19 March 2011

Mille grazie. . .

Thanks to all those who have been on the Wish Lists and sent me a book recently!  Individual notes will be in the mail as soon as books arrive.

I appreciate it more than you can imagine. You are in my daily prayers. . .

God bless, Fr. Philip Neri, OP

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Tired of Lent? Rise, and do not be afraid!

2nd Sunday of Lent
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St Joseph Church, Ponchatoula

The motto for the second week of Lent:  “Rise, and do not be afraid!” 

Are you tired of Lent yet? Wondering why you chose you favorite bad habit to give up? Are you finding yourself counting the days, just waiting it out, maybe twitching a little now and then? Thinking about marching right into Burger King or making a quick stop at the bakery? Is your tongue just itching to really tell someone off? Or maybe your credit card is keeping you up at night softly sobbing from loneliness. Imagine calling the whole thing off. Right now. Just stop Lent and get off. Stop the fasting, the abstaining; stop the extra prayers and just break those promises of weekly confession, daily Mass, nightly rosary. Just stop it all. Just say NO to Lent. And get off this crazy roller coaster of a liturgical season! I mean, really now…is Jesus coming back anytime soon? Who knows? 

Imagine the disciples for a second. There they were with Jesus, their beloved teacher, and they are having trouble understanding all his mysterious talk of suffering and dying and coming back to life again. The disciples! The guys who know him best are struggling with this whole going-into-the-desert-thing. Here we are 2,000 years later, and we’re trying to understand and benefit from the example of his temptations. You had better believe I would conjure up some bread after forty days without food. Not to mention a case or two of beer! Of course, I would call down an army of angels if the Devil appeared and started tempting me. And, yea, ruling the world seems like a heady vocation with lots of perks. But I, like you, must do what Christ did. And in case we’re scared out of our minds at the very idea of what’s ahead for the Church, we have Christ on the mountain with Peter, James, and John. And we have Christ's promise: “…his face shone like the sun and his clothes became as white as light.” What sort of promise is this? What exactly is the promise of the transfiguration?

The disciples, gawking in fear at the sight of the transfigured Jesus, Moses and Elijah with him, fall flat on their faces in the dirt. Jesus touches them and says, “Rise, and do not be afraid!” When they rise, Jesus remains alone standing before them, shining brilliant white. Moses and Elijah are gone. The joyous light around him dissipates. All he says to the dumb-struck disciples is: “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” That’s it. That’s his explanation of what just happened. Um, what just happened? We received a revelation. And now that we have it, what are we supposed to do with it?

Let’s go back to Paul and his second letter to Timothy. Paul writes to this friend, “[God] saved us and called us to a holy life, NOT according to our works but according to His own design and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus…” What makes this holy life we are called to possible? Nothing other than the gifts we have received from God, the grace “now made manifest through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus…” Paul, writing long after the revelation on the mountain, is reminding Timothy that he must “bear [his] share of hardship for the gospel…” How? “…with the strength that comes from God.” Jesus’ transfiguration, his transformation before Peter, James, and John is our Lord’s seal on an ancient promise: endure with my strength, endure with the gifts you have been given, endure with one another, and you too will be transfigured; you too will shine like the sun, white as light. 

What do we do ‘til then? Jesus touches his frightened disciples and says to them, “Rise, and do not be afraid!” In this one command, we can hear the echo of all of the promises our Lord made to Abram: “I will make you a great nation…I will make your name great…I will bless those who bless you…All the communities of the earth shall find blessing in you.” None of these gifts are ours by right or inheritance. It is ours in faith by the promise of the One who blesses His creation with His presence. We cannot lay claim to a single blessing, not one gift from our Lord if, trembling in fear of our future, we are face down in the dirt. Or if we will not look up into the eyes of Christ; or if we refuse in our sinfulness to be transfigured, to be changed into He Whom we adore. So, rise and do not be afraid! Do not fear small sacrifices or large ones; do not fear little fasts or days of abstinence; do not fear that the Body of Christ is sick beyond healing, or that the Word is silenced against the world’s unbelief and violence. Meet your temptations for what they are: lies. Meet the Devil for who he is: a liar. And rejoice that you have been given a seal on the promise of your salvation! A bright shining promise made by he “who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

What awaits our Lord in Jerusalem is an ignoble death on the Cross. He knows this. Yet he rides into Jerusalem like a slave on a donkey. And though he is cheered as a king, he is abandoned like a beggar to beg for his life. . .even as he dies. His face shone like the sun on the mountain. But it bleeds on the Cross. His clothes become brilliant white on the mountain. But when he is lifted up on the Cross, he wears a king’s purple, red with his own blood. And when he stands before the disciples shining and bright on the mountain, he stands with Moses and Elijah, the Law and the Prophets; yet in the garden he is alone. On the Cross he is a criminal among thieves. He knows all of this. And he appears to his disciples to seal an ancient promise of mercy. He appears, transfigured, to ease their doubts, to strengthen their resolve, to bolster their lagging faith. 

Are you ready yet to abandon your Lenten fasts? Your sacrifices? Are you ready to deal with the Devil and shop among his lies? Are you ready to stop this crazy ride and get off? If so, hear this one more time: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Listen to the Cross. Listen to the fall of the temple veil as it crashes. Listen again to Paul: “Beloved, bear your share of hardship for the gospel with the strength that comes from God.” Listen to Jesus say as he touches your hand, “Rise, and do not be afraid!”

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18 March 2011

The New Youth Catechism

A sneak-peek at YOUCAT: Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.

To view sample pages of YOUCAT, click here.

Mary, Theotokos

This morning I will celebrate Mass for the children of St Joseph's parish school.  The Children's Lectionary follows a different cycle than the one we use in the regular lectionary.  The gospel for this morning's Mass is taken from Matthew 1.16-24, the story of the angel instructing Joseph to complete his betrothal to Mary despite her obvious pregnancy.

This reading and my classes on the Creed reminded me of the 5th century controversy over whether or not Mary can be properly called "the Mother of God."  

Thus, a repost:

The Solemnity of the Mary, Mother of God, celebrates the decision taken at the Council of Ephesus (431) against the teaching of the Patriarch, Nestorius, who held that a human person could not be said to have given birth to God. The Patriarch of Alexander, Cyril, argued that Mary, as the chosen instrument of the Incarnation, conceived and gave birth to the Word, Jesus, fully human and fully divine, one person with two natures. Mary, then, is properly understood to be “Theotokos,” God-bearer.

Cyril wrote (in part) to Nestorius:

"And since the holy Virgin brought forth corporally God made one with flesh according to nature, for this reason we also call her Mother of God, not as if the nature of the Word had the beginning of its existence from the flesh.

For In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God, and he is the Maker of the ages, coeternal with the Father, and Creator of all; but, as we have already said, since he united to himself hypostatically human nature from her womb, also he subjected himself to birth as man, not as needing necessarily in his own nature birth in time and in these last times of the world, but in order that he might bless the beginning of our existence, and that that which sent the earthly bodies of our whole race to death, might lose its power for the future by his being born of a woman in the flesh. And this: In sorrow you shall bring forth children, being removed through him, he showed the truth of that spoken by the prophet, Strong death swallowed them up, and again God has wiped away every tear from off all faces. For this cause also we say that he attended, having been called, and also blessed, the marriage in Cana of Galilee, with his holy Apostles in accordance with the economy. We have been taught to hold these things by the holy Apostles and Evangelists, and all the God-inspired Scriptures, and in the true confessions of the blessed Fathers."

Cryril published twelve anathemas against Nestorius. Cyril's letters and his anathemas became the primary texts from which the council fathers drew up their canons for the council.

The first anathema reads: “If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God (Θεοτόκος), inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, The Word was made flesh] let him be anathema.”

The fifth anathema reads: “If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, God-bearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because the Word was made flesh, and has a share in flesh and blood as we do: let him be anathema.”

As is the case with all Marian dogma and doctrine, we are immediately directed back to Christ as our Lord and Savior. No Marian dogma or doctrine is declared or defined in isolation from Christ. She is always understood to be an exemplar for the Church and a sign through which we come to a more perfect union with Christ. Though our Blessed Mother is rightly revered and venerated, she is never worshiped as if she were divine. She is rightly understood as the Mediatrix of All Graces in so far as she mediated, through her own body, the conception and birth of Christ, who is Grace Himself. In no sense are we to understand our Blessed Mother as the source of grace. Rather, she was and is a conduit through which we benefit from the only mediation between God and man, Christ. In her immaculate conception and assumption into heaven, our Blessed Mother is herself a beneficiary of Christ's grace. As such, she cannot be the source of our blessedness, our giftedness in Christ.

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Public Union Thuggery in WI:  a compilation. Crickets chirping at ABC-CBS-CNN-NBC-NPR-PBS-NYT, etc.  Warning:  the language from some of these school teachers in the vids is NSFW.

U.S. prepares to bomb Arab dictator who's oppressing his people.  Can B.O. tell us why dropping bombs on Hussein was horrible, but dropping bombs on Gaddafi is just dandy? Let the rhetorical circus begin. . .this oughta be good.

Monk vs. Psychic!  Bulgaria heats up over age-old grudge match btw Orthodox Church and goofy New Age nonsense.  NB.  the Reuters reporter thinks it's necessary to tell us that the monk is from an "all male Orthodox monastic community."  Duh.

Message from the USCCB:  New Ways Ministry ain't Catholic.  Also, NWM receives lots of $$$ from anti-Christian hate group, the Arcos Foundation.

Debunking the "Gospel Conspiracy" theory. . .this monster pokes its multi-heads out of its cave every Lenten/Holy Week/Easter season.

Inevitable:  Lent and the Zombie Apocalypse!  It had to be done. . .it just did.

No, Pope Paul VI did not ignore the recommendations of his birth control commission.

Deconstructing the grand jury report on clerical abuse in Philadelphia.  Looks like a lot of that report is hogwash, rehashed hogwash.

MSM ignores the good work of faith-based relief organizations in Japan.  Apparently, only gov't agencies are worthy of praise from our Media Betters.

This is funny.  Don't know why.

Vegan Zombies. . .annoying you even after death.

Disco elevator. . .'nuff said.

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17 March 2011

Sparks will fly!

St. Patrick
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatula

One of the pillars of America's Protestant work ethic is summed up in the adage: “God helps those who help themselves.” Very ambiguous. Does God actually help those who help themselves? Or is this just another way of saying, “Stop asking God for help and help yourself”? We don't have to figure out which interpretation is really true b/c it's easy enough to see that there is no contradiction between the two. When we ask God for help and then go on to help ourselves, God is helping us. We can nothing good w/o God's help. This is called “cooperating with grace.” Or to put it another way: using God's gifts to do good works. When good results from our work, we have God to thank b/c He is the source of all goodness. Jesus says to his disciples, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” There's no guarantee here that we will be given exactly what we ask for or that we will find exactly what we are seeking. The only guarantee is that we will be given and will find whatever gifts we need to start and finish God's good work in us. The help we need is not always the help we want.

Jesus elaborates on his point, “Which one of you would hand his son a stone when he asked for a loaf of bread, or a snake when he asked for a fish?” We might take this to mean that God is going to give us exactly what we ask for. But that's not what Jesus is saying. All he's saying here is that God is not going to give us anything harmful, anything that would make our situation worse. Ask for a loaf of bread and you might be given an opportunity to take a free baking class. Ask for a fish and you might be invited by a friend to go fishing. I've learned the hard way that asking for patience usually results in being given several opportunities to practice patience! You might think of God's help as the spark you need to start a bonfire. No spark, no fire. But the spark by itself quickly dies if it isn't carefully tended to and given something to burn. The trick for us is to learn to watch out for God's sparks and learn to tend to them properly. 

How do we learn this trick? Jesus ends his lesson with the disciples by quoting a piece of universal wisdom: “Do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” The Golden Rule. If diligently practiced with sincerity and fervor, the Golden Rule perfects our ability to discern the presence of God's help whenever we need it. Assuming that we love God, our neighbors, and ourselves, we would seek to do the good whenever given the chance. Since we can't accomplish any good deed without God's help, anytime we help our neighbors or ourselves, we are actually cooperating with God's grace. Repeat the process of helping self and neighbor often enough, with seriousness and zeal, and eventually you've formed the excellent habit of charity! Before long, seeing the sparks of God's graces will be child's play. When you ask for help, sparks will fly. When you seek for answers, sparks will fly. 

Just remember: the help you need is not always the help you want. Similarly, the help you give is not always the help you are asked for. But if you give the help that you yourself would need to receive, God's spark will be properly tended and the bonfire lit. We can offer no help, do no good deed, or even approach God in prayer w/o His help. Humility requires us to give Him the glory for any goodness we achieve. So, even in the midst of disaster and despair, help yourself by giving God thanks. He is never closer than when we need Him most.

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Coffee Cup Browsing

Jesus gave Judas communion. . .yea, but Judas wasn't the cause of public scandal.

Trial judge warns "fact-finders" to be wary of dissident Catholic groups and doctrines.  Though I agree with the judge's sentiment, it makes me very nervous that a judge would decide what's orthodox for the Church.

The Curt Jester notes Catholic Media Promotion Day!  An extensive list of Catholic media outlets on line.

The record on how the B.O. administration kept an illegal alien in the country and how that illegal killed a nun.

L.A.'s religious education convention begins this weekend.  Now that Archbishop Gomez is in charge, can we expect this event be slightly less scandalous than it has been in the past? 

Five myths about atheists.  Numbers 1 and 4 are particularly interesting to me as a Dominican.  Aquinas understood that non-Christians would not accept the Bible or Church authority as guarantors of the truth of an argument's premises.  That's a large part of what motivated him to make monotheism philosophically palatable.  But arguments alone are never enough!  (H/T:  Curt Jester)

Warning:  check your kid's homework before it's turned in to the teacher!

Still prefer the term "gravitationally enhanced."

I think I saw this sign in Jackson, MS on my way to the delta.

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16 March 2011

No more signs for an evil generation

1st Week of Lent (W)
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Joseph Church, Ponchatula

I spent most of the day Monday reading signs. Driving to the Mississippi Delta and back for my grandfather's funeral was mostly an exercise in patience, endurance, and determination. Though I'd visited that part of the state many times over the years, I'd never driven, and my visits were always made north to south. There and back the weather was stormy—dark, wet, visibility was very limited. The google map I'd printed out was too detailed to read on the go and my sense of direction is much like my common sense: it appears randomly and it's not always reliable. Needless to say, I relied heavily on road signs to show me the way. Since I got there and back, we can say that the signs were helpful. But on a few occasions they were useless—mostly b/c I didn't know how to read them. For example, to get to 49W you have to take 55N to 220N. Easy enough until you realize—going 70mph in a storm—that to get to 220N from 55N you have to go east on 20 for just a mile or two outside Jackson. You have to know this b/c the signs don't tell you this. Reading signs—whether they are road signs or signs from God—requires literacy and a little wisdom. Jesus tells the crowd that b/c they are an evil generation, they will receive no more signs from God. They have all the signs they need. What they lack is the wisdom to read them correctly.

Think of all the signs God gave His people in the Old Testament—the miracles during the exodus from Egypt; the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; the various chastisements for disobedience meted out by foreign invaders, etc. All of these signs point to one unvarying truth: God always keeps His word. That's what the covenant is all about. God gave His word that the Jewish people are His people and He is their God. Part of the covenant is the coming of the promised Messiah, the suffering servant who will take on the sins of the world and die as a living sacrifice for world's salvation. One sacrifice made for all. Throughout his public ministry, Jesus goes to great lengths to show that he is the Anointed One promised by the signs of the covenant. Over and over again in his public teaching and preaching, he shows the crowds and the nation's elders that his arrival is the fulfillment of God's promises. The failure of most to read these signs is more than just a failure of their literacy; it's a failure of their wisdom. Having lived their lives with the covenant's prophecies as their road map, they still can't/won't read the clear signs that Jesus is the one sent by God to bring them redemption. Jesus calls their stubbornness, their blindness evil.

What's the cure for this kind of blind obstinacy? There is only one surefire cure: “My sacrifice, O God, is a contrite spirit; a humbled and contrite heart, O God, you will not spurn.” An evil generation that demands a sign from God that He is being faithful to His word is a generation living with a proud heart, a heart closed and clogged by its demands for miraculous proof, demands for absolute clarity, demands for divine guarantees: “We will not risk surrendering ourselves to the Christ based on historical signs alone. We will submit ourselves only after we are absolutely sure that we have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Give us new signs that we might read them ourselves.” Wisdom comes when we humble ourselves before God's Self-revelation, setting aside our panicky need for reassurances and trusting instead in the Spirit. Then His road map is clear: wisdom assists literacy when we risk everything and sacrifice our contrite hearts to God. That's His guarantee.

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15 March 2011

Coffee Cup Browsing (Verbose Edition)

On the way to my grandfather's funeral, I caught a report on NPR about the O'Keefe sting on two of the organization's execs.  The reporter claimed that the vid as presented was "deceptively edited."  This is the meme making the rounds to discredit the vid.  Well, not so much, really.

BXVI urges priests to preach on uncomfortable topics.  I agree.  However, he should've added:  Catholics, be charitable to your pastor when he preaches on uncomfortable topics!  Most priests I know simply avoid any kind of controversy in the pulpit b/c it ain't worth the resulting storm.

Pray for the Japanese people:  thorough reporting on the earthquake and flooding in Sendai.  I had to stop watching the vids. . .the destruction is heartbreaking.  If you find any news about the fate of ancient Buddhist/Shinto temples in the disaster area, let me know.

B.O.:  He's in over his head and he knows it.  The Mid-east is in flames with riots and revolution.  The E.U. is on the verge of financial collapse.  The U.S. is on the verge of financial collapse.  Japan and NZ are suffering from earthquakes, tidal waves, and several nuclear disasters. . .and The One is focused like a laser on gay "marriage" and gun control.

"Financial martial law". . .the temptation to go this route is nearly irresistible. . .but my moderately libertarian bones tell me that it's a really bad idea.

Another lefty P.C. effort to weaken our military

Green for thee, but not for me.  Not in My Backyard.

Ivy League universities don't produce better workers.  My dissertation director--a two-time Ivy Leaguer--told me once that the best students across universities are pretty much the same.  I know for a fact that U.D. undergrads do more reading and writing than most Ivy Leaguers.

Oh!  If only NY would allow women and married men to work in state homes for the developmentally disabled none of this would happen!  "In 25 percent of the cases involving physical, sexual or psychological abuse, the state employees were transferred to other homes."  Sound familiar?  Maybe Catholic clergy need to form a union?

Israeli terrorist murders a family of five Palestinians in their sleep, including a 3-month baby girl.  Oh, wait.  Youtube and Facebook remove vids memoralizing the family.

Are U.S. seminarians being taught to celebrate BOTH forms of the Roman Rite?  I'd be interested in hearing from any seminarian-readers on this question.  This is really not much of an issue for Dominican students since OP's would prefer to celebrate the Dominican Rite.

You've been warned!

On getting your priorities straight during a nuclear explosion.

Oops!  Wrong choice

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14 March 2011

Making a good Lenten confession

Apparently, I'm on a Reposting from the Archives Kick lately. . .

Fr. Philip Neri’s Ten Commandments for a Good Lenten Confession:

1. Thou shall know that thy presence in the confessional is the wondrous work of the Holy Spirit. That’s right. If you find yourself in the Box with Father, you are there first because the Holy Spirit prompted you to go. You agreed to follow that prompt, but like all forms of prayer and charitable work, the human person requires a little graced nudge. So, go into your confession confident that you are there by the grace of God to be reconcile to Him!

2. Thou shall not waste your time or Father’s time with obsessive-compulsive sacramental trivia such as, “OK, Father…so I was still a little drunk but I had to pee so I got up and I wasn’t all the way awake yet and I did it but is that a sin still?” Or, “Father, canon 1765.4 forbids X and I heard recently that Blessed Mary spoke to a woman in Mobile, AL and she said that X is OK and she has the bishop imprimatur!” Hint: if you find yourself discussing the distinction between a valid sacrament and a merely licit sacrament, you must RUN to the nearest park and lay in the sun.

3. Thou shall simply and clearly state your sins without excuse, explanation, or decoration. It is rather pointless to confess your sins with flourish or verbal decoration. Also, the priest really doesn’t need to know why you committed a particular sin. He’ll ask you if more info is needed.

4. Thou shall not use weasel words, dodges, or euphemisms when confessing individual sins. “Impure with self” is not a sin. Masturbation is a sin. “I watched inappropriate images on the computer and abused myself.” Do we confess inappropriate behaviors or sin? In other words, you watched porn and masturbated. Just say so.

5. Thou shall keep Penitent Drama to a minimum. Confessions can be quiet dramatic and even confusing. But confession time is not the right time to show everyone in line outside what a horrible sinner you have been and what a wonderful saint you are now. Also, Father doesn’t need to hear twenty-minutes of highly detailed narrative building up to the actual sin. This is attention-seeking behavior and a waste of precious time.

6. Thou shall not use the “face to face” option as an excuse to chit-chat with Father. Confession is not about story time nor is this option a chance to ask Father for advise on a complicated spiritual issue. Make an appointment with him for that. You have a whole lotta people waiting to see their confessor in the Box.

7. Thou shall confess thine own sins and no one else’s. This seems to be a particular problem among mothers and grandmothers of wayward children and grandchildren. Having failed to persuade said wayward child into the Box, mother or grandmother try to sneak the child’s sin past the priest. There is no vicarious confession in the church.

8. Thou shall not request of Father a confession only a few minutes before Mass begin. The time right before Mass is usually very chaotic in the sacristy and in the church. Father is preoccupied with setting up the sacramentary, placing his homily on the ambo; adjusting the speed of his fav fan, and just generally trying his best to prepare for Mass.

9. Thou shall ask questions about your assigned penance if you do not understand it. Do not leave the Box wondering what it is you are supposed to do for your penance. Just ask Father to clarify quickly his assignment. He will welcome this because it shows you are serious about the sacrament.

10. Thou shall not make a false confession in order to test Father’s orthodoxy nor record the sacrament without Father’s express approval. Yes, this has happened to me and it is a violation of just about everything we believe is holy in the Church, and I believe it constitutes a mortal sin.  [NB.  I should've struck the phrase above when I reposted this.  Confessions are not to be recorded.  period.]

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13 March 2011

Didn't work as a homily (UPDATED)

I wrote "Thanking the Devil" in Feb of 2009 while in Rome.  It wasn't written as a homily, more of a reflection.  It got a lot of good feedback in 2009, so I decided to repost it for the 2011 Lenten season.

Then I decided to preach it at this morning's Mass.

It didn't really work as a homily.  Wonder why?

I will try it again at tonight's Mass. . .maybe there was something wonky in the delivery.

UPDATE:  tried "Thanking the Devil" again at the 5.00pm Mass.  Worked much better.  It was the delivery at the a.m. Mass.  

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Thanking the Devil

Something else from the HA archives:

A few provisions for your Lenten trek. . .

Jesus went into the desert to pray and fast for forty days and forty nights. The devil shows up and tempts our Lord with a variety of goodies.

How is Jesus tempted?

First, he is tempted to reject God with a show of pride. Prove you are who you say you are by performing a miracle.

Second, he is tempted to reject God by testing His promise of love and care. Place yourself in danger so that God will be forced to prove His promise to rescue you when you are in trouble.

Third, he is tempted to reject God by taking on worldly power and prestige. Forsake the worship of the Lord and be rewarded with temporal prominence and political power.

Each time Jesus rejects the temptation and rebukes the devil. How? Each time Jesus successfully resists the devil, he does so by placing God first, by putting his Father upfront and on top of their intimate relationship, making his Father and His Word the lens through which he sees these tempting offers.

Notice also what Jesus doesn’t do when tempted. He never appeals to himself or puts his “needs” ahead of God. Never does he invoke his own power as the Son, or try to fight the devil with theological argument. He doesn’t negotiate or dialogue. He doesn’t listen carefully, ponder his options, and then decide based on a cost-benefit analysis. He doesn’t compromise or make any temporary deals. He doesn’t parse the language of the temptations, contextualize their content, or critique their literary forms. He doesn’t re-envision their meaning or try to make them relevant. He rejects them. Outright.

Jesus resists the devil by boldly and obediently speaking the truth. With each temptation, Jesus begins his rejection and rebuke in the same way, “It is written. . .” He pulls on the prophetic tradition of his heritage, God’s Word in scripture, and turns the devil’s deceit into a fulfilled revelation, a unveiling of the truth made manifest in the desert.

Lent is our chance to do what Jesus does. While in this desert for forty days, we take the devil’s false promises to us and turn them into the fulfilled promises of God’s love and care for us. God will love us against our will, but He will not prevent us from taking the devil’s deal if we will to do so. He will give us everything we need to say No to the devil, but He will not say No for us. We must act; we must say to the devil’s face, “It is written…” God and His promises come first.

The devil knows what we sometimes forget: the power of temptation lies not in accepting his lies as true in but rejecting God’s truth as false. In other words, we do ourselves far more spiritual damage when we make God an enemy than when we make the devil a friend. Why? With God as your enemy, all His gifts become intolerable burdens. You will not hope. You will not love. You will not trust. Enmity with God is a much darker, a far more dangerous place to be than mere friendliness with error and deceit.

Each time Jesus resists the devil’s temptation and rebukes him, he invokes his love of the Lord with the words of our prophetic tradition, “It is written…” He invokes the Covenant between the Father and His people; he opens the doors of his heart’s tabernacle and lets the Word blind the devil. He turns the devil’s false promises into the fulfillment of the Father’s promise to love us and care for us.

When tempted to reject God in pride, humble yourself in gratitude for what you have been given.

When tempted to reject God by testing His promise of love and care, remember that He will never lie; He will never fail.

When tempted to reject God by taking on worldly power and prestige, offer worship to this world’s only Lord and King.

And when you have successfully rejected all these temptations, do something to really make the devil crazy: thank him for his temptations because without them you might have made it through this Lenten desert without the urgent chance to become better friends with God.

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