Homily by Father Emmanuel Schwab, rector of the Sanctuary

1er Sunday of Lent – ​​Year B

1st reading: Genesis 9, 8-15

Psalm: 24 (25), 4-5ab, 6-7bc, 8-9

2nd reading: 1 Peter 3, 18-22

Gospel: Mark 1, 12-15

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Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, the gospel makes us hear the episode of Jesus' temptations. As this year we are reading the Gospel according to Saint Mark, the episode of temptations is very brief in Mark, he does not detail it. He just tells us that the Spirit pushes Jesus into the desert — we could almost translate “hunting” (ἐκβάλλει) Jesus in the desert — thathe is tempted by Satan, thathe lives among wild beasts, which the angels serve him. We are not told anything else, but it is very important to hear that Jesus experienced the test of temptations.

We distinguish between these two words: “trial” and “temptation”. But in the language of the Gospel, Greek, or the Letters of the Apostles, it is the same Greek word (πειρασμός) that is translated into French either by “trial” or by “temptation”. Temptation is always a trial and in life, a trial can always be a place of temptation.

But before developing this question of temptations, let us first understand what was taught to us by the apostle and recalled in the first reading: that first, we received baptism and in baptism, we have been freely, by pure grace, placed with the resurrected Jesus. This means that, in baptism, we have already passed through death and that the life of what Saint Thérèse calls the “beautiful Heaven” or the “Homeland”, the life of the Kingdom, the life of the resurrection, already inhabits us. . We will need, at the end of our journey, pass from this world to the Father with Jesus when it is God's time. But from now on, we can approach the trials of our life in this certainty that we are inhabited by the resurrected Christ who is victorious over both sin and death. We must therefore, by faith, approach every trial, every temptation with the perspective of victory. Baptism has changed something in our life and this baptism awaits what will complete it... In the same way that, when the baker made the bread dough, this dough waits to be cooked in the fire in the oven to be able to become eatable bread, similarly, those who are baptized need the sacrament of Confirmation, which is like cooking in the fire of the Holy Spirit, to be able to be truly “eatable”, that is to say, to nourish their brothers with his life, as Jesus nourishes us with his life.

It is important, during this Lenten season, that all of us who have already been baptized hold in prayer those who are preparing to be baptized on Easter night — those who are called catechumens — and who, in this last stage of their journey truly seek to attach themselves to Jesus with all their soul, with all their heart, with all their strength in order to fully receive, in the sacraments of Christian initiation, the grace of salvation.

I return to the question of trials and temptations. Jesus asks us in the Our Father, “Let us not enter into temptation” — one could almost translate, “Lead us not into temptation.”

What does that mean ? In fact, we find ourselves in the middle of a battle, a fight. God is the source of life. God is the creator of all things, and among all these creatures, there is one who has, from the outset, revolted, who refuses to serve God and who wants to drag away from God everything that he can. This creature is the one that Scripture calls the diable (which means the divisor) where the Satan (which means theopponent). Jesus will say of him that he is liar and father of lies (Jn 8,44:XNUMX)… he wants to take everything out of the hand of God.

And God never ceases to give his Holy Spirit so that all those who want to serve him can refuse lies and serve God in truth, can refuse evil and seek to do good with God's help. This is what we call spiritual combat, and this fight happens inside each of us.

Temptations sometimes come from without, but sometimes they come from within. Spiritual tradition teaches us that there are three sources, one might say, of our thoughts:

There are those that come from ourselves, from within us.

There are those that come to us directly from God, but what we call the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

And then there are some that come to us directly from the devil, possibly through someone else.

It is for us to learn to identify, in all these thoughts that agitate us, those which are good in order to welcome them and so that they can bear fruit, and those which are bad in order to put them aside. This is what we call spiritual combat, it begins in thought, not first in action.

And when Jesus calls us to conversion, “Repent and believe in the Gospel”, the Greek word which means “to convert” (μετανοεῖτε) means to change one's mind, that is, to learn to look at things as God sees them. This is why we need to nourish ourselves with the word of God, why we need to know how God sees things, how Jesus sees things.

And this is why the Gospel shows us Jesus acting, speaking, meeting people, so that we understand how Jesus looks at the world, at men, how he looks at his Father, how he lives so that we can imitate Jesus.

In this spiritual battle, then, do we encounter trials? But like soldiers who go into combat encounter tests: it is always a test, a fight, and it is a question of emerging victorious.

Saint Paul, Saint Peter, Saint James all three tell us the same thing.

Saint Paul, in the Letter to the Romans: “We take pride in distress itself ". Why is that ? “Since distress, we know, produces perseverance; perseverance produces proven virtue; proven virtue produces hope; and hope does not disappoint, since the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”(Rom 5,3:5-XNUMX)… We take pride in the distress itself.

Saint James, he begins his Letter as follows: “Consider it exceeding joy, my brethren, to stumble under all kinds of trials.”. Why is that ? “You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance, and endurance must be accompanied by perfect action, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing” (James 1,2:4 -XNUMX).

And a little further on he adds – and this is a word that Saint Thérèse likes to quote: “Blessed is the man who endures trial with perseverance, for, once his worth is verified, he will receive the crown of life promised to those who love God” (James 1,12:XNUMX).

And finally Saint Peter, in his first Letter: “Exult for joy, even if you be afflicted for a little while longer by all kinds of trials; they will verify the value of your faith which is much more valuable than gold - this gold doomed to disappear and yet verified by fire - so that your faith receives praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. (1 Peter 1,6:7-XNUMX).

They are all three unanimous: it is a grace to know the test because it is through the test that our faith can grow and that our faith can nourish, and therefore make grow, and our hope and our charity .

The season of Lent is a time of training for spiritual combat. And to train ourselves, we seek to train our good will so that it knows how to exercise renunciation and also exercise positive choice. Lenten penances only make sense to strengthen our interior life in order to better serve Jesus. And all the little penances that we can do during Lent only have meaning if they are done out of love for Jesus, explicitly: Lord Jesus, it is for you that I renounce this little immediate pleasure. It is for you that I am making this charitable effort. It's for you, to love you better, to serve you better, to know you better. And what is important in our Lenten penances is not that it is great, it is that it is persevering. You have all seen, when you have visited caves, stalactites and stalagmites which were formed over hundreds and thousands of years, from drops which fell in the same place and which left a little bit of limestone. You may also have seen stones that were pierced because a drop of water fell, poof, poof, poof… always in the same place and the stone ended up giving way.

Our Lenten penances, may they be like these little drops of water which always fall in the same place. This is how we will allow the Lord to gain victory and pierce the shell of our hearts, so that we love God and our brothers as Jesus loves his Father, and as Jesus loved us.

Amen.