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Sunday, 3/10/2016, First Sunday of Lent

Why Give Our First Fruits

First Reading Commentary: Deuteronomy 26:4-10

There are certain times of the year and special occasions when we present gifts to others. Some people are special like our parents or our spouses who get the best and most expensive gifts. Then there are those who we really don’t want to give anything to at all. The kind of gift that a person receives from us is almost always directly related to that person’s relationship with us.

Today’s first reading causes us to stop and think about our relationship with God. Is God first on our list or is He last? Does He get our best or does He get much less than our best or worse yet, nothing at all?

We hear Moses in Deuteronomy tell the Israelites to give their first fruits to the LORD. In being asked to give their first fruits; the Israelites were being asked to give their best to the LORD.

Throughout Lent, one of the people that we focus on in our Liturgy is Moses who was called by the LORD to lead His people to the Promised Land. Moses was a forerunner to Christ who was sent by the Father to lead all of mankind to the Promised Land of Heaven and in many ways, Christ relived the life of Moses.

Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with the baby Jesus because King Herod wanted to kill Him and had ordered the slaughter of all boys under the age of two. Moses was born in Egypt and at the time of his birth, Pharaoh had ordered the midwives to kill all newborn boys. To save her son, Moses’ mother put him in a papyrus basket and placed the basket among the reeds on the river bank. Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses, took pity on the baby and adopted him. She knew that Moses was a Hebrew baby so she had a Hebrew woman nurse him not knowing that it was Moses’ own mother.

Moses is one of the greatest if not the greatest intercessor in the Old Testament who interceded to the LORD on behalf of the Israelites many times. Christ who is our intercessor with the Father, never stops interceding on our behalf. Even on the cross, Christ interceded when He said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

The Israelites were persecuted by the Egyptians and the Jews during the time of Christ were persecuted by the Romans.

In telling the Israelites what to say as they presented their gifts to the LORD, Moses gave a prophecy of the One who was to come; Christ. Moses said, “…He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm…with signs and wonders...he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey…”

It was Moses who stretched out his arms at the command of the LORD and with the LORD’s power and the land was the Promised Land of Jerusalem. It was Christ who stretched out His arms on the cross and leads us to the New Jerusalem—the Promised Land of Heaven.

There is no one who we can count on to be there for us in the way that we can count on God. He is there no matter how tough times get and in spite of all of our sins. All we have to do is ask. I like the response in today's Responsorial Psalm, "Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble."

It is the fact that God created us and is always there for us no matter what, as evidenced by His sacrifice of giving up His own Son which, is the reason why we should give our first fruits and our very best to Him.

Stand Up with an Attitude

Gospel Commentary: Luke 4:1-13

Jesus was led to the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil and spent forty days. The forty days of Jesus in the desert was a reliving of the forty years that the Israelites spent wandering in the desert but where the Israelites fell into sin; Jesus did not. The forty days of Lent are a reminder to us of the forty days of fasting that Jesus spent in the desert.

Imagine yourself going through forty days of fasting in a baron place like the desert. Imagine how hungry you would be and how strong your urge would be to satisfy your physical desires. Now take that urge and multiply it by the total number of mankind; past, present and future. This is how strong the urge was for Jesus.

The devil tempted Jesus three times taking full advantage of His physical state. When we reflect on this gospel, we must remember that Jesus was one hundred percent divine but He was also one hundred percent human. It was the humanity of Jesus that the devil tempted. After all, if the devil could get the humanity of Jesus to sin, then he could make a case for himself as being better than God.

In his first temptation, the devil said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” But Jesus replied, “One does not live on bread alone…” and Matthew tells us that Jesus added, “but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

How often, we have heard that line. But we don’t always stop to think about what Jesus really said. Nothing of this world is worth anything to our survival and our life in heaven because this life on earth does not begin to compare to our life in heaven. This life is only temporary and unimportant and as Jesus was tested in the desert, we are tested in this life. But life in heaven is eternal happiness.

There is also an undertone to what Jesus said to the devil. Jesus was calling the devil a liar and testifying to the truth of the Father. Jesus could have just as well said, “Shut up you liar! Only my Father speaks the truth!” That is attitude that you have to love.

Then the devil tempted Jesus a second time by making Him stand on the parapet of the temple in the holy city and told Jesus to throw Himself down because it was written that if He was the Son of God, the angels would come to save Him. But Jesus replied, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

I laugh whenever I read this second temptation. Not only does Jesus cite that testing God is in violation to His law, Jesus also shows more attitude. It’s as though Jesus is saying, “You idiot. Don’t you know who you are talking to?”

So, the devil being the persistent pest that he is, moves on to his third temptation. He took Jesus to a high mountain and showed him the magnificence of all of the world’s kingdoms and offered them to Jesus if He would prostrate Himself and worship the devil. This time, the devil really got told off as Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

Stop and meditate on what was behind what Jesus said. It was not enough for Jesus to simply say, “I will not worship you.” Jesus basically said, “You must be crazy! Just who do you think you are? You are nothing…a complete nobody and not worth my time. Go back to where you came from and don’t bother me.” I could have used more eloquent street language here but this is a spiritual commentary and it is Jesus talking so I will keep my language clean.

Now that is real attitude. It is the kind of attitude that Jesus wants us to have when we are confronted by the devil. It is the kind of attitude that the devil cannot stand. And with this attitude, we can and will always stand up to the devil because the strength given to us by the Spirit will not allow us to fall.

If the devil is bold enough to tempt Jesus, he will not stop tempting us. But in this gospel, we see the war between good and evil played out. We see that good is more powerful than evil. We see that evil does not win against good.

This is the first time in the gospels that we hear Jesus tell the devil to get away and when Jesus tells the devil to get away, the evil does just that. So, when the devil stands before us with his temptations, all we have to do is say from the heart with conviction and the same attitude as Jesus, “In the name of Jesus, get behind me Satan.” And should the devil persist, and he usually does, don't give up. Jesus will bring on the Spirit just like He did in the desert and lay the devil out sending him running with his tail between his legs.

Reading 1          Deuteronomy 26:4-10

Moses spoke to the people, saying: “The priest shall receive the basket from you and shall set it in front of the altar of the LORD, your God.
Then you shall declare before the Lord, your God, ‘My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt with a small household and lived there as an alien.
But there he became a nation great, strong, and numerous.
When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, imposing hard labor upon us, we cried to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and he heard our cry and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression.
He brought us out of Egypt with his strong hand and outstretched arm, with terrifying power, with signs and wonders; and bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey.
Therefore, I have now brought you the firstfruits of the products of the soil which you, O LORD, have given me.’
And having set them before the Lord, your God, you shall bow down in his presence.”

Responsorial Psalm          Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15

R. (cf. 15b) Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shadow of the Almighty, say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.”
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, For to his angels he has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.
You shall tread upon the asp and the viper; you shall trample down the lion and the dragon.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name.
He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him.
R. Be with me, Lord, when I am in trouble.

Reading 2          Romans 10:8-13

Brothers and sisters: What does Scripture say?
The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart
—that is, the word of faith that we preach—,
for, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.
For the Scripture says, No one who believes in him will be put to shame.
For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Gospel          Luke 4:1-13

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.

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraph 767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church."174 Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun."175 As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176

The Holy Spirit came to Mary and the Apostles as tongues of fire.

Saint of the Day

St. Dominic Savio
(4/2/1842 – 3/9/1857)
Patron Saint of: choir boys and juvenile delinquents

Moses told the Israelites the events of their salvation to the land of milk and honey but he also gave a prophecy of our salvation to the Promised Land of the New Jerusalem in Heaven.

Paul tells us that if we confess with our mouth and to believe in our heart we will be saved. That is the extreme makeover.

Verse Before the Gospel Matthew 4:4b

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

The devil will stop at nothing to cause chaos. He even tempted Jesus. But the only thing that the devil got from Jesus was an attitude and that's the only thing that the devil should get from us. But have no fear. Jesus will always come to the rescue. All we have to do is ask.

Saints of the Week

St. John Ogilvie
(1579 – 3/10/1615)

Bl. Angela Salawa
(9/9/1881 – 3/12/1922)

St. Leander of Seville
(c. 534 – 3/13/600 or 601)

St. Maximilian
(274 – 3/12/295)

St. Louise de Marillac
(8/12/1591 – 3/15/1660)

St. Clement Mary Hofbauer
(12/26/1751 – 3/15/1820)

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