“..what will heaven be like?” students on retreat will often ask me.. I invite them to look out of window of Alban Roe House & see our valley..ours [mine & yours]..surely one of most beautiful views in Britain..a Garden of Eden like heaven..
..until Eve then, & you & I now, were tempted by promises of taking control of our destiny, instead of enjoying the freedom of heaven on earth, here & now..
..for the times we, like Eve & Adam, walk into temptation with our eyes wide open & our consciences closed, let us ask for Our Lords mercy & compassion..
“..did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?..”
..we have been told but still we question it.. ; Lord have mercy
“..the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said you must not eat it or touch it”
..& still we eat & touch forbidden fruit..” ; Christ have mercy
“..she took some of its fruit & ate it..she gave some to her husband & he ate it..”
..& we tempt others, lead others into temptation.. ; Lord have mercy
May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life.
“..Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil..” early last week I had 28 Yr 11 students [15/16yr olds] from Cardinal Heenan HS Leeds on retreat in Alban Roe House. As we opened session on Sunday evg on prodigal son, I asked each to read story..one lad said dismissively he didn’t need to read it he knew it..
I asked them in groups to address six key questions on the story..& they reported back, sharing their truths with full group..one question was “if you were to introduce a fourth person into the story who would it be? ..describe their personality and/or name the particular person from the bible, or from current life, in the Church or in the world.”
having opened the question with groups for over 16yrs the fourth figure is overwhelming a woman, usually a mother; a Mother Teresa or a Mary Berry..from group of five girls came “we would add a person who represents the devil ; he would be constantly pushing the sons into sin; he could manipulate both sons; he could be present in the son’s weakest moments during the parable. This would test them to see their trust in God, showing the power of evil [ the devil ].” little would they have realised last Monday that this very weekend we would have a gospel of temptation..of the 28 students, how many would be weekend Masss attenders?..3 or 4 perhaps?..yet all fully practising Catholics as they wrestle with the gospel stories & their own practical participation in the texts..if only they realised just how relevant alive & authentic was the young lads opening remark..he didn’t need to read it he knew it..he knew the words but he’d also know story from experience ..a live experience of the presence & influence of a person representing the devil..& who might that be for them I wonder?..& who might that be for you & I?..”the tempter”, who tempted Jesus & tempts us today with three opportunities to show just how powerfully in control God & goodness are..for “stones into bread “ read “famine into plenty”..could we solve the famine in Sudan by Easter?..40days to save 3m people?..& in your immediate thought you fail the test & feed the temptation..a weak moment where you’ve already thought “what can I do?..on my own..or even our little Parish in this safe protected corner of Yorkshire..my best maybe a £10 note into Cafod envelope this coming Friday; Family Fast Day; “this would test them to see their trust in God, showing the power of the devil “ even a Cafod envelope can present a moment of temptation..are we perhaps facing a food crisis closer to home in spiritual malnourishment?..second temptation is to expect & then to foster protectionism..“he will put you in his angels’ charge; they will support you in case you hurt your foot against a stone”..when going gets tough, really tough, it is natural & understandable to question God, particularly his absence..a premature death, the disease of dementia, a breakdown in marriage, the loss of young folk who fly then nest & rarely migrate home again..”why has God dealt me this hand?”..an old tv advert showed family safe snugly esconsed in castle with caption “get the strength of a building society round you”..our Catholicism shouldn’t be defensively protectionist..suspicious of outsider & migrant..our faith should be seasoned into real life tragedy & success..our daily Lent & Easter..each mutually dependent..”this would test them to see their trust in God”..are we tested by life or tested by God?..discuss decide & voice it..Lent 2017..third temptation is to sell off the family inheritance, that part of you which is infinite “before I formed you in the womb I knew you..you are the apple of my eye..I will do anything for you” the divine promise is for us to be forever divine..& Satan’s promise offers you all the kingdoms of this world & its splendour in return for your soul..& what will be our response as we begin this Lent?..like every reading of every gospel it is always new, always different..so our response, put firmly & politely in Jesus’ own words “be off Satan!”..the fourth person acknowledged & included in your Lent..face him, outface him, & be thankful to a small group of Yr 11girls from Cardinal Heenan HS Leeds..visitors to our Garden of Eden..for setting the standard, the tone, & the challenge for our Lent..
[ 1st Sun Lent Yr A; Mt 4;1-11]