||This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.
The readings for the first Sunday of Lent give all of us a general principle for evaluating our own lives and determining areas for growth during the holy Lenten season.
The First Reading reminds us of Satan’s successful deception of Adam and Eve, convincing them that pride, that is, disobedience of God, will enable them to be like God.
In fact, Adam and Eve are left in the Garden for the first time experiencing shame as they learn the hard way that the wages of sin never amounts to being like God, but rather the wages of sin is death.
God and Heaven are top priority
The Second Reading makes clear that disobedience and death really are the very same choice.
Disobedience and that assertion that “I know better than God!” leads me to place God and Heaven at a lower priority in my own life. Once this happens, it becomes progressively easier to make my goal something less-than-God, something less-than-Heaven.
But God and Heaven alone are the fullness of life, and ultimately to choose what is less-than-God or -Heaven as my top priority is to choose death.
That is why we have grown so readily in the United States into a culture of death. God and Heaven have been put on the shelf by our culture and the new normal has been to make something less-than-God and -Heaven our top priority.
Fighting the temptations
The Gospel Reading moves us to consider the temptations of Jesus.
Each of those temptations is a call to choose something less-than-God or -Heaven as the important life choice.
Whether it be bread, or earthly kingdoms, or the worship of evil in place of God, in every instance, Jesus is tempted to stop short of fulfilling His Father’s mission.
And so for us, too, every temptation is always a temptation to stop short of God and Heaven when pursuing the destiny of our life.
Our culture of death has led us not only to believe that we know better than God, even sometimes under the devil’s deceit calling this “following our conscience,” but even to the explicit killing involved in euthanasia or abortion, again, is something of a new normal.
The thought of choosing death over life in a way seems unthinkable. From another point of view, what seems unthinkable has become the new normal for our culture and for our society.
Lent is a time to discover the Truth
Lent is thus a time for us to sift through, to discover the Truth about God and Heaven in our own lives.
Anything less as top priority means death — the wages of sin — manifested in disobedience. Let our Lenten examination of conscience begin.
Thank you for reading this. God bless each one of you and let us pray for one another that we have a holy, and yes, happy Lent, as we hasten to the celebration of the Lord’s Resurrection.
Praised be Jesus Christ!