Sunday, March 9, 2014

Moral Counterfeiting

During Lent this year I'm using a helpful little work, Daily Reflections for Lent: Not By Bread Alone (Liturgical Press, 2013), by Bishop Robert F. Morneau. The thread he draws through the liturgical readings for today (Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11) is how temptation is experienced by Adam and Eve, by St. Paul, and by Jesus. In Genesis the Adversary, symbolized by the serpent, initiates the temptation for Adam and Eve to be disloyal, disobedient to God's stated wishes. Paul talks about the spread and pervasiveness of temptation to radical disloyalty to God through succeeding generations, resulting from the pattern set by the first couple. Matthew recounts what immediately follows upon Jesus' being declared God's "Beloved", the truly loyal One in whom God is "well pleased", and to whom (cf. last Sunday's Gospel), God directs Jesus' followers to "listen", i.e., to really listen = to obey.

Bishop Morneau cites a passage from Karl Rahner's book, The Need and the Blessing of Prayer: originally sermons which Rahner preached during Lent in 1946 at St. Michal's Church in Munich, Germany. (A 1997 edition is available from Liturgical Press.) In commenting on the human struggle, Rahner refers to "his [man's] hunger for good fortune, his sadness and the melancholy of life that lusts for an anesthetic, his trust in the concrete, his mistrust of the future hereafter, his amazing and uncanny facility for moral counterfeiting which can make good evil and evil good."

How do you and I experience temptation? Perhaps Lent is an opportunity for each of us to assess our "facility for moral counterfeiting". On Ash Wednesday, the Litany of Penitence (BCP, pp. 267-268) reminded us of some of ways by which we do this: pride, hypocrisy, impatience, self-indulgence, exploitation of others, anger, envy, intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, dishonesty, negligence in prayer and worship, failure to witness to our faith, blindness to human need and suffering, indifference, injustice, cruelty, false judgment, lack of charity, contempt for others' differences, waste and pollution, selfishness. And that's just a sampling! Pondering it could keep us busy far into the future!

And so, we cry out to God: "…Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations;…as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save, through Jesus Christ your Son…"    

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