The Gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent challenges us to confront temptation in our life. How often we say that we are not going to cave in but find ourselves falling into the same trap? Each of us is different, but for each of us there is a sad pattern: again and again we stumble at the same spots on the same roads. Two temptations knock insistently at the door of our hearts.
The first is presumption, which tells us to shut our eyes and say, “No problem. I’m just fine.” It’s the old “I’m okay. You’re okay” attitude. The second temptation is just the opposite, despair. It says, “There is no hope for me. I’m beyond saving.” Both of those temptations are lies, but it is very easy for one or the other to take over and begin to feel like the truth. That is why we need to work very hard at telling ourselves the real truth about ourselves, no matter how much it may hurt.
Where does this truth telling begin? It begins with naming the sinful, destructive patterns in our lives, not making them larger or smaller than they are, just seeing those wounded, wounding patterns as God sees them.
And how does God see them? God sees them in their context, and that means with hope. God looks at you or me in our stumbling about and sees a much beloved son or daughter who is having the usual problems and troubles growing up. God gently says to us, “You will grow up if you will let me help you. But you will need to be patient, because growing up can take a lifetime.”
One of the kindest responses Jesus spoke was when he was accused of spending too much time with sinners and eating with them. Jesus said, “People who are healthy do not need a physician, sick people do.” He is saying to us, “If you are wounded, if you are flawed, and weak, I’m the one who can help you, if you will let me.”
Jesus simply asks us to open our heart, our life, to him. He invites us to have the courage to name our wounds, the hard and empty places in our life. He invites us to give them to him and not take them back. In God’s time, the healing and growth you desire will take place.
The Season of Lent is a wonderful time to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation. There is healing power in this sacrament as one experiences the burning up of one’s sins in the merciful love of God. If you’ve been away from the sacrament for a long time, don’t worry. The important thing is that you celebrate it so as to experience more fully God’s love for you, and open yourself up to the opportunity for new growth!
— Fr. Dennis, March 5, 2017