One of the classes we take during our time at the Seminary is Homiletics. The goal is help train us to be amazing preachers. As most people have noticed preaching is an important area in need of growth for the Church as many do not have the gift of preaching. I am working hard in the class and hopefully the fruits of my labors will show one day.
Below is my fictional homily for the first Sunday in Lent. (Feel Free to Share your Thoughts)
This weekend marks the first Sunday of Lent. The gospel readings we heard this morning were similar to those we reflected upon last year, when we heard Matthew’s portrayal of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, replete with its rich detail. Mark’s Gospel is simple, straight forward and to the point. What Matthew describes in twelve sentences, Mark does in three.
Billy Miller one of our Altar servers, kindly reminded me after the 8:00 am Mass this morning that he prefer it if I preached more like Mark and less like Matthew.
I kindly reminded him that I wished he would listen a little more like disciples and less like the Pharisees
In this morning’s Gospel we hear how Jesus was in the desert for 40 days, how Satan tempted him and how he was among wild beasts. There is no description, no detail of how this occurred. Mark does not dwell on the temptation, but rather notes that even here God’s angels were with the Son of Man.
I can’t help but to think what an important message this is for us at this time.
One need only turn on the television, open ones bank statement, or talk with family and friends to have the feeling that we are in a desert, that we are among the wild beasts and alone.
Unemployment hovers near 10%, Underemployment near 20%, as our politicians bicker in Washington people continue to suffer, as corporations fight to protect their bottom lines they often forget that they are balancing their profits sheets on the backs of good men and women who have faithfully dedicated their lives to their work, as the pundits pontificate, the people lose hope.
I imagine If I were to poll all of us here this morning, no doubt in one manner or another, everyone of us has been affected by this economic downturn.
Friends, family and members of this congregation have lost their ways of life, their homes, and their hope.
At a time when like this we naturally turn to those solid rocks in our lives. But even there, we struggle. Our nation faces great challenges, our Church even more.
It is not hard to feel overwhelmed, to feel like one is in the desert wandering and amongst the wild beast which wait for our moments of weakness and prey on our fears.
It is here, alone and scared, that many of us stand, and it is here that God speaks. It is here that he speaks through his Son and it is hear this morning that he whispers to your heart.
It is here this morning that we are reminded that God sent his angels to minister to Jesus, and that he never abandoned him in the desert of his life, and that he will not abandon us in the deserts of our lives, no matter what or where they may be.
Jesus entered the desert before he began his public ministry and entered fully into a time of great prayer and fasting, despite “the wild beasts” that surrounded him, despite the hungers of his stomach and the wishes of his body, he endured in faith, offered all in prayer, and God was with him. He still hungered, he was still surrounded by beasts, he still endured, but he was not alone.
Emerging from the desert Jesus spoke words of great hope and words calling for great action when he declared that “this is the time of fulfillment and that his Kingdom is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel”
The words of the Gospel this morning should speak to our hearts as we wander the desert together seeking hope, deliverance and a better day. As the wild beasts of our lives surround us we must be turn to God and to each other, becoming the angels that support one another and the Gospel which preaches hope.
All too often we look at Lent with gloomy eyes. That this time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving is understood apart from the great hope of Christmas and the great joy of the Resurrection which awaits.
As people of faith we offer our hopes and fears to God in prayer. Yet we know that even our prayers do not take away suffering, that pain endures. However, we also know that the God who created us, loves us, walks beside us and strengthens us in our hours of need and that he is a beacon of hope and light amidst great darkness.
We must never forget that we are a people of Hope and that our Hope is in the God who calls us, and in his only begotten Son who said “repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus calls us today, he calls this very moment to enliven the Gospel in our hearts and in our lives.
The question for us remains, are we walking hopelessly past one another in the desert or are we the angels that offer support, are we the instruments of love and mercy God calls us to be. We must ask ourselves how are we more present to one another in this desert? How are we more present to those here this morning, those seated beside us, in front and behind us. How is this Lent and our response to it different from the last? If you are like me those are difficult and uncomfortable questions to ask and to answer honestly. However, God calls us to Repent and Live the Gospel. I invite you to join me in making a plan, to make this Lent not just about giving up sweets, but more about being angels of presence in the lives of those who are alone in the desert, so that in five weeks when we gather to celebrate the Resurrection of Hope, others will have seen his light and felt his love.