Project Description

Lent 1A Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 / Romans 5:12-19 / Matthew 4:1-11

Just recently, a great Catholic scientist died.

Fr. George Coyne—
a Jesuit astronomer died on
February 11 in Syracuse, New York.

Fr. Coyne was the Vatican astronomer
from 1978 to 2006.

Here’s a great quote from him:
“Because God is reflected in the world
in which He made,
in some sense,
my scientific investigation has always
supported my belief in God in a very real sense.
It helps me to pray better.”

Isn’t that great.

Because God is reflected in the world—
studying science helps him to pray.

Because of his recent death,
NPR recently replayed an interview with
Fr. Coyne and Br. Guy Consolmagno—
the current Vatican astronomer.

And in this interview,
Fr. Coyne told a wonderful story.

He told about presenting a paper at
a scientific meeting about some of
the uncertainties of science.

You know we tend to think that
science is so sure about things—
but there are many, many uncertainties in science—

Just think of quantum mechanics—
or dark matter—
and dark energy.

Well, Fr. Coyne was presenting on the
uncertainties that exist in the
different methods used to determine
how old the universe is.

He had his Roman collar on
and during the discussion period,
a gentleman stood up and said:

“Father, it must be wonderful that
with all the uncertainties we have in
our scientific pursuits
that you have this faith,
this rock of faith to stand upon.”

And at this,
Fr. Coyne took his Roman collar off and said,
“Who told you that my faith
was a kind of a rock?”

“Every morning,” he said,
“I wake up,
I have my doubts.
I have my uncertainties.
I have to struggle to help my faith grow.”

“I have to struggle to make my faith grow.”

Fr. Coyne went to explain that because
faith is primarily about a relationship—
a relationship with God—

that because faith is primarily about love—
a love relationship with God.

That in any loving relationship—
love in marriage—
love with friends—
love with brothers and sisters. . . .

the relationship takes effort. . . .

and they’ll be challenges. . . .

risks will have to be taken.

“I have to struggle to make my faith grow.”

Faith is not magic—
it’s not a one and done type of deal.

Brother Guy piped in and said.
“Remember that the opposite of faith is not doubt—
The opposite of faith is certitude.”

“Every morning I wake up,
I have my doubts.
I have my uncertainties.
I have to struggle to help my faith grow.”

Reading scripture—
Studying the spiritual insights of St. Ignatius of Loyola—
and studying science.

All loving relationships have struggles—
and require effort.

What these two scientists were saying
resonated with me—

And since Lent was right around the corner
when I heard this interview—
I started thinking what this Lent
was going to look like for me. . . .

And with the truth of Fr. Coyne’s words
“I have to struggle to make my faith grow.”

I knew Lent was a time for me to concentrate
my efforts on my relationship with God.

Isn’t that what the main purpose of prayer is?

Declaring that our relationship with God is important—
So I’ll spend more time with God.

And Almsgiving?

Declaring that our relationship with God is important—
And realizing that everything I have is
some how a gift from God anyway—

So I’ll use my money in a
way that aligns with God’s mission.

Not my mission—
But God’s mission

And our Lenten penance service?

Declaring that our relationship with God is important—
So I’ll tell God I’m sorry for
not holding up my end
of the deal.

And isn’t that what’s fasting is for?

That’s what I want to spend
the next little bit talking about. . . .

Now you’re looking at a man who has not
had the best relationship with food
for the last several decades.

It’s complicated—
but I’m trying to change that.

Not primarily for health reasons—
but for spiritual reasons.

Fasting is essential for our relationship with God.

And that comes not from me—
But from Jesus.

In today’s Gospel—
The Holy Spirit sends Jesus into the desert. . . .
to fast.

You see, it’s primarily about Jesus’
relationship with His Father—
that’s how He can resist the Devil’s temptations.

And we just heard in last week’s Gospel—
in the Sermon on the Mountain—
Jesus gave His followers instructions about fasting.

And in giving these instructions
Jesus says, “When you fast.”

It’s not an option.

Jesus says that certain kinds of demons cannot
be cast out without both prayer and fasting.

Fasting is an essential element of
being in a healthy relationship with God.

First of all, when we do fast,
and we experience hunger. . . .

we come to the realization
that we are depended creatures.

We are not self-sufficient.

We can’t live without food.

And in this hunger—
we realize that we are even
more dependent on God.

We rely on God for our very existence.

We certainly do not live by bread alone.

Everything comes from God—
And everything will be returned to God.

Fasting reminds of this basic fact—
and helps us orient our lives
to the very source of life itself—
to the One who sustains us—
and to the One who will save us.

In fasting,
we become humble before the God
in whom we live and move and have our being.

humble before the omnipotent God who
generously guides and sustains us very dependent beings.

You see,
fasting is a way to declare
the primacy of God in our lives.

Since we are both body and spirit—
declaring the primacy of God in our lives
must include our corporality.

And one of the central elements our
being embodied beings is our bodily
dependence on food.

And when we fast,
we overcome our cravings for
food for a period of time by saying
God is first—
God is first.

We do not live by bread alone.

Another reason that fasting is an
essential element to our relationship
with God is that it puts us in solidarity
with those who are starving in the world—

it puts us in solidarity with those
God is most concerned about.

That’s why fasting and charity always—
always go together.

What we save on fasting—
We use to feed the poor.

We concern ourselves with
those God is so concerned about.

You know,
our fasting laws in the Western church
are so minimal—
Consider going deeper with your
fasting practices during Lent.

One Coptic Bishop visiting the
Vatican commented:
“What happened to fasting in the Western Church. . .
without fasting there is no Church.”

For the past several months—
on Wednesday’s—
I’ve been doing a bread and water fast.

It makes a difference—
it makes a difference.

One last thing on fasting—
And this comes from St. Basil the Great:

When we fast,
don’t just fast from food—
fast from maligning others with
our sharp tongue and cruel words—

Fast from doing evil to one another.

You know,
the former Vatican Astronomer
Fr. George Coyne was right.

He said we have to struggle to
make our faith grow.

So welcome to Lent. . . .

Where prayer—
And almsgiving—
And confession—
And fasting—
Help us in our struggle of faith—

Helps us to present ourselves humbly to
the omnipotent God who
generously guides and sustains us.

Holy Spirit 03/01/2020