Every parent owes a special debt of gratitude to whomever it was who invented the pacifier. That little round piece of soft plastic has saved the sanity of just about every parent who ever changed a diaper: whenever the baby cries and everything seems to be fine, just place the pacifier in the baby's mouth. Instant contentment!While we outgrow our cribs and playpens, we never seem to outgrow our need for some kind of pacifier. Whenever we start feeling empty inside, whenever we are disappointed or dissatisfied with the way things are turning out, whenever we sense something missing in our lives, we stick our pacifier in our mouths and suck on it for all we’re worth. Our pacifier may be eating, shopping, working, blaming, or taking care of other people – our pacifier somehow gives us at least momentary peace in the absence of love, hope, justice and mercy in our lives. Whatever our pacifier, while it does not nourish us, at least it plugs the hole we are feeling.
To enter the Lenten wilderness to encounter God requires that we leave our pacifiers behind. Nothing is too small to give up – whether a chocolate bar or a few hours of overtime – whatever we use to fill the place in our lives that should be God’s. Christ invites to join him in his desert experience in the depths of our hearts, to that special place within us that belongs to God alone. Nothing on earth can fill that place, despite our best efforts to try. Let this Lent be the time we finally grow up and put aside our pacifiers – whatever little fixations and wants we use to fill the place in our hearts and spirits where God alone dwells.
The first reading from Genesis reminds us that Noah alone was spared during the flood. God made a promise, a covenant that man would not be destroyed by the floodwaters and the sign of his covenant was the rainbow. God is faithful to his promise and each time we see a rainbow, it should remind us of a God who is faithful to His promise. All kinds of situations test us and there are times we may falter and fail, we may be unfaithful to God, but God will not destroy us, He is faithful to his promise, He will save us.
Is Jesus Knocking?
A pediatrician would plug his stethoscope into his little patient’s ears to let them listen to their own heartbeats. Their eyes would always light up in awe. He was taken aback one day when he placed the disk over little Sylvia’s heart. “Listen” said the doctor. “What do you suppose that is?” Sylvia listened carefully to the tap-tap- tapping in her chest and cried, “Is that Jesus knocking?” During Lent Jesus is knocking at my heart so that I might love like him and allow my heart to be pierced like His. True, rendering, repenting and re-turning must come from my heart. Only then will I understand the reassurance of rainbows and the welcoming warmth of spring –in my heart.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’
The Gospel reminded us that the spirit led Jesus to be tempted and he was in the desert amidst wild beasts but at the same time angels were ministering unto him. All through our life we are tempted and that in itself is not a bad thing. It is how we deal with temptations that really matters. We are tempted to compromise on values, to go by the popular majority, to do the easy or more convenient thing rather than what is right and proper. While we may be surrounded by evil forces we are also supported by God’s help. The wild beasts and the angels will always be there in the desert experience. We too have to go through periodic training periods of discipline and testing called Lent. We too have to be ready to do battle with Satan and evil in this world. We consider it criminal if a soldier is sent to war without basic training, or to send a doctor into an operating theatre without adequate schooling and internship. Yet we casually assume that we can fight evil in us and around us without taking Lent seriously.
A young man in his mid-twenties works with the youth of his parish. But that was not always his goal or ambition. He had been frittering away his life, he said, living only for the present. A few years ago he accepted an invitation to join a group of people going to the Virginia Mountains to make a "Vision quest." After a couple days of training in survival tactics and the discipline of spiritual exercise, the participants were sent out individually to spend four days by themselves in the mountainous wilderness. The young man shared some of the events of those days with a group of people gathered to reflect on today's Gospel. First, he said, there was the extraordinary quiet and a lack of the usual distractions; no TV, radio, computers, video games, phones, and the devices that have become part of our daily hectic lives. It was, he said, so quiet. He began to hear sounds he might ordinarily have missed: the breeze, songs of distant birds, his footsteps, insects and his own breathing. He also began to hear his inner voice. Questions were being put to him about his life. He found that being in the wilderness was a chance to do some serious thinking for the first time in his adult years. A couple things he saw in nature got him thinking. One day he came across a dead horse rotting in a field and a few moments later he saw a fragile new-born doe. These contrasting sights stirred questions in him about his basic life assumptions. He realized, when he reflected on the sight of the dead horse, that he had been investing his life in passing realities. The doe reminded him how fragile life is, especially young life. He decided during those four days, to turn his life around and dedicate himself to ministering to youth. He would quit his job; accept a lower paying position to be a youth minister in his parish. We asked if he had found being alone in the wilderness dangerous. "No," he said, "All the while I felt as if the wilderness were sustaining me." Maybe that's what it means when it says today that angels ministered to Jesus in the desert. We may not be able to go off to the mountains, but we could decide to set some extra time aside to pray and listen.
There is a story of a man who had an apple tree in his garden. He loved apples and believed he could not live without them. However, while the tree never failed to supply him with apples, apples which tasted good, there was something definitely lacking in their quality. One thing was missing – there was no nourishment in them. He consulted a friend who was an expert on apple trees. The expert looked at the tree and pointed out some obvious deficiencies in it. It needed to be sprayed for its branches were encrusted with moss, the branches needed pruning. It could do with having the earth around it dug up and fertilized. The man listened and acted on the expert’s advice. Yet the following autumn the apples, though slightly more plentiful were no more nourishing. The quality remained unchanged. The man was disappointed and once more consulted the expert. “What more can I do?” he asked. “You are wasting your time.” The expert answered. “What do you mean?” “Obviously the only thing to do is to cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place.” “But what will I do in the meantime for apples?” “You will have to do without them, won’t you?” came the answer. The question is: was the man ready for a radical decision, in order to have new and wholesome fruit?
An Officer and a Gentleman
In the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, we are taken inside a boot camp where candidates are trained to be flight officers. In the film Richard Gere intent on being a flight officer endures every test and challenge his tough drill sergeant throws at him. In the end Richard emerges from the training grounds a changed man. Upon entering the boot camp he was very selfish, but in camp he learned how to reach out and help his classmates, he felt real pain when his friend committed suicide, and he proved himself to be a true gentleman by marrying his girlfriend. –Today we begin Lent, a spiritual boot camp in a sense. Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’
Reform and Believe
Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called ‘the thin kid.’ So he waited. After he thought ‘the thin kid’ was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: “I told God what was in my heart… I talked to him plain…I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments… I felt like I could even cry….” After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said “Amen.” It was ‘the thin kid. The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. “Good night, Chico,” he said. “I’m thinking that God is always with us –it’s just that we aren’t with him.” –This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!” Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get!
One day Frederick William I, visited a prison at Postdam and listened to a number of pleas for pardon from prisoners who had grievances against the law’s injustice. All said they had suffered imprisonment on account of prejudiced judges, perjured witnesses, and unscrupulous lawyers. From cell to cell the tale of wronged innocence continued, until the King stopped at the door of one cell inhabited by a surly inmate who said nothing. Surprised at his silence Frederick said jocularly, “Well I suppose you are innocent too.” “No, your Majesty”, was the startling response; “I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get.” On hearing this, the King shouted at the jail authorities and asked them to set the prisoner free. The prisoner who admitted his guilt showed certain potential for improvement. The others were not likely to change. Francis Xavier in ‘Inspiring Stories for Successful Living’
A husband was struggling to make ends meet at home on one salary. Then one day he had to confront his wife with a receipt for a $ 250.00 dress she had bought. “How could you do this?” I was outside the store looking at the dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on, “she explained. “It was like Satan whispering in my ear, “You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!” “Well,” the husband replied, “You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, “Get behind me Satan!” His wife replied, “I did that, but then he said, “It look fabulous from the back too!”
J. Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’
1: Danger of raising a tiger and an alligator as pets: Antoine Yates lived in New York City in a multi-storied apartment building. For some inexplicable reason he brought home a two-month-old tiger cub and later a young alligator. It’s not clear where he found them and how he reared them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What was a little tiger cub grew to a 500 pound Bengal tiger, and the little alligator to a frightening monster. The police got a distress call from Yates about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted the police to the possibility of a “wild animal” in his apartment. A fourth-floor resident informed them that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. The police officer peered through a hole drilled into the wall of Yates’ apartment and saw the huge cat prowling around in the room. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and the use of a dart gun by a veterinary doctor to bring the tiger under control. When finally, they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying unconscious atop some newspapers. A big alligator was nearby guarding his unconscious friend. Both animals were trapped and relocated to shelters. His own wild pets tried to kill Yates. That is what happens to those who habitually entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires. That is why we are asked to practice prayer, fasting and sharing during the Lenten season to resist and conquer our temptations. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2: “Run, D.J., run!” William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas, there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks, some of which have been gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy’s face as he said, “Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me.” “Oh, really,” asked the reporter, “And what did God say?” “He said, ‘Run, D.J., run!'” the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).] There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, “Run, Jim, run!” Or “Run, Sally, Run!” Particularly is this a valuable message when we are tempted by the devil. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3: “I only want to get my nose in:” An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will makeshift to shove in his whole body.” Today’s Gospel warns us against compromising with the devil by allowing him to tempt us. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4: “Jerome, you have not yet given me your sins!” Saint Jerome, the brilliant doctor of the Church, lived for twenty-five years in the cave where the Child Jesus was born. One time he prayed to Jesus thus: “Dear Child, you have suffered much to save me; how can I make amends?” “What can you give me, Jerome?” a Voice was heard. “I will spend my entire life in prayer, and I will offer all my talents into Your hands,” Jerome replied. “You do that to glorify Me, but what more can you give to Me?” the Voice asked again. “I will give all my money to the poor,” Jerome exclaimed. The Voice said: “Give your money to the poor; it would be just as if you were giving it to Me. But what else can you give to Me?” Saint Jerome became distraught and said: “Lord, I have given You everything! What is there left to give?” “Jerome, you have not yet given Me your sins,” the Lord replied. “Give them to Me so I can erase them.” With these words Jerome burst into tears and spoke, “Dear Jesus, take all that is mine and give me all that is Yours.” Lent is the time to give our sins to God with repentant hearts.(Fr. Benitz) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5: Devil is your dad: Two boys were walking home from church and sharing their reflection on the lesson. They had been studying the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Little Peter said to his friend John, “Do you believe that stuff about the devil? Do you think there really is a devil?” John looked at him and said, “Naah, it’s just like Santa Claus — it’s your dad.”
6. Temptations: real or imaginary? The drunk was floundering down the alley carrying a box with holes on the side. He bumped into a friend who asked, “What do you have in there, pal?” “A mongoose.” “What for?” “Well, you know how drunk I can get. When I get drunk I see snakes, and I’m scared to death of snakes. That’s why I got this mongoose, for protection.” “But,” the friend said, “you idiot! Those are imaginary snakes.” “That’s okay,” said the drunk, showing his friend the interior of the box, “So is the mongoose.”
7: Temptation to dominate: A long line of men stood at one of Heaven’s gates, waiting to be admitted. There was a sign over the gate which read, “For men who were dominated by their wives while on earth.” The line extended as far as the eye could see. At another of Heaven’s gates, only one man was standing. Over this gate there was a sign that read, “For men who were not dominated by their wives.” St. Peter approached the lone man standing there and asked, “What are you doing here?” The man replied, “I don’t really know. My wife told me to stand here.”
25 Additional anecdotes
1) “Baptize the entire Ford Motor Plant,” Henry Ford: You might have heard the story of the machinist who worked years ago at the original Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit, Michigan. Over a period of years, he had “borrowed” from the factory various car parts and tools which he hadn’t bothered to return. While the management never condoned this practice, nothing was ever done about it. In time, however the “forgetful” machinist experienced a Christian conversion and was baptized. More importantly, the man took his Baptism seriously and became a devout believer. The very morning after his Baptism, the machinist arrived at work with his pickup truck loaded with all the parts and tools he had taken from the Ford Company over the years. He went to his foreman and explained that he never really meant to steal them and asked to be forgiven. The foreman was so astonished and impressed by this act that he cabled Henry Ford himself, contacting the auto magnate while he was away visiting a European Ford plant. In his telegram the foreman described the entire event in great detail. Ford immediately cabled back this striking two-line response: “Dam up the Detroit River. Baptize the entire Plant!” — Our Scripture for this First Sunday in Lent focuses on the effect our Baptism should have on our lives especially during the Lenten season. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “What did you miss the most?” After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, “What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn’t mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six-months-long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O’Brien. Byrd asked, “Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?” Jack answered without any hesitation, “Temptation.” — Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “Get behind me Satan.” Experiencing martial problems, a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work. Within a week, things were getting back to normal in their household. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store and his wife, who was chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions, ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, “Get behind me Satan” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did I heard a response” “Yah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well I heard him say, “It looks better from the back than it does from the front!” (Sent by Deacon Gary) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Conversion of Piri Thomas: Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, and an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One-night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called ‘the thin kid.’ So he waited. After he thought ‘the thin kid’ was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: “I told God what was in my heart… I talked to him plain…I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments… I felt like I could even cry….” After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said “Amen.” It was ‘the thin kid.’ The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. “Good night, Chico,” he said. “I’m thinking that God is always with us -it’s just that we aren’t with Him.” — This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) A box of enchanted Turkish Delight. In C. S. Lewis’ book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the wicked queen entices the boy, Edmund, with a box of enchanted Turkish Delight. Each piece is sweet and delicious, and Edmund has never tasted anything better. There is only one problem. The more he eats of this enchanted Turkish Delight, the more he wants. He doesn’t know that this is the wicked queen’s plan. The more he eats, the more he will want, and thus he will eat and eat until it kills him. It would never satisfy his hunger; it would never fill him up…it would simply kill him. (Rev. John Lestock) — Lewis is giving us a metaphor for temptations to sin. Sin never satisfies, it only enslaves. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “You knew what I was when you picked me up:” An old Indian legend sums up our situation: Many years ago, Indian braves would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. “I will test myself against that mountain,” he thought. He put on his buffalo hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the pinnacle. When he reached the top, he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke. ”I am about to die,” said the snake. “It is too cold for me up here, and there is no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley” “No,” said the youth. “I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me.” “Not so,” said the snake. “I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you.” The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down gently. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leaped, biting him on the leg. “But you promised,” cried the youth.” “You knew what I was when you picked me up,” said the snake as it slithered away. [Guideposts (July, 1988).] — That is a powerful little parable. The snake could be drugs or alcohol or extramarital sex or greed or a host of other attractions forbidden by God and our good sense. The best protection we have is in avoidance. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) “Then I can go live with my sister.” A married couple had lived together for twenty-five years in what outwardly seemed like a reasonably good union. The husband was a good provider. The wife was a good housekeeper. They went to Church together every Sunday and prayed together every night before they retired. But they did have one problem that seemed insurmountable. They could not have a conversation that didn’t end up in an argument. Finally, the wife decided she’d had enough, but because of her religious scruples, divorce was out of the question. She had a better idea, however. One night as the couple settled down for their nightly prayers, she said to her husband, “We must put an end to this terrible situation we’re in. We can’t go on like this anymore. Since today is the first day of Lent, why don’t we pray that things will change. Let’s pray that the Lord will call one of us home to Him. Then I can go live with my sister.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) Satan is Making a Comeback! Within recent years, Satan has been featured in several best-selling novels and block-buster movies. He fathered Rosemary’s Baby. He turned on movie audiences as he did battle with The Exorcist (twice)-and many people declared him the winner. In the film called The Exorcist and Its Sequel, he successfully resisted all human efforts to destroy him. He now has his own section in most of the big bookstores under the heading, Occult. A few years ago, Satan’s comeback was the subject of a book by Arthur Lyons, called The Second Coming: Satanism in America. The author’s research revealed that the number of satanic cults in America had been rapidly rising. In his words, “…the United States probably harbors the fastest growing and most highly organized body of Satanists in the world.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Carnivorous plant – Sundew: In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the “sundew.” It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. — Temptations do the same. [Our Daily Bread, (December 11, 1992).] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) “So no one will know.” In China’s later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, “There’s no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know.” “You say that no one will know,” Yang Zhen replied, “but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know, too.” Wang Mi was ashamed and backed down. Subsequently, Yang Zhen’s integrity won increasing recognition, and he rose to a high post in the central government. — Human nature is weak, and we tend to yield to temptation when we think nobody can see us. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “Are you trying to break this bridge?” As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?” “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” — In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He wouldn’t. [Today in the Word (March 14, 1991).] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) Trapping ring-tailed monkeys: Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it’s simple. They’ve been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. — The devil uses the same trick on human beings by exploiting our weaknesses. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “Don’t swim in that canal.” Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. “Son,” ordered a father, “Don’t swim in that canal.” “OK, Dad,” he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening. “Where have you been?” demanded the father. “Swimming in the canal,” answered the boy. “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” asked the father. “Yes, Sir,” answered the boy. “Why did you?” he asked. “Well, Dad,” he explained, “I had my bathing suit with me and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” “Why did you take your bathing suit with you?” he questioned. “So I’d be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted,” he replied. — Too many of us expect to sin and do sin. The remedy for such dangerous action is found in Romans 13:14, “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.” Whenever we play with temptation, it is easy to drift into great danger. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Open for a Left Hook: On May 21, 2005, Andrew Golota fought Lamon Brewster for the WBO heavyweight boxing title. Golota, a strong fighter with a powerful punch, had 38 wins, 5 loses, and 31 knockouts. In preparation for the fight, Brewster studied tape of Golota’s boxing, looking for an opening. He noticed that the way Golota held his hands left him open for a left hook. Within seconds after the first round began, Brewster found the opening and threw a left hook. Golota went down to the mat and got up. Brewster threw another left hook and Golota went down again. He stood up and the fight resumed. Brewster threw another left hook to the same opening, and Golota went down for the 3rd time, which counted as a knockout. Lamon Brewster won the fight in the first round because he was the smarter fighter. All he had to do pound on his opponent’s weakness. — In a similar way, Satan is looking to pound on our weakest areas. When we leave an opening by yielding to temptation, he’ll take advantage and throw a left hook. But if we’ll not yield to temptation, we’ll close off the area and cut off his opportunity. www.kentcrockett.com Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) The real temptation: The popular picture we have of Mother Teresa is either carrying a tiny, undernourished child or applying medicines on the wounds of a leper. We have identified her with social works. One day, when Mother Teresa was talking to Father Le Joly, a Jesuit priest, who had written few books on Mother and her congregation, she said to him, “Father, when you write a book about me, tell everybody we are not here for work, we are here for Jesus. We are religious, not social workers, or nurses, or teachers; we are religious Sisters. All we do, our prayer, our work, our suffering, is for Jesus. Without Jesus our life would be meaningless…. Incomprehensible….”
(John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) Spiritual Boot camp: In the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, we are taken inside a boot camp, where candidates are trained to be naval flight officers. Actor Richard Gere plays the lead role of a candidate, who is so intent on being a flight officer that he endures, every test and challenge his tough drill sergeant, played by Lou Gossett, can throw at him. In the end Richard Gere emerges from the training grounds a changed man. Upon entering boot camp he was selfish; he cared only about his own success and comforts. Before he left he learned how to reach out and help his batch mates, he felt real pain when his close friend committed suicide, and he proved a true gentleman by marrying his girlfriend, played by Debra Winger. — Lent is like a spiritual boot camp in a sense. Its theme of spiritual training is set forth in the Gospel. [Internet Notes; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Selling our soul: It was 11.00 P.M. and when the clock struck. Terror engulfed Dr. Faustus. He had one more hour to live, and then he had to surrender his soul to Satan. He helplessly cried out in terror: “Stand still, you ever moving spheres of heaven,/ That time may cease, and midnight never come;/ Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make /Perpetual day; or let this hour be but/ A year, a month, a week, a natural day,/That Faustus may repent and save his soul.” [Christopher Marlowe. The Tragedy of Dr. Faustus, Scene xiv, ll. 74-79 (NY: Folger Library, 1975) p. 76]. But the clock struck 12:00 at midnight; the devil came and took his soul. This is the tragic story of Dr. Faustus. He got into an agreement with Lucifer, the chief lord of perpetual darkness. In return for bequeathing his soul to Lucifer, he demanded a life of voluptuousness for 24 years, and then attendance of Mephistopheles to grant whatever he demanded either to aid his friends or slay his enemies. He cut his arm, and with the blood when he wrote the deed of agreement, the blood congealed. Later, Faustus finished the deed and sold his soul. — In life, we always confront situations wherein we sell out. We sell out for good or for bad causes. We sell out to the Devil or to God. Jesus, too, confronted such a situation. Today we heard in the Gospel about Jesus’ temptation. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “What more can I do?” – Radical Solution: There is a story of a man who had an apple tree in his garden. He loved apples and believed he could not live without them. However, while the tree never failed to supply him with apples, apples which tasted good, there was something definitely lacking in their quality. One thing was missing – there was no nourishment in them. He consulted a friend who was an expert on apple trees. The expert looked at the tree and pointed out some obvious deficiencies in it. It needed to be sprayed for its branches were encrusted with moss, the branches needed pruning. It could do with having the earth around it dug up and fertilized. The man listened and acted on the expert’s advice. Yet the following autumn the apples, though slightly more plentiful were no more nourishing. The quality remained unchanged. The man was disappointed and once more consulted the expert. “What more can I do?” he asked. “You are wasting your time.” The expert answered. “What do you mean?” “Obviously the only thing to do is to cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place.” “But what will I do in the meantime for apples?” “You will have to do without them, won’t you?” came the answer. — The question is: was the man ready for a radical decision, in order to have new and wholesome fruit? Are we ready for a radical change of heart? (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) Crumpled $50 bill: A well-known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $50 bill. he asked the 200 participants in the seminar, “Who would like this $50 bill?” Hands started going up. He proceeded to crumple up the fifty-dollar bill. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” The hands went up again. Then he dropped it on the ground and ground it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, crumpled and dirty, and said. “Now who still wants it?” The hands went up. He said, “You have all learned a valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it didn’t decrease in value. It was still worth $50.” — Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by our own decisions or those of other people. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, we will never lose our value: dirty, clean, crumpled or finely creased, we are still priceless to the One Who knows us through and through, and values us so much that He wants to live in friendship with us forever. If you still find it hard to believe, look closely at the crucifix. That is the real message of Lent. Christ wants us with him forever in Heaven, so much so that he was willing to be torn and crumpled and stomped on and humiliated just as much as we have been, to show each of us how much he loves us. (E- Priest). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) “I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get!” One day, Frederick William I visited a prison at Potsdam and listened to a number of pleas for pardon from prisoners who had grievances against the law’s injustice. All said they had suffered imprisonment on account of prejudiced judges, perjured witnesses, and unscrupulous lawyers. From cell to cell the tale of wronged innocence continued, until the King stopped at the door of one cell inhabited by a surly inmate who said nothing. Surprised at his silence Frederick said jocularly, “Well I suppose you are innocent too.” “No, your Majesty”, was the startling response; “I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get.” On hearing this, the King shouted at the jail authorities and asked them to set the prisoner free. — The prisoner who admitted his guilt showed certain potential for improvement. The others were not likely to change. (Francis Xavier in Inspiring Stories for Successful Living; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) Temptations: A husband was struggling to make ends meet at home on one salary. Then one day he had to confront his wife with a receipt for a $ 250.00 dress she had bought. “How could you do this?” “I was outside the store looking at the dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on,“ she explained. “It was like Satan whispering in my ear, “You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!” “Well,” the husband replied, “You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ His wife replied, “I did that, but then he said, ‘It look fabulous from the back too!’” (J. Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) Christ’s head – a composite of scores of smaller faces. At a point in his life when the painter William Zdinak had become frustrated with the seeming emptiness of his success as an artist, he was commissioned to produce a picture for a religious art show. For weeks he stared at the empty canvas, unable to formulate an idea and unwilling to resort to the sentimentality that too often characterizes religious art. He was haunted by the words of Thomas Merton who said, “If there were no other proof of the infinite patience of God with men, a very good one could be found in God’s toleration of the pictures that are painted. . . under the pretext of being in God’s honor.” With a prayer to the God of patience, Zdinak turned his attention away from himself toward God and began to paint. When he finished, he had created a likeness of Christ in ruddy skin tones, with kind eyes and handsome Mediterranean features. While his work was well done, it was not unlike so many others which were hung on display for the art show. However, when viewers drew nearer to the painting, they were surprised to find that Christ’s head was actually a composite of scores of smaller faces. Represented were men, women and children of every ethnic background, of all races and walks of life. Included among the myriad faces were notables like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, and John F. Kennedy. When viewers drew back from the painting, the mosaic of human faces blended once again to reflect the image of Christ. — At the beginning of a yet another Lenten season, William Zdinak’s painting reminds me that this is a time for directing my eyes and my energies away from myself toward the person and mission of Jesus Christ and to find therein, the faces of all my sisters and brothers, whose needs I am called to recognize and serve. (Patricia Sanchez) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) “Is that Jesus knocking?” A paediatrician would plug his stethoscope into his little patients’ ears to let them listen to their own heartbeats. Their eyes would always light up in awe. He was taken aback one day when he placed the disk over little Sylvia’s heart. “Listen” said the doctor. “What do you suppose that is?” Sylvia listened carefully to the tap-tap-tapping in her chest and cried, “Is that Jesus knocking?” — During Lent Jesus is knocking at my heart so that I might love like him and allow my heart to be opened to His. True, rendering, repenting, and re-turning must come from my heart. Only then will I understand the reassurance of rainbows and the welcoming warmth of spring –in my heart. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24 What profound Humility! I read recently that Copernicus, the great astronomer, wrote a masterpiece entitled The Revolution of the Heavenly Bodies. When he was dying, we are told that a copy of that scholarly masterpiece was placed in his hands, so that he could treasure his finest achievement in his last moments and enjoy both solace and pride. Much as he valued that outstanding work, Copernicus had other things on his mind. Calling a friend, he requested that the following epitaph be placed on his grave at Frauenberg: “O Lord, the Faith thou didst give to St. Paul, I cannot ask; the mercy thou didst show to St. Peter, I dare not ask; but, Lord, the grace thou didst show unto the repentant thief, that Lord, show to me!” — What profound humility! What amazing faith! What sense of repentance! These are the virtues we need to practice, especially during Lenten season. (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
25) “I’m already working on a murder case!” The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants – who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. “Okay,” began the sheriff, “What is 1 and 1?” “Eleven,” came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.” Then the sheriff asked, “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?” “Today & tomorrow,” replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. “Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?” asked the sheriff. The jobseeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.” The sheriff replied, “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?” The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, “The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!” — In our Gospel reading this morning, in Mark 1, it is Jesus’ first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross? (Sermons.com) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Fr. Tommy Lane
Once when I was on retreat in a monastery in Ireland I greeted one of the monks, “How are you, Father?” He replied, “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” It sounds funny but it expresses a truth about all of us, “there is still a bit of the devil in us” because we have not yet fully overcome sin. Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the devil, and Lent is a time for us to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us by overcoming sin in our lives.
Whenever we sin we have forgotten who we are and what God has done for us. Remembering who we are and what God has done for us helps us to keep away from sin. The first reading today contains a creed in which the Old Testament Jews remembered who they were and what God had done for them by bringing them out of Egypt to Canaan:
My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt…there he became a nation great, strong and numerous…When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, we cried to the Lord…He brought us out of Egypt…bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26:5-9)
The Israelites sinned when they forgot what God had done for them. In fact, we could say that the great sin of the Old Testament was forgetting the greatest miracle of the Old Testament - the Exodus - and as a result falling into sin. Whenever we sin we forget the central belief of our creed, that Jesus died and rose for us. Lent is a time when we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus so that by remembering we may overcome sin, and when we celebrate the central belief of our creed – the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night- we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Just as Jesus overcame Satan during the forty days in the desert we want to overcome Satan in our lives.
We overcome Satan by putting God first in our lives in every way. The three quotations from Deuteronomy cited by Jesus when talking with Satan in the Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) remind us of putting God first in everything.
“One does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”)
“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
Sermons.com: MK 1:9-15
The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants - who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. "Okay," began the sheriff, "What is 1 and 1?" "Eleven," came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's right."
Then the sheriff asked, "What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?" "Today & tomorrow." Replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself.
"Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?", asked the sheriff. The job seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?" The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, "The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I'm already working on a murder case!"
In our Gospel reading this morning in Mark 1 it is Jesus' first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross?
These are basic temptations in life. These three temptations form the foundation for all other temptations. And I would propose that when temptations come our way; if we will pause and classify the temptations, identify them with one of the three temptations Jesus faced; we will be equipped to answer Satan with the words and obedience of Christ.
Let's look at the three temptations:
1. Stone into Bread: The temptation to use power for the wrong purposes.
2. Jump on the Rocks: The Temptation to gain popularity by performance.
3. Serve The Wrong Master: The temptation to idolatry.
At your baptism, you are given an identity as a follower of Jesus. For the past thirty years or more, the church has tried to find its identity, not in baptism, but in leadership. Leadership is a function. Being a disciple is an identity. Let's explore this morning why this confusion of categories is so important, and so debilitating to the body of Christ.
"What's in your wallet"?
That is the take-away line for a credit card company that wants their card to be front and center in your wallet. Forget the advertising pitch. It's a good philosophical question. "What IS in your wallet" is a reflection of who you are, where you are, and where you are headed in your journey of life.
Remember getting your first nice leather wallet as a kid? I know my first wallet made me feel more "grown up." But what could you actually put in it? Your student ID. A few bucks. Your driver's permit and then later, hopefully, thankfully, your driver's license. Maybe a few of those "wallet sized" school photos of your best friends. But it still all made for a pretty flat fold.
Now look at your "grown up" wallet. That's right. Take out your wallet. Take a good look at it, because your kids won't know what a "wallet" is, at least a leather wallet. They'll know a digital wallet.
Do you have out your wallets? Women, you have wallets too. Come on. Dig in that purse and you'll find your leather wallet. Look at it. Now look around you at each other's wallets...
The Road to Holiness
Recently I was looking at some of my many files under the "quotes" folder. One such quote is called, "The Road to Holiness."
A seeker after truth came to a saint for guidance.
"Tell me, wise one, how did you become holy?"
"And what are they, please?"
The seeker was fascinated. "How does one learn to choose rightly?"
"One word! May I have it, please?" the seeker asked.
The seeker was thrilled. "How does one grow?"
"What are they, pray tell?"
I believe that this is God's purpose in times of testing, to help us grow and to show us that we have the faith and ability to stand up to the testing so that we will trust God in difficult times -- to strengthen our faith and Christian character. At the same time, Satan has his own purpose -- to turn those being tested away from God -- to "tempt" them to sin.
Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
It Might Have Been
In the 1800s, poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote one of his most quoted poems in the English language. The poem was titled, "Maud Muller." You've never heard of it? Actually, not many people remember this sorrowful poem, but generations of people have quoted two famous lines from its final stanza.
"Maud Muller" is about a young maiden who, while working the fields one day, sees a handsome young Judge riding by on horseback. She offers him a drink of cool water. Their encounter lasts only a few moments, but it makes a deep impression on both of them. Maud is greatly attracted to the Judge, and she dreams of marrying someone of his gentleness and integrity. She could leave the fields behind and live as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man.
At the same time, the Judge is attracted to Maud. He is tired of his career, and he dreams of marrying a warm, compassionate woman like Maud and settling into a simpler life in the country. But neither Maud nor the Judge acknowledges their attraction to one another. They are from different social classes -- they cannot risk breaking the bonds of social conformity.
Maud later marries a man who brings her much pain and hardship. The Judge also enters into a loveless marriage. In the final stanza of the poem, Whittier offers us this warning: "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
Jesus' time in the wilderness for forty days is, in fact, our model for Lent. Like Jesus, we seek to spend a special time - a span of forty days - preparing, reflecting, praying, readying ourselves, knowing the hard path that comes and anticipating the joyous Easter celebration that follows. In our hurried world, I don't want us to rush through these forty days. We are always rushing through things as it is - we're already always counting down to something else, counting the days until birthdays (mine is 8 weeks from today, for example), or until Christmas, or until payday or until school is out, or until vacation - we're always biding our time until something else happens. I hate to do that with Lent too - just count down until Easter, and waste the time we have, miss the opportunity for digging deeper spiritually, skipping over the process of looking inside of ourselves, trying to remake ourselves, letting ourselves be remade by God. I don't want our Lent experience to be worth only two sentences - I don't want everything we experience in the next several weeks to impact us only enough to be worth a passing comment. I want more from Lent, for all of us, and I want more from Mark on this time in Jesus' life, this time where we can see the human Jesus, struggling to make right choices, just like we do.
Beth Quick, Getting on with It
Lent: A Time to Re-think
This is Lent 2015, and if ever there was a year in which to re-think, re-imagine and re-do our Lenten disciplines, this surely is it. Our beloved Lenten disciplines work for us privately, personally, individually. But they tempt us, even as so many of our favorite Lenten hymns and gospel songs tempt us, to remain captured and captivated by the personal and individual dimensions of our faith in Christ. Mark's is a Gospel of few words. He tells us very little of his vision of God's new Kingdom and new Covenant that has come to be in Christ. But all through his Gospel, Mark shows Jesus resisting the political and religious authorities of the day, just as he resists Satan here in today's reading. And by the same token, Mark's Gospel shows Jesus standing in solidarity with those who are outside and beyond the normative social structures: the poor, women, the sick and the possessed -- just as he stood in Jordan's waters with the repentant sinners of the Baptist's movement.
Angela V. Askew
Lent: Giving Up
Self Denial is about making a sacrifice that makes a difference, focusing on the Cross and reminding ourselves what Christ gave up for us. Rev. Craig Gates of Jackson Mississippi has a great list of suggestions. He says we should:
GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines.
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion. A few minutes in prayer WILL keep you focused.
GIVE UP looking at other people's worst attributes. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting or to offer a smile. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! They're too heavy for you to carry anyway. Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit someone who's lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We're called to be stewards of God's riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging others by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ.
Billy D. Strayhorn, Cross Eyed: Focus
We Haven't Been Up To Bat Yet
Temptation tries to blind us to other possibilities. A business man driving home from work one day, saw a little league baseball game in progress. He decided to stop and watch. He sat down in the bleachers and asked a kid what the score was. "We're behind 14 to nothing," he answered with a smile.
"Really," he responded. "I have to say you don't look very discouraged."
"Discouraged?" the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. "Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet."
Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
Lent: Spring Training For Christians
When I was a boy, I was told, "Baptists don't do Lent." No one knew why. I suspect that it was an anti-Catholic thing which I pray we are over. It was the old argument, "whatever they do, we don't!" - a curiously convoluted, twisted and unhealthy way to decide on religious practices.
Whatever the reason for "not doing Lent," I think it is a great loss for any Christian not to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Every spring the baseball players prepare for the season with spring training; every spring ordinary people prepare for summer by doing "spring cleaning." So why shouldn't Christians prepare for the most important events in Jesus' ministry - what he did for us on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what he did for us on Golgotha's cross and at the empty tomb?
If it helps you, think of Lent as a kind of Christian spring training and spring cleaning.
John Ewing Roberts, Remembering and Forgetting
How Can a Christian Become a Christian?
Soren Kierkegaard once asked how a person who is already a Christian can become a Christian. Think about that for a moment. How can a person who already is a Christian become a Christian? Kierkegaard was directing his thoughts toward those of us who have grown up in the church. He was saying that second-hand faith is not enough. It is easy to take the faith we have grown up in for granted, isn't it? After all, it is like the air we breathe. It's always been there. We need something more than that. Baptism reminds us that a fresh experience of God's grace and God's love is always available to us if we seek it.
King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
The Clock Is Turned Back
My dog, Copper - an Irish Setter - will probably be dead by the time this is published; he is over fourteen years old, nearly blind, partially deaf, has arthritis, and a chronic infection that flares up every now and then. Only his nose seems to work well; it still takes over when I turn him loose in our backyard. But frequently I remember the first time I turned him out into the backyard of another home; he had never been off a leash during the first six months of his life. He gingerly stepped off our back step into the first snow of a Minnesota winter. He took a few tentative steps in the snow and then, suddenly, he discovered that he was not on a leash this time. He began to run wildly, in circles, and he dashed around the large, fenced-in backyard, leaping into the air, twisting and turning in a glorious dance of freedom and joy. He was meant to have this kind of life - free from ropes and leashes, free from people who would not let him run as he was meant to. (He wasn't even bothered by the four-foot-high fence that he would later attempt to leap over.) The next morning, when I put him out again, I discovered that his paw prints, and body prints where he had rolled over in the snow, seemed to be everywhere. Hardly a spot in the backyard failed to show the marks of his previous night's jubilant romp in the snow. How I would love to see him do that again. But I know it is not to be, he can't turn his physical time-clock back fourteen years.
You and I are different, because Christ turned the clock back to the very beginning, to the Garden that God created, and has renewed our broken relationship with his Father and ours so that we really have new life in and through him, our Lord.
George M. Bass, The Tree, The Tomb, And The Trumpet, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.
Life Is a Test
One of my favorite posters says, "Life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been a real life you would have been instructed where to go and what to do." Whenever I think of this humorous bit of wisdom, it reminds me to not take my life so seriously.
As an experiment, see if you can apply this idea to something you are forced to deal with. Perhaps you have a difficult teenager or a demanding boss. See if you can redefine the issue you face from being a "problem" to being a test. Rather than struggling with your issue, see if there is something you can learn from it. Ask yourself, "Why is this issue in my life? What would it mean and what would be involved to rise above it? Could I possibly look at this issue any differently? Can I see it as a test of some kind?"
If you give this strategy a try you may be surprised at your changed responses. For example, I used to struggle a great deal over the issue of my perception of not having enough time. I would rush around trying to get everything done. I blamed my schedule, my family, my circumstances, and anything else I could think of for my plight. Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to be happy, my goal didn't necessarily have to be to organize my life perfectly so that I had more time, but rather to see whether I could get to the point where I felt it was okay that I couldn't get everything done that I felt I must. In other words, my real challenge was to see my struggle as a test.
Seeing this issue as a test ultimately helped me to cope with one of my biggest personal frustrations. I still struggle now and then about my perceived lack of time, but less than I used to. It has become far more acceptable to me to accept things as they are.
Richard Carlson, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff, New York, 1997
Sermon Closer: God Has Called Your Name
Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the greatest American preachers of this century. He described his preaching as counseling on a large scale. Few people knew that as a young seminary student he reached the breaking point after working one summer in a New York Bowery mission. He went home and was overcome by deep depression. One day he stood in the bathroom with a straight razor to his throat. He thought about taking his own life. And then -- and then he heard his father in the other room calling his name, "Harry! Harry!" It called him back. He never forgot it. It was like the voice of God calling him.
So I want to remind you today that in those times when you are in the wilderness, trying to find your way through, and when temptation comes and offers you the wrong answer, the wrong choice -- the wrong use of power, the way to popularity, the wrong kind of partnership -- then you remember that God has called your name: "This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." And, you remember that because God has called your name He will see you through.