First Sunday of Lent 2014
Rite of Election Homily Notes of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Pro-Cathedral, 9th March 2014
“The celebration of the Rite of Election is a most significant one in the life of our diocese. Anyone who recognises and experiences in faith the Good News of Jesus Christ feels the urge to share that Good News, and to make known the name and the person of Jesus Christ within the world in which we live.
Our celebration this afternoon is a celebration of faith: the faith of the catechumens and candidates, the faith of those who are their sponsors, the faith of our parish communities. This celebration today, in the Mother Church of the Archdiocese, is a true celebration of the faith community in the Church of Dublin. Together we celebrate our faith, the faith of the Church, the faith which we are proud to profess, to witness to and to transmit.
I thank all those who have worked together in the preparation of this great act of faith: the catechumens and candidates and their sponsors and parish communities.
Our Church is a Church which is marked by continual renewal and conversion and an ever deeper immersion into the mystery of our faith. Sharing our faith is not just an intellectual exercise, through which we transmit doctrinal formulae or a moral code. Sharing our faith involves sharing with others what Jesus means in our lives.
The Gospel reading of this First Sunday of Lent is about the temptation of Jesus. The Gospel passage comes immediately after the account of Jesus being baptised by John, at the very beginning of his public mission.
Just as Jesus begins his public mission, where does the Spirit lead him? The Spirit, we are told, leads him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Why is this? Jesus is called to bring his saving power to all who suffer and are lost or who have gone astray. Why not lead him out without further delay to preach the Good News? Why does the Spirit not lead him out immediately to heal the sick and to comfort the troubled and convert sinners? Why lead him into the wilderness to be tempted?
Jesus came to bring his saving power to all who suffer and are lost or who have gone astray. But he does not do that as someone who is an outsider to human experience. Jesus chooses to begin his ministry by entering directly into the drama of our weak and compromised humanity. He wishes to enter fully into human existence; he wishes to experience the trials of our humanity as they really are, in order to save us. It is precisely because Jesus has preceded us into the world of suffering and of evil that we know that he can come to our assistance no matter what our situation is at any particular moment in our lives.
Jesus is tempted. Satan tempts Jesus to act in the ways which people who exercise power and authority have done so over the centuries: the despots and dictators, the corrupt and the unscrupulous. Satan attempts to get Jesus to use his power in an arbitrary way, even using even the words of scripture to tempt Jesus in the wrong direction.
Jesus rejects the various temptations of Satan to use his power and authority arbitrarily and for his own interests. He also does so using the words of scripture. In rejecting the temptation of Satan we learn something of who Jesus is.
God is not revealed by shows of naked power and technical ability but through the manner in which Jesus cares for others and restores to full healing those who are wounded. God is almighty in his power: but the manner in which Jesus carries out his mission radically changes how we understand the terms “power” and being “almighty”. Jesus shows us who God is by using his power to serve, to heal and to restore, not to Lord it over others.
The true solutions to many of the challenges of our modern world are not just technical ones, but must be solutions which truly humanize the way we act. Just as Jesus wished to enter into our human condition, his followers must also witness their faith through closeness to the real life of others and cannot simply delegate their Christian responsibility away to anonymous systems and organisations.
The lesson of the Gospel of the temptation is the lesson about who Jesus is. The debate between Jesus and Satan is the debate that goes on in our hearts, in the soul of our culture and indeed in our understanding of the Church. It is a debate about the contrast between the false gods that we easily create and the God revealed in Jesus Christ.
During this Lent we must turn away from the false God’s which we all tend to build in our hearts to protect our own interests. If we do so – using the instruments of prayer, penance and works of charity – then we will encounter the true godliness of Jesus and find in him mercy and forgiveness and an answer to our prayers. If we resist the temptations of our times then God will not abandon us, but, as he did with Jesus, he will send angels also to us to look after us in our needs.
We pray that the Lord will assist and enlighten these brothers and sisters of ours whom we eagerly await to be received into the full Communion of the Catholic Church. All of us are called to use the Season of Lent to renew our own faith, so as to live and witness to it through the way we reflect the love and care of Jesus in our lives and in our world. ENDS