“Learning How to Unmask the Devil and Live a Better Life”
Homily for Rite of Election
March 6, 2022
It was announced recently that the state of California will soon lift the mask mandate for public gatherings. We look around us and see that the masks are beginning to come off, albeit cautiously. I’m sure it comes as a relief to all of us to be able to look each other in the face once again. After all, so much of communication is conveyed by facial expression, and that communication was inhibited by covering the face with a mask.
These facial coverings certainly have their place in a time of pandemic. But the mask is also the invariable to-go technique of the devil. That is, the devil masks over evil to make it look good, in order to attract us to it, for if we saw it for what it really is, we would be repelled. So he tricks us, masking over the raw evil and making it look like something attractive.
We see him operating this way in the story in today’s gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the desert, tempting our Lord to satisfy his physical hunger, and to receive power and glory and fame if he would only worship him. And the devil will settle for nothing less: he will keep tempting us until we fall down and worship him.
These are the sorts of temptations the devil holds out to us, always making them look attractive. And that is why the Church gives us this season of Lent: spiritual practices to sharpen our mind, to clarify our vision to see the tricks of the evil one, and to have the spiritual stamina to resist, and to live a better way.
We heard about those practices last Wednesday, as the Church reminds us every year on Ash Wednesday. This season of Lent is marked most especially by the practices of fasting, extra efforts at prayer, and more focused almsgiving and other acts of charity. These are the tools our Lord gives us to sharpen our spiritual vision and strengthen our spiritual stamina, so that we may see the good and pursue it.
Believing in the Heart
The goal of it all, of course, is our eternal salvation. This is what St. Paul tells us in the second reading in his Letter to the Romans: “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.”
“Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead”: this is the basic Christian confession of faith. We rejoice with our brother and sister catechumens here with us today who will soon make that profession of faith for the first time in just a few weeks at the Easter vigil service. And we will all renew our own profession of that faith with them, along with our brother and sister candidates for ongoing conversion who will be received into the full communion of the Church. It is a profession of faith which, St. Paul reminds us, is not only proclaimed on the lips but which must also be believed in the heart: that is, it is to be lived out in all dimensions of life.
And this profession of faith is made in the midst of the Church, for it is our involvement in the life of the Church that will keep the renewing discipline of Lent alive throughout the year in our lives. That means active involvement in the parish, sharing generously of the time, talent, treasure and all of the other material and spiritual blessings God has entrusted to us, as generous stewards of His manifold grace.
This is why we are together now in this Church. Many of you here have lived as such generous stewards, which has brought your brothers and sisters into the encounter with Jesus Christ, or a deeper encounter with him, so strengthening the bonds of communion we share with each other. Thank you for sharing so generously of your knowledge and experience of the faith, of your time and attention and energy, to be the missionary disciples the Church calls us to be. And thanks to all of you who have responded to this grace. We rejoice that you are with us today and will be soon joined with us at the Lord’s Table this Easter.
Photo by Dennis Callahan, Archdiocese of San Francisco