Saint Sebastian Catholic Church Ft Lauderdale, FL
February 14, 2016
Deuteronomy 26, 4-10 X Psalm 91 X Romans 10, 8-13 X Luke 4, 1-13
No one talks about sin anymore unless it’s someone else’s. Then we’re really good at it, and we can name the offense, the cause, and often we can set the punishment. However, when referring to ourselves, we don’t have sin. We have a few “issues”, but they are hardly deadly. These temptations of Christ that lead us into Lent every year are way too fantastic and dramatic to be very real, so we stand back and admire Jesus for the strength of character he demonstrates and the courage with which he responds to Satan missing the point that perhaps what Luke is teaching us is that an effective response to any temptation might be found in the Word of God, and the use of that Word might well give us what we need to face any temptation. During the time of the Lenten Mission we begin this week, I propose to give you some scripture texts and use them as Jesus does to respond to some serious “issues” that left unaddressed and unchallenged lead to death which is why we call them “deadly sins.”
We are all engaged to one degree or another in a personal, ongoing battle with sin and vice just like Jesus in these verses from Luke’s Gospel. We are living through an age of serious moral decay. Cheating and lying are a way of life today. Although anger doesn’t make most of us murderers, and lust doesn’t make most of us rapists, and greed and envy do not make most of us outright criminals, together with gluttony, arrogance, and sloth, there isn’t much glory in us, and those who have to live with us are miserable. Our failure to live up to the glory that is ours is as tragic as the unhappiness our evil causes.
Every deadly sin fuels harmful social phenomena: lust-pornography; gluttony-substance abuse; envy-terrorism; anger-violence; sloth-indifference to the pain and suffering of others; greed-abuse of public trust; and pride-discrimination.” As long as there is any trace of these evils in our lives, we are less that human and less than what God has made us to be. We have in our faith a treasure of wisdom and tradition, teaching and revelation that leads us to a life of virtue and balance, holiness and joy; that is glory! It is not that pleasure is inappropriate, but glory comes from character and virtue, and a right relationship of one’s self to others and to God. That is where we find pleasure, and that pleasure leads to glory.
So, I am inviting you to spend three nights this week reflecting upon “The Seven Deadly Sins”. Unlike our bodies influenced by our genes; our souls, our spirit, and the lives they animate are free to be shaped by our choices. We can choose to be whole. We can choose glory. We can repent and change, and that is what this Lenten season which we have just begun is all about. I don’t know where we got the idea that giving chocolate or martinis for Lent or dropping some loose change in the poor box was what Lent is all about, but it’s silly and trivial. Besides, most people who give up chocolate more than make up for lost time with the chocolate bunnies and eggs on Easter! God wants more. God deserves more. God expects more. God wants change. There is more and better in us than we have chosen to become. One of the startling facts of life in our times is that no one wants to admit to sin and take any responsibility for its consequences. Lent is the time to do that.
We have been given our nature, but we choose our character. When we say someone is a good man or a good woman, we do not suggest that they are people in whom there is no inclination to evil, but rather that they are people who have wrestled and still wrestle with it and never give in because their quality and their goodness comes from the struggle. I think that is what Jesus learned in that desert. It is what gave him what it took to really withstand the temptations that come later in his life. People learn from the struggle are truly noble. These are people of virtue, character, and nobility. The work of Jesus and his expectation that we change leads us to glory, to Easter, to virtue and nobility.
“Morality is like art, said G.K. Chesterton, “it consists of drawing a line somewhere.” We live in an age in which no lines seem to be drawn at all, or those that have been drawn are being erased. In my 74th year of life and almost 50 years as priest I have come to recognize that an unhealed wound, a kind of sinful restlessness, afflicts humanity and robs us of glory.
Bruce Springsteen, “The Boss” wrote a song that describes our age when he sings: “Everybody has a hungry heart.” I think we are hungry for glory, hungry for the life we should have had by God’s will and God’s original plan for us. But we have traded our glory for something else, and sin is the consequence. Our hunger is for God and the glory that comes from being in God’s presence. The glory of Jesus Christ came from his willingness to suffer in obedience to the will of his Father. Calvary was no short – cut to glory. There isn’t one. We will have no glory and no Easter from a short-cut either. We cannot fill ourselves with things that do not satisfy, that do not fill us or lift us or hold us up.
I want to propose to you that while there are seven sins (not issues) that lead us to death there are seven virtues that when taken seriously lead us to life. I invite you to give some time with me this week for the sake of the truth and glory; three times in this church for the sake of life itself, your life. Sunday night (tonight) we shall reflect upon Pride and Envy, tomorrow Anger and Sloth, Tuesday, Greed, Gluttony, and Lust. I always save the best till last! I hope to see you again for prayer tonight night when we might begin to consider how it is that we satisfy our hungers and our thirst, because “everybody has a hungry heart.” The only thing that will satisfy that hunger is found here in this church nowhere else.