HOMILY – 1 LENT [A] 2017 [Matthew 4:1-11]
An international conference at the Vatican last week was centred on the human right to fresh water, with Pope Francis expressing the fear that the next world war could be about access to fresh, clean water. Even our own country, that has for so long prided itself on its “clean green” image, is now troubled by water contamination – to the point where in this same week the government moved to address the issue of rivers unsafe for swimmers!
We’ve just entered the season of Lent where renewal is the big theme. But don’t think of this renewal as renewing your subscription to a club or tv channel, ticking a few boxes and agreeing to sign up for another year. Lenten renewal is about refreshing, rejuvenating your spirit, your inner self, renewing the filters that can crumble under pressure and allow all kinds of pollutants to poison your life.
So the water issue has relevance for our appreciation of Lent. Jesus is “led by the Spirit into the wilderness” where lack of water contributes to the wild and barren nature of the environment. The biggest threat to life for someone lost outdoors or exposed to long periods of heat, is dehydration – the lack of water.
The snake is pictured in our first reading as the tempter, drawing us away from a good relationship with God. Now, like us, snakes need water to survive and their habitats are mostly places with little or no water. But they’re designed to absorb water, like the morning dew, through their skin, and they also get moisture from their prey. The snake image in the Genesis story tells us that when we give in to temptation we allow life, in the symbol of water or moisture, to be sucked from us. Sin dehydrates us; weakens our ability to see straight; disorients, confuses…
Despite some emergencies over water supply, we in New Zealand have no water worries when it comes to accessing water for drinking and cooking. In fact, we take water for granted, even wasting large quantities of it. We can do the same with faith. Yes of course I believe, I say when asked, but how well do I look after my faith. Do I simply take it for granted – assuming its supply is guaranteed?
As the body needs water, the soul needs prayer. Both can dehydrate.
Lent is underway with its invitation to refresh faith, to moisturise it; to take it out of the wilderness and make it productive again.
None of us is free of temptation. It’s part of the human package. The temptations of Jesus make it clear that, in his humanity, Jesus was exactly like us – tempted in every way to become like gods! Independent. Self-willed. But he knew the power of God’s love and stayed focused. Prayer will do that for you and me. Use these Lenten days to strengthen your prayer. Keep some time aside each day to let your faith speak in the presence of God.
Hydrate yourself with an extra Mass during the week, privately walking the Stations of the Cross; sitting quietly before the Blessed Sacrament – and don’t be surprised if you suddenly find yourself involved in some action to help others. That’s the way it is with a fully hydrated faith. The temptation to consider only yourself is defeated; the water of God’s love sweeps you into pools of mercy and service, and Lent steps aside to reveal for you the wonder and joy of Easter.