live with less and be more satisfied. What is in the backpack of your life? Can I trust God enough and lighten the load?
Sisters and Brothers,
We're on the cusp of Lent. Wednesday will mark the season's first steps with the imposition of ashes. During the forty or so days which follow Ash Wednesday we're asked to walk with Jesus through the desert to Calvary and to be with Him Easter morning for His resurrection. Our walk with Christ isn't intended to be a mental journey figuratively undertaken during the Gospel's proclamation each Lenten Sunday. Rather, our walk with Jesus Christ is a pilgrimage through our daily lives, culminating on Easter morning with His resurrection and hopefully, with a realization in each of us, that a deeper conversion has occurred, which causes us to have a greater love for God and neighbor.