First Sunday of Lent (March 10, 2019)

The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent reminds us that when we are tempted with selfish desires we must keep focused on God’s way of love as exemplified in Jesus. Here are a few of St. Francis de Sales’ thoughts on loving God first, then doing what we desire.

Jesus was tempted in order to teach us that we will always have to choose between good and evil during our entire life. While Jesus tells us that the life of a Christian is a continual rejecting of evilness, and a constant choosing of God’s truth and goodness, He also urges us to walk in the way of love as God’s most dear children. When we live to do God’s will nothing can harm us, for we are armed with faith in God. God’s love becomes the source of all of our desires.

Yet even in our desire to do God’s will, our selfish motives can infect our thinking. Many people who counted on their own strength to work marvels for God failed when under fire, while those who found their strength in God’s help accomplished wonders. We may feel that we do not have the strength to resist our selfish desires. We ought not to be afraid of our weaknesses. Since we desire to belong entirely to God, we must rely on the strength of God, who never fails us in the midst of our weaknesses.

While we must have a firm and habitual resolution never to willfully commit any imperfection, we must not be astonished if we do. At such times we must confide ourselves to the goodness of God, who does not love us less. Very gently place your heart back into the hands of Our Lord, asking God to heal your heart. Then set yourself once again on the path of virtue, practicing the virtue that opposes your selfish desire.

As we grow in holiness, knowledge of our faults disturbs us more. When we find ourselves not the saints we hoped to be, we are very discouraged in the pursuit of real virtue. Do not hurry on so fast. Begin to live well your life in light of your duties of state. Perfection consists in doing the little we do in our vocation, in love, by love, and for love. Trust God. When it pleases God to do so, God will make all your desires holy.

(Adapted from J. Power & W. Wright, Francis de Sales, Jane de Chantal; L. Fiorelli, ed. Sermons)