Let's ask ourselves a tough question today: am I a better Christian now than I was a year ago? Am I holier? Am I more like Christ? Am I really becoming the saint that God created me to be?
It's uncomfortable to ask questions like that. That's good.
- Lent is a time for us to feel uncomfortable.
- Jesus loves us too much to let us be lazy.
- He is like a good coach, always encouraging us to grow, to improve.
Unfortunately, many of us aren't growing as quickly or as constantly as we should.
- Professionally we are moving up, maybe.
- Academically, athletically we are making progress, but as Christians?
- Not really. We're still stuck where we have always been. On a plateau.
- The same temptations, the same falls, the same sins. We're still mediocre Christians.
One of the reasons for this is that we don't go to the real roots of our selfishness.
We try to follow Christ more faithfully, but we don't do so intelligently.
We keep trying to cut off the branches of impatience, or greed, or lust, or dishonesty, but the roots are still intact, so the branches just keep growing back.
In Jesus' temptation in the desert, the devil makes the mistake of exposing the three roots of all our sins. In each one of us, one of these roots is bigger and stronger than the others (though we all have all three).
If we can identify which is our main root sin, we can direct our spiritual work more intelligently, and really start making progress as Christians.
Getting to know our root sin and its most frequent manifestations arms us for spiritual battle. The better we know where we are weak, the better we will be able to resist temptation.
We are all tempted.
- Every day we are invited to rebel against God in little things and big things.
- The patterns of behavior around us, our own self-centered tendencies, and the devil himself are always inviting us to trust more in our own flawed judgment than in God's wisdom.
But temptation is not sin. In fact, every temptation is a chance to exercise our trust in God, to reclaim territory for Christ's Kingdom, just as Jesus did when he was tempted. Because Jesus was tempted, he redeemed temptation. With his grace, his victory over sin can become our victory. That's why he came to earth in the first place!
The message Christ has for us today is a message of hope.
- We can conquer sin, in our lives and in the world around us. We just need to stay united to Christ.
- That's what the Eucharist is for - that's why God gave it to us.
- And that's also what the Bible is for. Jesus parries the Devil's attacks by quoting from the Scriptures, the inspired Word of God.
Today, let's renew our confidence in Christ and our determination to fight for the advance of his Kingdom, to cut back our root sin and make more room for his grace to grow in our lives.
When we receive him in Communion,
- let's promise to do our part to stay united to him, to trust in him and seek our happiness in our friendship with him,
- and let's ask him which tactic he wants us to use this Lent: whether to spend more time with him in the Eucharist, or more time with him in the Scriptures.