1st Sunday of Lent Year B 2015:
Happy Lent to you all! I know that this is a time of prayer and also of penance and self-denial. So, thinking of Lent as a happy time might not seem quite right. But, it is my experience that Lent is always a wonderful season of grace, where God helps us grow closer to Christ, to grow in our faith, and to overcome some of our imperfections. So, while it is a season of suffering and self-denial, we become better people because of this season, which is why it is a happy season.
As a parish, this year we are going to spend time this Lent thinking about baptism. In the documents of the Church, Lent is described as a season of preparation for baptism. There are men and women from our parish who are getting ready to be baptized. For them, Lent is a time to clear away whatever holds them down, to grow closer to Christ, and be ready to take the plunge, literally, at the Easter Vigil. But, for those of us who are already baptized, Lent has a similar significance. That’s because on Easter all of us will have a chance to renew our baptism. Easter is a chance for us all to take the plunge again, so to speak.
An important part of the baptismal rite is the profession of faith. As you may remember, the profession of faith in baptism takes the form of questions. This is also true of all of us who are renewing our baptism, we will be asked to renew our baptismal promises. There are 6 baptismal promises, there are also 6 Sundays in Lent. So, for each of the next 6 weeks, we will take some time thinking about each of the promises. You can read more in the bulletin as well.
The first baptismal promise is quite fitting with today’s gospel: do you reject Satan? At first this might seem like an easy question: do you reject Satan? Who’s going to say no to that?
When I was going to school in Boston, one of the ministries there was giving catechesis to learning disabled young people. There was one young man who came for instruction named Charlie. Charlie was preparing for confirmation. The day for confirmation finally came. He was all prepared and ready for the sacrament. Part of the rite of Confirmation is to renew one’s baptismal promises. So the bishop who was conducting the ceremony came up to Charlie and asked him the questions: Charlie, do you reject Satan? Nothing… Charlie, do you reject Satan? Nothing… Everyone in the chapel was urging Charlie to make a response, but he had just clammed up. So, the bishop said a final time: Charlie, we can’t go on with the confirmation if you don’t answer the question, so I ask you: do you reject Satan? Charlie almost yelled: you’re darn right I do (only he didn’t say “darn”). The place erupted and Charlie was confirmed.
Do you reject Satan? You’re darn right I do. We know that Satan is empty and hollow. He has absolutely nothing to offer. He only wants each one of us to be as miserable as he is. He wants us all to reject God just like he did. Do we reject Satan? Of course. But, do we really? Over the next two weeks we will explore this further because the next two questions are: and all his works, and all his empty promises. But, for today, let’s just think about this: do we reject Satan?
This rejection of Satan has to begin in our hearts and minds. Of course we say that we reject Satan, but do we really? Is my heart really set on God? Rejecting Satan means to have a hard and fast resolution to follow Christ. We need to have a resolution to turn away from evil, to take a hard look at our lives and see where we need to change, where we need to grow. Rejecting Satan and clinging to Christ is the very first step in the spiritual life. It will be impossible for us to overcome our sins and become faithful disciples of Christ if we don’t start with this fundamental stance toward Satan and toward evil.
Do we reject Satan? You’re darn right we do. May this season of Lent be for us all a time of grace and renewal, so that we might reject Satan and hold fast to Christ our Savior.