Undefeated: Winning Over Temptation Wk 5: In Christ Alone
The Gospel of John which we have just listened to on this Fifth Sunday of Lent is important as it will set the stage for the events to follow during Holy Week with Christ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, The Last Supper on Holy Thursday and His passion and death on Good Friday. After this miracle many who saw what Jesus did in the raising of Lazarus believed in Him but some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done and thus out of fear they began to plot putting Jesus to death. The Pharisees gathered and said “if we let him go on like this everyone will believe in him.” The whole meaning of this miracle was that of Faith that Jesus is truly the Son of God, the Savior of the world.
Belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the center of our faith journey. We are continuing our special Lenten Series we call Undefeated: Winning Over Temptation. We are all tempted, even the saints were tempted. There is a type of temptation that is important for us to recognize so that we can remain undefeated and that is temptations against faith. Is Jesus real? Is Our Catholic Faith Real? Is God Real? Is Jesus truly present in the Eucharist real? Is Heaven Real? It is important to recognize that these temptations against faith are an opportunity for us to be victorious in our faith Journey.
As mentioned, even the saints had these temptations. St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, also known as the Little Flower, was tempted by the devil in her last illness before her death at the age of 24, that there was no heaven. She refused to abandon her life of faith, hope and love. She united her suffering with that of Christ on the Cross and made frequent acts of faith in Jesus Christ and God’s love for her. She said, “I believe that I have made more acts of faith in this past year than all through my whole life.” “ On each fresh occasion of combat”, she continued, “I conduct myself valiantly, I turn my back upon the adversary (the devil) without ever looking him in the face, then I run to my Jesus and tell Him I am ready to shed every drop of blood in testimony of my belief that there is a Heaven. In the end, she was undefeated and victorious and is recognized throughout the world as an inspiring model and patron of faith. This Little Flower was not crushed underfoot by temptation but withstood this trial with victory and remained undefeated.
Faith in Jesus Christ is at the root of this Gospel passage and in fact all the Gospels. Faith, along with hope and charity, are called the Theological Virtues because they unite us directly to God. By faith, we believe in God and believe all that he has revealed to us and that Holy Church, proposes for our belief. By Hope we desire, and with a steadfast trust await from God, eternal life and the graces to merit it. By charity, we love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves for love of God. The Core of Faith is the love of God. Our faith life is a grace that brings us into a personal, loving union with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This grace enables us to both hear the Word of God and to Keep it.
Jesus wants us to have faith in Him and wants that faith to be renewed daily as we strive to follow him in an often unbelieving world. It is often easy to feel defeated in our faith because of this, but Jesus calls us to be undefeated in our faith.
Jesus works miracles in order that my faith, which may be but a tiny mustard seed, may be fortified. But for His intimate friends, Martha and Mary, he did not work miracles until He had put their faith to the test. He let Lazarus die and remain in the tomb for several days. But after the trial of faith, what a recompense! Lazarus is restored to life!
In Our own life as well, things may not always go as we have planned. It could be in regards to education, jobs, relationships, health or any area of our life. Even in the darkest moments of our life, the Lite of faith is to illuminate our heart with peace and tranquility, trusting always in Gods merciful love. It was this light of faith that illuminated St. Maximilian Kolbe in the darkness of the concentration camp in Auschwitz and empowered him to bear with courage the trials he would endure in that place of evil and sorrow. St. Maximilian was triumphant in that he never lost faith or hope in Jesus Christ and would inspire countless other prisoners with him to not give into defeat in their faith in Jesus.
Jesus may permit us to be in the tomb, like Lazarus, for days, or months or sometimes even years, that we may be renewed and victorious in our faith in Him working in our lives.
His words to Martha are words to inspire us to great faith. “ I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, even if he dies will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Do you believe that he loves you and died for your sins? Do you believe that he wants to be in your life? Do you believe he has a plan for you and that he wants you to be with Him forever in Heaven?
Faith leads us to follow Christ and more perfectly conform our life to him and his teachings. This is demonstrated by how we daily give witness to our faith. Can we respond like Marth and say, “Yes Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Yes, I believe! We are to renew our Yes in faith in Jesus Christ daily and when we come together on Sunday for mass we renew our faith together as a family by reciting the Creed. “I believe”
Our faith in Christ is to be the anchor of our life, that which propels us through this journey of life and sustains us when we face the storms or trials of our earthly pilgrimage.
Faith is a grace we must always seek to protect, nurture and live out daily. We do this by living a life of prayer, “Lord strengthen my faith”. We do this by living a sacramental life by having faith in the Mercy of God when I encounter Crist in Confession. Confessions are available on Monday evening at 6pm with 7 priests available. My faith is renewed when I receive Jesus truly present in the Holy Eucharist. The Amen I say as a response to the words, “the Body of Christ” means “I believe”. Every time you receive Jesus in Holy Communion your response with “Amen” means, Yes, Lord I believe that it is truly you in your body, blood, soul and divinity present in the Blessed Sacrament. How we should truly say that “Amen” with a bold voice!
Faith is also nurtured by acts such as spiritual reading and meditation which strengthens and nourishes faith. Reading Holy Scripture and books on the lives of the saints, Eucharistic Miracles, and Apparitions of Our Lady at Guadalupe, Lourdes or Fatima inspire us in our faith. How many are aware that St. Padre Pio, who died in 1968, could bilocate, meaning he could be at two places at one time! One of these biolocations occurred when he appeared to an American pilot in the sky outside his plane telling the pilot not to bomb his city! Or St. Joseph Cupertino, a Franciscan priest, who would have flights of ecstasy when his body was lifted up in the air by holy things. Even a non catholic prince from Germany was converted to the Catholic faith upon seeing him fly. Spiritual reading, going on pilgrimage, visiting shrines, watching catholic movies or documentaries, and family prayer time are just some of the many ways our faith can be inspired. We truly have such an unlimited source of treasures to inspire and strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ.
Like stone over the tomb of Lazarus, Jesus wants our temptation in faith to be removed that we may always be victorious in our faith in Him. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to give us an unshakable faith and help us always to repeat the words of Martha, “ Yes, Lord I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God. Strengthen me in my faith!
Let us now prepare ourselves to renew our faith in reciting the Creed that we may truly mean what we say with our hearts, minds and lips.