Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 10 of Season 5 for the First Sunday of Lent: March 6, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 4, verses 1-13.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry.
The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone.” Then he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.
The devil said to him, “I shall give to you all this power and glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I may give it to whomever I wish. All this will be yours if you worship me.”
Jesus said to him in reply, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.’”
Then he led him to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and: With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’
Jesus said to him in reply, “It also says, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’
When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.
The Gospel of the Lord
“Eyes Fixed on God” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
When God created the heavens and the earth and then created human beings and gave them what God created. He didn't place us here on this planet with the understanding that we can live here, but not enjoy the fruits of God's creation. That we can inhabit the world, but we have to look at things from a distance because it doesn't really belong to us.
Rather, God said, be fertile and multiply subdue the earth. And God said all that is around us is for your enjoyment for you to live in. But he said there's a condition; a couple, actually. The first is that you really don't own this. I own it. The world is mine. Your job is to manage it, to be stewards. And in being managers and in being stewards, as you live and act in this world, don't forget where you come from. Don't take your eyes off of me. Live and move and take care of what I have made.
God then gave us a wonderful and precious gift. One that we all treasure. And it's the gift of free will. The ability to say yes or no. Choose right or wrong, good or evil. Do this or that as we chart our way through this gifted life we have received
In short, we can choose to keep our eyes fixed where God intended them to be fixed: on Him. Or we can shift that glance and look elsewhere.
As we look at where we've come as human beings and how we have shaped and cared for this earth that God has entrusted to our care, as you look at all of the systems that we've created, our systems of governance. The way we've organized countries. How we conduct our personal business. The way corporations operate. How we conduct daily business in our own lives. What we see as important, and what we need.
Can we look back on all of that history and all of the choices that human beings have made from the beginning of the time that they first were here? And can we look at all of that and honestly conclude that all of those choices have been made with eyes focused on God? I'm focused on Jesus Christ and in alignment with the truth of who we are.
So very often, because the world offers us so much, we can easily take our glance off of where it belongs and place it elsewhere. There are things that can tempt us that at first glance seem to be okay. Maybe even look as if they're positive. But when we choose them, we find ourselves traveling down a road of self-destruction.
Now, sure, all of us can comprise a list of temptations we face in our own lives, but there's a few of them today that we can look at more particularly to see whether they're operative in our own lives in our world. The first temptation human beings wrestle with is the temptation of success, of success. Now don't get me wrong. There's nothing wrong with success. We run into trouble with how we define it. If we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ and ask the question, what is success? Then the answer is going to. Involve the disposition of our heart, caring for the essence of our soul, finding peace, following the path of love, living with a joyful spirit.
But when we define success in terms of wealth and power and control and domination, of me having more than you, of my self-esteem, of being revered by others, with success begins to go down that road of definition that we're taking our minds and our eyes off of Jesus Christ and placing them on the world of self-concern. We're being tempted and lured by attractions that are false.
Success: a second temptation that human beings, you and I face, the world faces, especially in our culture today is the temptation of entitlement. Somehow we've gotten ourselves fixed on the idea that the world or life or God or everyone owes me something. That somehow I'm supposed to receive something just for being the gifted, wonderful person I find myself to be. That somehow if I want it, I can have it. And so when we go into grocery stores and we want to buy Scott's tissue and we're in a hurry, and we go to the aisle and we find that there's no tissue. Why is there no tissue? I need to have Scott's tissue.
When we go into the grocery store, and Deacon Bill did a little study the other day, and there's 56 different varieties of cereal; 56. A person's angry because number 57 wasn't there and they wanted the Fruit Loops.
That's due to me. I'm supposed to get what I want. What I think I need. And there's a word we certainly don't like to hear anymore, and it's the word no. It infuriates us at times. What do you mean I can't have that? The world of entitled: it's a trap that lures us and convinces us that we're really way more important than we really have a right to be.
The third temptation human beings face is the temptation toward hypocrisy, hypocrisy. See somehow, if people don't know really what's going on inside of me, it's somehow okay. So in other words, I can think whatever I want about you. I can, in my mind, criticize the way you look. I can annihilate you with just a thought, and that's okay because that thought is mine. As long as I don't verbalize it, or as long as I don't act on it, then it's okay to have it. Nobody needs to know. And so we go through life thinking all of these things. We think that in our cars is where going through traffic and someone cuts us off. They may not hear what we say.
They may not change our actions, but boy, our minds are doing a good job. We take our eyes off of Jesus. And there's a problem with that because when we put our eyes back on Jesus Christ, we begin to realize that more important than what comes out of our mouth, Jesus says, is what's going on in here. And so if we're having conversations with ourselves that are "anti" what we really want to project or a call to project, then we're falling into the trap of temptation to hypocrisy.
The fourth temptation. The fourth temptation has to do with the idols we create. See when we truly back ourselves out of and justify why our eyes can't be on Jesus Christ at the moment because there's something else that's more important. Something else that is more enticing. And these idols that we create for ourselves become where we invest our time, where we invest our energy, and even where we put our money. When we do all in our power to make sure we succeed at something because we see that as being more important than dealing with our own heart and our spiritual selves.
You know, I have conversations with folks all the time. We're open 24/7 here guys. When was the last time you came to Mass? Let me think about it. Are you raising your kids in the faith as you agreed to? Silence? Well, how can we make this easier for you? And they look at you quite honestly, and this is what comes out, "Well, you know, Father, it just doesn't work. It doesn't fit." And I say, what do you mean it doesn't fit? It doesn't work? What do you mean it doesn't fit? "Well, you know, Sunday comes and Johnny has all of his soccer games on Sunday and we really want him to excel in that, so coming to Mass just doesn't fit," I say, well, what about Saturday? "Well, you know, Sally has dance on Saturday, and so after working out of that all day, she comes home. She's kind of tired. So that doesn't really work for us either." have we created idols out of these things that suddenly become so important that we take our eyes off of Jesus Christ and turn away from the gift of the Eucharist?
When we start putting our priorities in our back pocket because I am going to be determined that my son or my daughter is going to be in this prestigious school and I'm going to do whatever I have to do to achieve that goal. Or I want to advance in my career because that's what's important for me, and I don't care who I have to step on in order to achieve that goal we've created idols for ourselves. We've taken our focus off of Jesus Christ and forgotten who we are.
The next one, we really struggle with our sexual pursuits. We so easily dismiss the idea that human sexuality belongs in the context of marriage. And we easily convince ourselves that we can take it out of that context and do it whenever we want. We also find ourselves justifying that it's okay to spend a little bit of time with pornography as long as I don't get too addicted to it, I suppose. That's okay. And we justify doing that because it's so easy. It's all over the place. We find ourselves taking our eyes off of our true and where God is directing us in putting them in other things because the satisfaction is a better payoff than the sacrifice of keeping focused. So our sexuality can become a temptation easily.
And then the next one that we battled with is money. You know, many of us, if we're really honest with ourselves, and we look at the question of our security, of what we value, we tend to think that money is going to bring us to a better place than anything else. So the more we have in the bank and the more we can rely upon, the more securities we can accumulate then somehow I can rest more easily and feel better about myself and those I love. We spent all this money and time investing.
Now, granted, all that has preceded here are not necessarily bad things in and of themselves, but it's the place that we put them in our life that becomes problematic. It's when we replace God with one of those, and that's so easy to do because the last temptation doesn't give us the energy and the fuel we need. And the last temptation is towards spiritual neglect, spiritual neglect. And that happens when we get tired. When we don't feel that there's enough reason to invest in our spiritual selves. Where we become somewhat apathetic to my truth. To who I am and who God is.
Let's stop and think for a moment about what's happening in our world, in our complicated and often very difficult, scary world. The definitions people are using for success are driving people to do horrendous things. Folks with power who think they're entitled to something will railroad over whoever and whatever is in their way to achieve a goal that they feel is theirs.
You see it's all happening right before our eyes. And I don't think we realize just how perilous this place and where we find ourselves on our human journey really is. Because out there is a world where eyes, aren't always focused on the truth. Where eyes are not focused on Jesus Christ. And if we have lives that are spiritually neglected, if we aren't making the right choices, And have our eyes and our hearts fixed where they belong, it's going to be very difficult to bring our faith out into that brokenness. It's going to be very difficult to bring folks back to God. And then in addition to all those other big temptations that can captivate us, we can add the little ones, like excessive worry and anxiety, laziness, procrastination, and overindulgence in food, in drink, in the intranet.
So there's no short supply of temptation. No short supply of getting distracted from who we are and what we're meant to do.
And so as we journey through our lives, we continue to embrace this wonderful gift of free will God has given us. Yes or no? Good or bad? Eyes fixed on Jesus or eyes fixed elsewhere? And as we look at the course of humanity, where we've been, how do we stand?.
Have the decisions we made, as a people, reflected the truth of who we are and the eyes fixed on our Lord and where we've come from? Or are they the result of something else? Because with every choice we make, we have an opportunity to choose either Jesus or Judas.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.