Our scripture this first Sunday of Lent features Christ’s temptations in the desert. There he resisted key temptations we all face, to put self, power, and wealth before humble service of God and others. Lets confess ways we let selfish lust for money rule our hearts and prevent us living in faith and charity..
The film, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, got no hype or media attention but its a parable for our time. Bruno, the small son of a concentration camp commander, befriends a Jewish inmate, Shimone. Every day they’d sit, one inside, one outside, the barbed wire to play and eat food Bruno brings. A guard finds Shimone eating the food and says, “you Jewish dog, you stole the food”. “No”, he said, “I got it from Bruno”. But when the guard asks the German boy, he says, “No I didn’t give it to him”; he lied our of fear. Later, finding the Jewish child beaten up, he says, “I’m sorry I don’t know why I did it, forgive me”. Shimone does so, though he’s been hurt by his friend’s betrayal. Then he begins to cry, his father has disappeared. Bruno says, “I’ll come into the camp and help you look for him”. The father had been gassed, and while the boys look for him they too are rounded up taken to the gas chamber. They die together holding hands, the innocent German and Jewish child, victims of a cruel world they can’t understand. The film is very Christian. The little boys practice the indiscriminate loving way of Christ as against the cruel Satanic way of the divisive hating world of power politics.
The key temptation Christ faced in the desert was to follow that Satanic way rather than God’s way, to serve himself rather than humanity. To be a Hitler-like Messiah winning power and glory through the blood and oppression of fellow human beings. Like the Nazi creed Satan said in effect: forget, God worship me, exercise power without moral restraint, crush the weak, serve your own power, forget the rabble. You may say we’re not like that, but the modern libertine philosophy of western Capitalism is almost as decadent. Do what you like, pursue money and pleasure at all costs; to hell with God, the weak, or higher values. It was the creed of the boom, unrestrained greed, and look where that landed us. Contemporary dictators such as Stalin or Pol Pot who killed millions while demolishing temples and churches and sending opponents to concentration camps built the sort of world Satan wanted Christ to build. Instead Christ chose to build the Kingdom of God, to be the suffering Servant of God and humanity unto the cross, to save not dominate, to redeem a violent world.
This key temptation everyone faces, Christ resisted on our behalf. Rather than serve himself without restraint regardless of God or others, Christ chose to redeem the world by love as a Prince of Peace. It was a vital choice. For Satan’s way destroys the soul and creates hell on earth; the systems I referred to are cases in point. But like the film, any innocent child or adult uncontaminated by the world knows in his heart that Christ’s way is the right one. To love and serve not dominate, to be God’s innocent free people, not Satan or the world’s corrupted slaves.
Lent is the time to rid ourselves of undue worldliness by prayer, fasting and giving generously to the poor For prayer unites the soul with God. Fasting purifies the heart and giving to the poor rids us of greed, so that “everyone will have enough”. For the hard worldly values of which Satan is lord only destroy us and the world, but Christ is lord of goodness, peace, love and happiness for this world and forever and ever, amen. As God’s people following the way of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to build faith, innocence, love and generosity within so as to prepare for our Easter Lord, lets profess our faith…
Prayers of the faithful
For our Holy father the Pope and all the pastors of the church that they may lead the people of God and all the world’s peoples world back to the way of innocence and charity this Easter…
For civil leaders that rejecting the way of corrupt power, they may serve all the people in generosity and fairness..
For youth, rejecting the cruel ways of the world, may they follow the gentle Lord and his church in faith, love and service..
For ourselves that this time of lent may be a time of grace, peace and inner growth for us as we devote ourselves to self-denial, prayer and almsgiving in imitation of Our Divine Lord..
For those of our world who reject God, that they may heed the call of Christ to repent and believe, to find rest, happiness and salvation for their souls, and come to the fullness of truth..
For the sick, aged, lonely and oppressed that through our care this Easter they may know the healing presence of God’s love.
For the dead, those who need our prayers to come to the fullness of light and life, that this season of grace may be a final liberation for them, and especially those for whom we pray…
And we ask these our prayers in this grace-filled time of Lent, when the ashes on our head symbolize the rekindling of grace and holiness in our hearts, through Christ our Lord, amen.
An example of the contrast between Satan’s and Christ’s way is the story of Max Kolbe. Sent to Auscwitcz for condemning Hitler in his newspaper, as a priest he was subjected to extra cruelty After a resistance attack, the camp commandant decided to shoot 10 inmates. As they were selected, Kolbe saw that one of them was a family man. He said: “Take me instead”. Injected with poison but slow to die, they beat him to death with rifle butts. A crucifix was found scratched by his nails on his cell wall. What a witness to Christ’s way of love. Lets give similar witness to this faith and love that alone can redeem the world..Hail Mary