Bottom line: Keep me from a temptation that would overwhelm me. I know my weakness. Do not send a trial that would break me. Even so, like Bishop Vasile, I trust you.
You probably notice I am wearing green. It doesn't mean I am supporting the presidential campaign of Governor Jay Inslee. No, but like I mentioned in a Flocknote, we are doing things to make our parish environment friendly - and in the process save a little money. So green is good color. Liturgically it represents hope. It is the color for Ordinary Time which runs between now and the end of November.
I love Ordinary Time. It gives a chance to follow consecutive readings from the Gospel - this year the Gospel of Luke. We will be on a kind of road trip. Maybe you notice that the first verse of today's Gospel says that Jesus "resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem." The Greek says "He set his face..." This phrase echoes Isaiah's Servant Song, "I set my face like flint..." In spite of obstacles Jesus is determined to keep moving on the road to Jerusalem.
I'd like to illustrate this determination by looking at a controversy surrounding Pope Francis. The pope has been subject to many controversies - some real, some manufactured by the press. Maybe you saw headlines about Pope Francis "changing the Our Father". They made it sound like the pope woke up one morning and decided he didn't like the way the Our Father sounds and that he could make a better version.
Well, Pope Francis did approve a new translation not for the universal church, but for Italy. The change relates to the 6th petition, "lead us not into temptation". That translation goes back to the Latin, et ne nos inducas in tentationem. Literally, don't induce us into temptation. Now, as Pope Francis points out God doesn't literally lead someone into temptation. The devil does that. St. James says that when tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me". (1:13) The Catechism states that the Greek verb in the sixth petition is "difficult to translate by a single English word: The Greek means both 'do not allow us to enter into temptation' and 'do not let us yield to temptation'". We can see this in the Spanish translation of the 6th petition: "No nos dejes caer en tentacion". Don't let us fall into temptation.
God doesn't literally lead into temptation, but he does allow temptation. Here's the reason: If, by God's grace, I resist a temptation, I take power from it. If instead I give in, it takes power from me. Either way it should lead to humility. If I fall, I ask forgiveness. If I resist, I give God the credit. But I pray that God will protect me from a temptation that would overwhelm me. Tomorrow I have cataract surgery on my second eye and I have to fast from midnight on. If someone put a bowl of oatmeal in front of me I could resist, but a breakfast burrito - I'm a goner. Lead us not into temptation.
There's something more. The word for "temptation" can also refer to trials or tests. I'm asking God to not allow a trial greater than I can bear. Overall I've had it pretty easy. I think of Christians in other places and other times undergoing persecution. Recently I read about the seven martyr bishops that Pope Francis beatified when he visited Romania at the end of May. One of them, Vasile Aftenie, the Communists arrested in 1948. They offered him a comfortable life as a puppet bishop. Vasile responded, "neither my faith nor my country is for sale."
The communists know how to break a man. Putting Bishop Vasile into isolation, they deprived him of food, water and sleep. They kept telling him he was the enemy of the people, a tool of oppressors. They tortured, mutilated and crippled him, breaking him physically and also mentally. Bishop Vasile died on May 10, 1950.
I ask myself if I could endure such a trial. I honestly doubt it. When we say "lead us not into temptation" we are praying to be spared something so horrific.
Still I don't have to look to Communist Romania to see trials I could not endure. I think of some of the people I served in Peru facing terrible poverty. They would envy even the poorest people here. And here people have shared trials that I would find difficult to bear: the death of dear child, the betrayal of a trusted spouse, a crippling accident. Or Maggie Beatte - her painful cancer, just when new vistas were opening for her life.
But you know rather than worry what might happen tomorrow, it's best to pray "give us today our daily bread...lead us not into temptation". Please, don't send a trial beyond my endurance. Yet we also pray, "thy will be done". At the end of July we will hear Jesus teach the Our Father. This will help us appreciate this basic prayer in its context.
As I pointed out at the beginning we are on a journey to Jerusalem. You know what happened there. But let's take this journey one step at a time. Next Sunday is 4th of July weekend and we will have some powerful Scriptures. They bring up the issue of pride. In what sense should we take pride in our country and in what sense not? That's for next Sunday - Independence Day weekend.
For today Jesus tells us to set our hands to plow and not look back. Above all, we want to persevere. A Gospel song says, "I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back". Keep me from a temptation that would overwhelm me. I know my weakness. Do not send a trial that would break me. Even so, like Bishop Vasile, I trust you. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Homily for 13th Sunday Year C 2016 (audio version)
From Archives (Homilies for Thirteenth Sunday, Year C):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources) *New episodes for Ordinary Time leading up to Lent*
Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.
Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Pat Freitag (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron
Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)
Parish Picture Album
MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru