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The Devil In All Of Us

First Sunday of Lent (B)

My dear encountered couples:

Repent!” That is what Jesus tells us to do. And on this first Sunday of Lent the Church wants to remind us that Jesus said it. We are to pray more and work harder at becoming better people for at least the next six weeks. But repenting or reforming our lives is more than a seasonal struggle; it is a lifelong battle.

We are constantly being given opportunities to become better people or worse ones. Every day we are offered a white hat or a black one. Remember the old cowboy movies? The good guys usually wore white hats, the bad ones wore black. But it isn’t the outfit that makes us good guys or bad ones. It’s the way we think, the intentions we have, the actions we perform. Every day we are offered many opportunities to live good lives or bad ones. We are given opportunities to reform ourselves to the better or to allow ourselves to worsen. Seems like one is a difficult, uphill battle; the other is an easy, downhill slide.

Ever try sled-riding uphill? Can’t do that because it’s against the law of gravity. Something in the earth pulls us down. Seems like something in ourselves pulls us down too, doesn’t it? When it comes to being good or bad it often seems it is much easier to be bad — takes less effort. Being good can seem like going against the law of gravity, like sledding uphill, like rowing a boat upstream, walking against the winds of a hurricane. And that is exactly what Jesus tells us we must do if we intend to live with him in heaven. We are to reform, remake ourselves into better people, into good people, into saints.

But Jesus said something more than “Repent!!” He said, “Repent, and believe in the gospel!” What exactly is that? The good news is that we have someone to help us in our reforming. We have someone who can make it possible for us to sled uphill, to go against the law of gravity. We have someone who wants to help us row our boats against the current and go upstream, to walk into the midst of a hurricane and come out well on the other side. Jesus Christ, the Son of God has come to save us from whatever it is in us that pushes and pulls us towards evil; he came to save us from whatever it is that wants to make us slaves to sinful living. Jesus has come to help us and to eventually free us entirely from the effects of original sin.

Though we might find it easier to lie than to tell the truth, to steal than to earn our own living, to be angry than to be patient, Jesus wants to help us do what is right and best for ourselves and others.

Though we might find pleasure in using illegal drugs and too much alcohol instead of staying sober and alert, in engaging in promiscuous sexual actions instead of saying “No!” to urges within us, Jesus wants to give us his help, so we can discover and obtain true, genuine happiness.

Believe in the good news,” Jesus tells us — the news that we are never left alone to struggle with anything that tries to pull us down. We not only need God’s help to get into heaven, we need God’s help with our lives in this world. Jesus is telling us we have that help if and when we want it. He tries to make us realize we cannot become saints on our own, we cannot overcome bad habits, sinful practices, nor powerful urges and temptations all by ourselves. We cannot reform on our own. We need someone to help us. And that someone is Christ.

Like skiers who are taken uphill by a rope or steel cable, Christ wants to take us uphill; he wants to be our lift all the way to heaven. Skiers don’t need any help coming downhill, do they? Don’t need any help falling down either. They seem to be able to manage that sort of thing on their own. Likewise, it is always much easier for us to deteriorate in the quality of our character than it is to improve.

We cannot “reform” and be successful at it until we believe in Jesus Christ and accept his help. We cannot improve without God. We are reminded of the voyage of Noah and his family in our first two readings today, how they and the animals with them were saved from being drowned like everyone and everything else. It was God who saved them, God who got them through that disaster. Noah told the other people what was coming; he told them to reform and reach out for God’s help. They wouldn’t listen, they went on with their lives sledding and sliding downhill. They lost their lives, they drowned in their own sins.

The first Sunday of Lent! Ash Wednesday has come and gone. Four days of Lent have already passed, six more weeks remain. “Reform your lives,” Jesus tells us, “and believe in the good news.” Are we listening? Do we really care? Time will tell. Please use your remaining time on this earth believing in God’s help and in growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ.

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