First Sunday of Lent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: March 6, 2022
Our choices matter, our decisions matter. Jesus had free choice. He could have chosen a different path. The temptation in the desert is about Jesus making key choices in his life, key moment in which he gave direction to the rest of his life. Would it be a self-centred, me focused direction or would it be an other-centred, service focused direction.
The 3 temptations indicate the 3 crucial choices Jesus had to make. They made all the difference.
Each temptation of the devil was focused on Me. What is in it for me? What do I want? What do I deserve? Why should I not get this? The devil, evil, always wants us to focus entirely on myself. To see only me, and not the rest of the world, not my fellow human beings, and certainly not the will of God.
In the first temptation we hear, “If you are the Son of God command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” This was the temptation to use his power for himself, to gain wealth and riches for himself. The choice Jesus had to make was to use his power for others, not for his self serving purposes. To use his power for the benefit of others, not for his own gain.
In the second temptation, the devil shows all the kingdoms of the world and says he will give them all to him if only he will worship the devil. This is that temptation to gain authority and privilege by using evil. How many leaders throughout history have made the choice to use evil, corruption, create division, in order to gain authority and control.
In the third temptation, the devil takes Jesus to the top of the Temple in Jerusalem and says, “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down from here,” This is the use of God and God’s power for yourself, for selfish purposes. Jesus refuses to use God’s power for himself.
In each case the devil quotes the Scriptures to justify the choice. Even religion can be used in the wrong way for the wrong reasons. Our human temptation to desire Power, Wealth, Control. We all have to make the basic choice about the direction and focus of our lives.
Jesus rejects a self centred, a selfish focus. His focus is service, self-giving love, the will of God.
In each choice we make in our life, we should reflect. Will this make the world a better place or worst place? Will it bring more love into the world or less love into the world? Is this choice rooted in the will of God or is it self-serving?
We should reflect on our choices, pray about our choices in life. How we use our money, how we use our time, how we relate to others. Also, major choices in our life. Marriage, Priesthood or any vocation, is this just about me, am I only focused on what is in it for me? Or is it focused on the will of God, on care for others, on service?
Over the years, with many confessions, I have seen people who made decisions and choices 20 or 30 years ago, that continue to affect them. Decisions and choices made as a young person, that still causes regret and that is still affecting their life. Decisions that were self-centred, focused on me not others, that did not consider God’s will. Thankfully that we can trust in the forgiveness and mercy of God who makes our crooked ways straight.
Our choices make a difference in the world. The choices of humanity are crucial today. What will our choices mean for the future of our planet in terms of climate change and harm to our planet? What will our choices mean for large segments of humanity left in poverty or sub-standard lives?
Today we see the reality and impact of our decisions. Once again we see the reality of war. This time in the Ukraine being attacked by Russia. We see the suffering, the refugees, the innocent victims, including children. We see the destruction and the hatred that it creates within hearts.
A few years ago Pope Francis wrote a document called Fratelli Tutti, Brothers and Sisters All. It was a loud cry for us to embrace human fraternity, to live as brothers and sisters in this world. I encourage you to read this document, it is so relevant today. In it he makes this statement about war, “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity, a shameful capitulation, a stinging defeat before the forces of evil.” This war is once again an utter failure of humanity. It is the result of wrong choices by many. Choices focused on me, what is mine, what I deserve, this is mine.
We pray today for the people suffering in the Ukraine, we pray for change of hearts in those who have the power to change this situation, we pray for peace, we pray that each of us will strive to be an instrument of peace in our own lives, our own families, our own community.
The choices and decisions we make matter. Like Jesus we need to prayerfully reflect on our choices to avoid the temptations that lead us in wrong directions. Will this choice lead to greater love and goodness in the world, is this choice just about me or does it consider others? Is this choice just about what I want or does it consider the will of God?