Sermons from St
Paula O'Shaughnessy, Sunday,
March 5th, 2017
A number of years ago I had a manager who was inspirational. I will call him Ian. He was not a religious person at all, but he was definitely a crusader and seemed willing to go Where - as the saying goes ‘angels fear to tread’. He had a fearsome reputation; one colleague described approaching his desk as going to see the Lion in his den. At first I used to tiptoe towards him if I needed to speak to him.However when I got to know him better I saw that he was A defender of justice and he would overcome his fears to take on anyone who represented injustice regardless of who they were, how senior they were or the potential harm he may bring upon himself in the process. And I know that he did fly too close to the sun at times. He protected me a Number of times over the years as he did his other staff. Some of those occasions when he helped me I knew of but I also suspect there were times when he protected to me that I did not know about. I will always be grateful for the help he gave to me. I also know that he was not without fear himself - though he may have appeared so to the casual observer.. He was just a courageous, good person. The lion in his den protected his whole family from harm.
In reading today's gospel of Jesus in the wilderness being tempted by the devil I thought of my friend. He could so easily have taken the easy option in work. He could have distanced himself from the needs of others and looked after number one. He probably had many sleepless nights because of a backlash he received from his superiors for speaking truth to power.
Jesus in the wilderness is subject to all of the Temptations the devil can lay before him. He preys upon Jesus human weakness and frailty in the extreme circumstances in which his placed. Jesus has the power to end his own suffering and to make his life comfortable. But Jesus chooses the difficult path instead. He does this of course because he is on earth to save mankind from its sins and from evil. If he gives in to temptation and looks after himself alone then he would fail in his mission. Jesus provides hope to the world and a protection against evil.
For us at the beginning of lent we are asked to pray to make a new commitment to God and for the courage and strength to do this wholeheartedly. The gospel story underlines how difficult the task is for Jesus; if we are to to give a wholehearted commitment to God the task is enormous, it may take our whole strength, It may even break us.
A few Sundays ago The Gospel reading was the sermon on the Mount those verses concerning the lilies of the field and how they neither spin nor toil. Jesus's message to his disciples was that they should not worry.
In order to have the strength to make that commitment to God we need to have such faith. We need to free ourselves from worry and from earthly needs. Worry undermines our resolve and our courage.
How can we free ourselves from worry? The first thing we must do is pray and this is also the constant and the last thing we must do. It is the weave throughout the fabric of our lives which is essential to our faith .
On a more practical level I was inspired only a few days ago by a good friend of mine (I will call him Peter) on this very subject - of how to free ourselves from worry. He is not dissimilar to Ian in character. He too is a crusader type. You might say he is cut from the same cloth and incidentally we both used to work for Ian. My friend's advice was this 'if you are worried about something - act like you're not worried at all! And if you are feeling very worried, then even more reason to act like you're not! ' And you can take it from me but this guy makes a jolly good effort at doing this himself.
So much of the world and how people behave in it is driven by worry and fear. It is why things that are immoral and wrong and evil persist without challenge. The lines between good and evil can become blurred. We can become confused about what is the right thing to do in life. We need to turn away from fear and to have faith in God. We need to show no fear especially when we do feel afraid. This could be our Lenten discipline.
It is not just for our own lives and our own souls but for the lives and souls of everyone. When I worked for Ian I had little fear in the working environment because I knew I was safe from harm at all times. If we can offer protection to others then good will overcome evil in the world. If we can have faith in God then we can overcome our Fear and be liberated in the world. Let us pray for greater faith in God and courage to live that life of faith.