22 February 2015
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Today’s Gospel states that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. While in the desert Jesus was tempted by Satan and he overcame all these temptations with his faith, through the power of the word of God and his resolve to serve only God and no one else. This teaches us that temptations cannot be avoided in life, however they are not meant for our downfall, but to strengthen our minds, hearts and souls. They can be seen as tests to help us emerge as better sons and daughters of God. The Spirit of God, the same Spirit that ‘drove’ Jesus out into the wilderness, moves and inspires us to be the best Christians we can be, who search for God, who love one another and strive towards living holy lives.
How can we achieve this? By training our spirits, putting time and effort into living authentic Christian lives the same way the athletes do in preparation for sporting events. Unfortunately, we do not give our spirits the same amount of training we do our bodies, so we oftentimes become lazy, lifeless and even unwilling to make any improvement. Lent offers us an excellent opportunity for spiritual renewal, a great training session for the spirit, of true Christianity, which helps us renew our resolve to follow Christ, by renouncing ourselves and our selfish desires, willingly taking up our daily cross out of love for God, and following in the footsteps of Jesus by becoming more like him.
When Jesus came out of the desert, after spending forty days there in intense prayer, meditation, while fasting all that time, his first words were: This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.
The word repent in its Greek original is ‘metanoia’, which means a change of mind and heart. Its spiritual significance implies a turning away from evil and turning back towards God. Repentance therefore has a plural meaning or goal: sorrow for sins committed, reconciliation with God and openness towards people. Our Lenten penance must bring us closer to God and people.
To believe in the Good News means to believe in the love of God that has been revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Believe therefore, in God’s love, in his goodness, in the victory of good over evil, in the power of God who is love and trust in his limitless love, in order to overcome the temptation to think that only violence, money and power are the forces that rule the world.
Jesus was not left alone to his task. Angels came to serve him in the desert. He also constantly had the strength of the Spirit of God with him, and therefore neither are we left alone in our efforts. God is constantly with us if we want him to be with us, to fight our battle against sin for us, to defend us from Satan and all evils, and to give us guidance and light in times of temptation. Let us begin this Lent with a firm desire to renew our lives in Christ and ‘shape up’ spiritually in order to be true witnesses of Christ in the world.