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First Sunday in Lent – March 5, 2017

First Sunday of Lent

Let’s struggle with Christ against evil to become sharers in His victory

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This is the First Sunday of Lent, the liturgical Season of 40 days which constitutes a spiritual journey in the Church of preparation for Easter. Essentially it is a matter of following Jesus who is walking with determination towards the Cross, the culmination of his mission of salvation. If we ask ourselves: “Why Lent? Why the Cross?”, the answer in radical terms is this: because evil exists, indeed sin, which according to the Scriptures is the profound cause of all evil. However this affirmation is far from being taken for granted and the very word “sin” is not accepted by many because it implies a religious vision of the world and of the human being.

In fact it is true: if God is eliminated from the world’s horizon, one cannot speak of sin. As when the sun is hidden, shadows disappear. Shadows only appear if the sun is out; hence the eclipse of God necessarily entails the eclipse of sin. Therefore the sense of sin — which is something different from the “sense of guilt” as psychology understands it — is acquired by rediscovering the sense of God. This is expressed by the Miserere Psalm, attributed to King David on the occasion of his double sin of adultery and homicide: “Against you”, David says, addressing God, “against you only have I sinned” .

In the face of moral evil God’s attitude is to oppose sin and to save the sinner. God does not tolerate evil because he is Love, Justice and Fidelity; and for this very reason he does not desire the death of the sinner but wants the sinner to convert and to live. To save humanity God intervenes: we see him throughout the history of the Jewish people, beginning with the liberation from Egypt. God is determined to deliver his children from slavery in order to lead them to freedom. And the most serious and profound slavery is precisely that of sin.

For this reason God sent his Son into the world: to set men and women free from the domination of Satan, “the origin and cause of every sin”. God sent him in our mortal flesh so that he might become a victim of expiation, dying for us on the Cross.

Jesus told Luisa that God possesses the fount of happiness, therefore not one thing or being that was not happy could come out of Him. So, the whole of Creation possesses such fullness of happiness as to be able to give perfect terrestrial happiness to all the earth. Hence, Adam enjoyed the fullness of happiness. All created things poured upon him joys and happinesses; and then, in his interior, by possessing God’s Will, he contained seas of contentments, of beatitudes, and joys without end –everything was happiness for him, inside and out.

As soon as he sinned, by withdrawing from the Divine Will, joy departed from him, and all created things withdrew into their bosom the joys that they possessed, giving to man – not as to the owner, but as to an ungrateful servant – the mere necessary means. See then, unhappiness did not come out of God, nor could He give it since He had none – to give what one does not possess is impossible. So, it was sin that cast into man the seed of unhappiness, of sorrow, and of all the evils that surround him inside and out

When Jesus’ Most Holy Humanity came upon earth, the whole of Creation assumed the attitude of feast. The sun gave the joys of its light; it gladdened God’s sight with the variety of its colors; it gave God the joys of the kisses of love it possessed and, reverent, laid itself under His feet to adore Him. The wind poured upon Him the joys of freshness, and with its blowing drove away from Him the putrid air of so many sins. The birds ran around  Him to give Him the joys of their trills and singing.

The earth bloomed under God’s feet, to give Him the joys of so many bloomings. The air would bring Him the joys of His omnipotent breath when, breathing upon man, He gave him life, filling him with divine joys and happinesses; and as God breathed so He felt, coming to Him, His joys and happinesses that He experienced in the creation of man. So, there was not a created thing that did not want to unleash the joys that they possessed, not only to delight Him, but to give Him the homages and honors as their Creator.

These joys in the created things still exist; the Creation, just as It was made by God, with so much opulence and sumptuousness and with the fullness of happiness, has lost nothing, because He is waiting for His children, the children of His Will who by right will enjoy the joys and terrestrial happiness that all Creation possesses. It is for love of these children that Creation still exists and that the other creatures can use, if not the fullness of happiness, at least the necessary things to be able to live. This actual existence of Creation – after so much human ingratitude and so many horrifying sins – says the certainty of the Kingdom of the Divine Will upon earth.

In fact, by possessing It, the creature will become capable of receiving the joys of Creation, of giving God the glory, the love, the requital of what He has done for her, and of doing all possible and imaginable good that the creature can do. Therefore, everything is in possessing the Divine Will, because this is how the whole Creation had Its origin, man included: everything was God’s Will; all lived enclosed in It, and in It did they find whatever they wanted – joys, peace, perfect order, everything was at their disposal. Once man moved away from his origin, all things changed their appearance: happiness changed into sorrow; strength into weakness; order into disorder; peace into war. Man without God’s Will  is the true blind one, the poor paralyzed one, such that if he manages to do anything good at all, it is all struggles and bitternesses.

The Gospel tells us of the temptations that Jesus underwent by the devil, during the forty days of prayer in the desert. Jesus is an example in the fight against evil. Our life too is full of temptations that try to separate us from God and lead us to take a wrong direction. Temptations express the situation of men: every man experiences  fragility, weakness, temptation; every man must fight against evil; every man with Christ can overcome evil within him and around him. Christ helps us always to take the right direction.

The three temptations are not three ordinary trials, but they represent all the temptations or trials to which Jesus underwent in His life and especially the trials that He suffered on the cross. They are also the type of all the temptations to which the believer is subjected.

The first temptation concerns bread, that is, the problems of daily life: food, affections, work. Jesus is tempted to live His childhood in God in a selfish way, using it as a power that miraculously solves everyday problems. It is the temptation to do without God, as it was for Adam. But Jesus lives a life in which there is no other food that doing  the Father’s Will.

The second temptation is in the Holy City and the Devil makes use of the word of God, and interprets it in its own way. It proposes a spectacular manifestation through which God can surrender Himself to man’s desires rather than to embark on the path of true faith, the path of those who rely on the faithful God, remaining firm in the trial.

The third temptation concerns the thirst for power. The answer of Jesus is in His way of life with which He truly serves God alone. He shall declare he had come not to be served but to serve and to give His life.

The gospel shows the most radical human temptations and especially that of not wanting to be the son of God as Jesus was. It’s the temptation to want to live without God, denying Him or deforming His nature, to break the loving relationship with Him, not to entrust ourselves to His fatherhood, arrogating to ourselves His rights and projects.

Living the liturgical season of Lent means to always side with Christ against sin, facing – both as individuals and as a church family – the spiritual combat against the spirit of evil and follow Christ through  His life and His mission.

don Marco

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