A. On this brisk winter’s morning, we have a lot to accomplish in a very few minutes. We want to reflect on today’s Scriptures; we want to acknowledge World day of the Sick; and we want to send forth to the Rite of Election those in our community who have been preparing for Baptism and for reception into the life of the Church. Without further ado, let’s get started, beginning with today’s Gospel.
II. The Temptations of Christ
A. Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are, yet he never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). In this morning’s Gospel, we find Jesus in the desert, praying to God the Father as he prepares for his public ministry of preaching, healing, and saving us from sin. While in the desert, Satan, the father of lies, visits Jesus and tempts him three times.
B. Jesus was fasting, so Satan reminded him that he was hungry. Satan didn’t just tept Jesus to get something to eat, to break his fast, but rather to use his power as God’s Son to turn stones into bread, that is, to use his miraculous powers for his own needs and not for his mission.
C. To save us, Jesus emptied himself of divine glory and became one of us, so Satan tempted him with worldly power and glory. It wasn’t an ordinary temptation to win fame, fortune, and influence. No, Satan was trying to get Jesus to abandon his mission of dying to save us and instead establish himself as an earthly king.
D. Finally Satan tempted Jesus to jump off the top of the temple as a way of testing God the Father’s love for him. Satan didn’t care if the angels would actually catch Jesus as he fell. He wanted the Son of God made man to doubt the Father’s love for him and for us… not your ordinary, everyday run-of-the-mill temptation!
E. Three different temptations: to self-satisfaction; to power & glory; and to doubt. What do these three temptations have in common? It’s this: Satan was tempting Jesus to reject God the Father’s love for him and in rejecting the Father’s love to abandon his mission to be our Savior. Just as Jesus was preparing to share with us the Father’s saving love, Satan said to him, “No! Don’t do that! Don’t do what the Father in heaven wants! Use your miraculous powers for yourself and for your own purposes. Set yourself up as a rival god to your Father in heaven.”
III. Jesus’ Temptations and the Sick
A. Jesus would have none of this, of course, and quickly dismissed Satan. Thus he taught us how to overcome Satan and gave us the strength to do so. But on this World Day of the Sick, let us ask how you, as healthcare professionals, are tested and tempted. And how are those who sick, especially the chronically and seriously ill, tempted?
B. None of us possess the miraculous power and wisdom of the Incarnate Son of God but all of us have many gifts, skills, and the authority that is part of our profession. This is certainly the case for those of you who are health care professionals. Every day you use your gifts to heal those who are sick and you work hard to help those you serve to take care of their health. Inevitably your work brings you face-to-face with people’s problems and you try to be a compassionate presence in their lives and for this we owe you a debt of thanks and a remembrance in our prayers.
C. Yet, just as Satan tempted Jesus to use his tremendous powers badly, so too, all of us, myself included, face similar temptations in our professional lives. It is all-too-easy for any of us to misuse the gifts and powers that have been given us. How important for us to pray each day to go about our daily work with the highest standards of diligence, competence, and integrity. How important too for us to pray to use our authority well and wisely, to be stewards of human life, respecting each person at each stage of life, including those whose lives are often thought not to be worth living. Currently Maryland General Assembly is considering legislation that would legalize physician assisted suicide – legislation that would enable physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of medicine to those who want to take their own lives after a terminal diagnosis… Let us pray that all of us may be not the masters of human life but rather its stewards!
D. As healthcare professionals you encounter the sick on a daily basis. I am sure you are often amazed, as I am, at the goodness and courage even of those who are facing very serious illnesses. How often I’ve gone to cheer up a patient only to have the tables turned on me… I walk out of the hospital room edified by the patient I came to console. I think about Msgr. Valenzano who battled leukemia for so many years. No one will ever know how many people he ministered to in the waiting rooms of Johns Hopkins Hospital. I met many of them last summer on the occasion of his funeral.
E. Yet those who are sick also struggle with temptation. They are tested not only physically but spiritually…what temptations do they face? Isn’t it the same temptation that Jesus faced – the temptation to doubt God’s love? Satan has a way of saying, “If God lets you suffer like this, he must not love you!” And when you and I begin to doubt that God really loves and cares for us, no matter what we may be going through, Satan’s work is pretty much done. And we must pray with the sick and for the sick – certainly for their prompt healing— certainly that their suffering be mitigated – but also and above all – that in the experience of suffering they may also experience the power of the Cross, the power of Jesus’ self-giving love, and be united to it through their sufferings. In that way, they become powerful witnesses to the Lord and to his love.
IV. The Catechumens and Candidates
A. Finally, this is a special day for those in our Basilica parish who are preparing to be baptized and received into the Church at the Easter Vigil. We are sending you forth from this Basilica to the Rite of Election which will be held this afternoon at Mary Our Queen Cathedral. There you will meet many from various parts of the Archdiocese who are making the same journey of faith that you are. And in this afternoon’s service you will be numbered among the elect, among those chose to receive the sacraments for the first time at the Easter Vigil. This is an important milestone in your formation as Catholic Christians.
B. Of course (and you’ll hear more about this later on today), you too will be tempted. Just as you are opening your heart to Christ, Satan will tell you it’s hard if not impossible to have a personal relationship with the Lord. Just as you are taking your faith seriously by reading Scripture & studying the faith and undergoing a true conversion of life – Satan will tell you that your faith is nothing more than a formality which you practice or not practice as you may wish; he will steer you away from the very sacraments that will help overcome his temptations!
A. Jesus really was tempted in every way we are, yet never sinned. Let us cling to the Lord so that we may have the strength to overcome temptation and instead follow Jesus as his true his disciples, in our professional lives or in time of trouble and illness, and in our approach to Scripture, the Mass, and the Sacraments. God’s love for you and for me is for keeps! Let us believe in love! Let us believe that God loves us in Christ deeply & personally and that his love never fails – then Satan won’t be able to lay a glove on us!
B. May God bless us and keep us always in his love!