Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Facing Our Demons

Dear Parishioners,

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 4: 1-11) we see Jesus tempted by the devil.  I think the example of this series of temptations is a most valuable instruction for anyone desiring to take Lent seriously.  Obviously the Church does as well, since the first Sunday of each Lent begins by recalling these temptations.
First, we see that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert. Why would the Spirit lead Jesus into the desert?  The desert is an austere place where a person must confront many harsh realities: severe weather, lack of comfortable amenities, silence and danger, as a start.  When we are deprived of creature comforts,  remove noisy distractions, and must face harsh realities, we can and should begin to realize the complete dependence that we have on Almighty God.  We are put in a situation where the desert and its silence can become the place where we hear the voice of God more clearly and powerfully.  And that is where Satan often begins to interfere as well.

Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights.  Not only was he in the desert, but he also took on bodily penance.  He was hungry.  Why deprive ourselves of anything? If we live only for this world, then self-sacrifice, mortification, and penance seem ridiculous.  However, denying oneself (and picking up the cross) was given as a condition for discipleship by Jesus  (See Mt. 16:24).  Discipline and self-sacrifice strengthen a person both physically and spiritually.  A person becomes more prepared to live out the sacrificial love Jesus most perfectly demonstrated by His death on the cross.

Why, then, when we are trying to do something spiritually beneficial, do temptations arise?  Let’s face this harsh reality head on:  Satan and his followers hate anyone trying to serve the Lord and grow closer to Him.  They will put any possible obstacle in our way to prevent this from happening.  We may be tempted to physical, earthly pleasure (food, drink, sex, drugs, and anything that makes us feel good or gives us a temporary “high”) instead of the eternal, spiritual satisfaction that comes from the love of Almighty God.  Basically, it is hedonism to one degree or another.  Command that these stones become loaves of bread.

We can be tempted by our ego.  Whenever we are proud (in the sense of hubris), boastful, unwilling to seek help (when needed), arrogant, or overconfident in our own ability or skills, we can ascend that parapet where we think that we do not need God.  Or worse yet, we think that we are god.  No one can tell me what to do.  I know best.  I will not serve.  This type of thinking (egoism) is represented in Jesus’ second temptation.

Finally, temptation can take the form of wealth or earthly goods.  Material possessions become the reason for my existence.  My home, my car, my vacation(s), my boat, my bank account, my jewelry, etc. become my god.  I think more things will make me happy.  All the kingdoms of the world . . . I shall give you.  At what price?  This was the third temptation in the desert (materialism).

Remember, temptation is not sin.  In his humanity, Jesus resisted these temptations and did not sin.  He faced Satan head on and rejected his false allurements.   Jesus showed us that when we focus and direct our actions completely on the love of God, then we have the ability to do the same.  The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.

Go into the desert this Lent.  Face your demons.  It is there where they can be confronted and conquered.

Fr. Ed Namiotka


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Super Bowl Sunday

Dear Parishioners,
Super Bowl Sunday 
In an ever more secular society, the events of this Sunday seem to surpass in importance other really more important Sundays like Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday.
In much earlier times, in our Christian cultures the cathedrals (and other churches) of the city were typically the largest and most magnificent buildings in tribute to Almighty God.  What are usually the largest buildings in our cities today?  They are our sports stadiums.  Unfortunately, in our day for many people they have become the new cathedrals.  What are they a tribute to other than ourselves?
Sports figures are often held up as people to emulate and honor.  It seems to me that the martyrs and saints (and I don’t mean those guys from New Orleans!) held this position of esteem at one time.
People will pay insane prices for a ticket to view the Super Bowl live.  Thousands of dollars are spent in Super Bowl weekend packages.  Advertisers are willing to pay millions of dollars for 15 seconds of commercial notoriety.  And that poor old George Washington or Abraham Lincoln bill in our collection baskets is perhaps seen as adequate to support the local church and its activities—if the people go to church and give at all.
We gather together with family and friends to share pizza, wings, sandwiches, sodas and different types and strengths of “joy juice.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could see the same enthusiasm and participation when it comes to gathering around the table of the Lord to share the Bread of Life and the Cup of Eternal Salvation?
I would hate to be seen as a kill-joy, party pooper or spoilsport (no pun intended), but does it not seem that our priorities are out of whack?  We live for today, for the moment.  Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.  Did the Epicureans have it right? They propounded an ethic of individual pleasure as the sole or chief good in life.
Whether you rooted for those guys from Kansas City (kudos to Andy Reid!) or the ones from San Francisco (or couldn’t care less since your team was out of it), people throughout the world  are fixated for a few hours on a game
I think that if Christ were to decide to return to earth during this game, some people would ask him to wait at least until the halftime entertainment is over.
What a world we live in!

Fr. Ed Namiotka

(updated for 2020)