HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
HOMILY THEME: “HE WAS IN THE WILDERNESS FORTY DAYS, TEMPTED BY SATAN; AND HE WAS WITH THE WILD BEASTS; AND THE ANGELS WAITED ON HIM.” (Mark 1:13)
BY: Fr. Robert deLeon, CSC
I had saved the newspaper article that appeared early in 2003 in the Rochester, NY “Democrat and Chronicle,” sure that one day it would serve as an effective illustration for a future homily. Under the bold type heading, “Gift firms up Jell-O Museum,” the story unfolded: “Jell-O hasn’t been the only thing shaking at the Jell-O Museum. But thanks to more than $60,000 in aid, a construction project is under way to make the 1898 museum’s floors and walls much stronger. Jell-O was introduced in Le Roy [a town south of Rochester] in 1897 by Pearle Bixby Wait.”
While I’ve no idea what assortment of items might have been housed in the Jell-O Museum, my wobbly determination to do good and avoid evil might hold a prominent place, so unsteady is my annual resolve to pass a holy Lent. In younger days, Lent used to begin with a firm resolution to give up something I really liked or take on something I really disliked. The black smudge of Ash Wednesday was a public proclamation of my strength of character, a promise to the world to carry through on my resolve. More often than not, though, my will weakened even before the black mark faded from my forehead. I’d then spend the next thirty- nine days of Lent sulking, humbled by my inability to carry through on what seemed such a simple discipline when Lent began.
Nowadays, more accepting of the human condition in general and my own wobbliness of character in particular, Lent’s focus is a bit different. While it’s the season to admit the truth of my weakness, more is it the season to recall that God has saved me, not from my weakness, but through the very experience of weakness.
In the gospel passage we hear today, we are reminded that Jesus, one like us in all things but sin, knew what it was to struggle with temptation, knew what it was to feel one’s resolve about to crumble, knew how difficult it can be to do good and avoid evil. "He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:13) Yet Jesus won out over evil. Though wild beasts, the clawed menace of sin, enticed him, angels, the strength of heaven, waited on him when he cried to his Father for help.
We’ve all had those moments when it seemed our resolve to do the right thing was as unsteady as Jell-O. We’ve all had those moments when it seemed our fortitude ought to have been the prime exhibit in the Jell-O Museum. Because we’re human, our desire to do good and avoid evil will forever be a struggle. Sin will always seem more fun than virtue. Sin will always provide more immediate pleasure than will virtue. But, in truth, sin is just like Jell-O, bright to behold and easy to swallow, but providing no lasting nourishment. Virtue, on the other hand, rock solid as the 1898 walls of the Le Roy museum, endures.