Homily: To Whom Shall We Listen? The Threshold of Truth

Our First Reading today is quite a story. It’s a good story for us all, because it is a story of us all. We are Adam and Eve every day as we are so available to our wanting to be like God and even, our being God.

We hear, not the whole story, but selected verses about the disobedience of Adam and Eve. This story is about our tendency to disobedience, or sin, as we call it. It tells us how it began somehow; and the painful consequences pictured in these early chapters are a reminder and warning to us as it was to the Israelites of what will happen if they, too, disobey and refuse to listen and make their own fatal choices. It all began here, at the beginning of their and our religious history; and other stories in Genesis reemphasize the pattern.

The serpent speaks to the “woman” about what God had spoken to them and speaks now to us. There’s the tension, to whom shall we listen for life, its meaning and completion? To whom shall we listen for wisdom, for what is really good for us as humans?

The Gospel is also about the power and necessity of listening. Jesus has just heard of His true identity and relationship with His Father in the narrative of His baptism. “You are My Beloved Son” God said. He has been listening to the implications of this relationship and identity for forty days and nights of fasting and reflecting and is very vulnerable to being tempted. The devil approaches him with the scriptures in hand. He challenges Jesus’ identity and His relationship with His Father.

“If you are the Son of God” is the come-on through which the devil invites Jesus into the world of the ‘what-if”. Jesus replies with His scriptures handy too, and shifts the mood to the factual – to the ‘what is’.

Jesus lived that to which He listened in His desert experience. He took time to listen to the voice of God that spoke within Him and it profoundly changed His outlook. As Adam and Eve didn’t listen and so were disobedient, Jesus remained obedient and lived this reality even to His death.

This First Sunday of Lent we are encouraged to begin listening to what God speaks to us in our very being. We need to take time to find out who we really are, to discover our true identity and our sense of direction in life. We are invited to listen to the many voices telling us who we are, what is our meaning and value. We are urged during these days of Lent to face those things which tempt us to replace our solid relationships with God with illusions and pretenses. The reason for our prayer is to move through “what if” to “who am I”, from “maybe I could” to “thank You for who I am”.

It would be so much easier to be governed by laws and fears. But we as God’s children, must cross the threshold and be governed instead by love and hope.

We need to face our temptations joyfully, because they are a means of affirming how strong our relationship is with God. Our temptations are the very means by which we discover who we truly are, Because we, too, have been baptized into being God’s “Beloved”.

Yes, temptations should not be feared. Because they invite us to look at what is the good in ourselves that is being tempted to devalue, to under-use, or abuse or over-do. Temptations should set off our prayer-alarm, telling us that we should not be praying empty prayers. We don’t have to feel dirty or too human for prayer right now, because we’re being tempted. We need to pray about what is really happening to us right now, every moment of our lives. Temptations tell us about a most human condition.

They help us know our true holiness and help us to accept our true self.

Use this Lent as a time to explore what are the temptations of your own life. Are you tempted to live a life of selfish self-indulgence? Are you tempted to overlook the needs of your loved ones, of those closest to you? Are you tempted to patterns of laziness, underusing the wonderful gifts God has given you to make an impact in your world? Or is your temptation to live a life of empty pleasure and self-gratification. You may be tempted to ignore, even to be blind to the needs of those in the world who are starving, tortured or oppressed.

Find out what your own true temptation really is, and tailor your prayers and your whole prayer life around it. Listen to the voices of God within you, and cross that threshold that will take you to genuine, sincere, authentic truth about yourself. (Larry Gillick, S.J. Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality)


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