BRIDGPEORT—“The mystery of sin is very much involved with the mystery of the heart,” said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in Mass for the First Sunday in Lent, which was live-streamed from the Catholic Center chapel.
After reading the Gospel of Mark (1:12-15) in which Jesus is tempted by Satan in the desert for 40 days, the bishop reflected on the nature of desire, sin and temptation.
He said that Jesus teaches us that we must walk into the desert “to tame our heart’s desires” and to free ourselves from attachments that ultimately enslave us, hurt others, and “continue to be the stumbling blocks to the freedom that is our destiny as the children of God.”
“It’s not easy to walk in the desert, but it brings freedom and life and gives us strength to overcome temptations in in your life and mine,” he said.
Bishop Caggiano began his homily by noting that the ancient view of wrong, which was discussed in the writings of St. Augustine, held that many people do things that are unethical because they don’t always know what is right and they choose “a mistaken good.”
“In the ancient world, sin was a failure of right thinking, a failure of the mind,” the bishop said, but the actions of a young boy helped Augustine to understand that sin was giving into the desires of the heart.
In his “Confessions,” Augustine relates the story of observing a young boy who was sitting on a wall and staring at a nearby apple tree with ripe and delicious fruit. As St. Augustine watches the boy sway back and forth on the wall, it become clear that the boy is deciding whether or not to take an apple from someone else’s yard. At some point, the boy leaps off, climbs the tree and eats the apple with a giant smile on his face.
The bishop said that Augustine understood then that sin was giving in to the heart’s desires and other temptations.
But “the Lord Jesus teaches us the way out by going to the desert,” where we can extricate ourselves from our passions and desires.
“The desert is a place we can take the desires that haunt us, enslave us, addict us and create a space that we can see them for what they really are,” he said. “When you go into the desert, possessions, privileges and pleasures are not there to be found.”
Jesus triumphed over Satan in the desert because he “did not have a divided heart. In his singular love for the Father he knew the false promises of things that attract my heart and yours,” the bishop said.
The bishop said we can all be tempted by our desire for privilege, power, pleasure or possessions because “we believe it will give us what we want , and make us whole and that we will find our heart’s peace in that.”
We sin when we allow the “desires of our heart” to determine the choice between good and evil, and that often leads us to choose poorly, the bishop said.
The Lenten season is an invitation to practice mortification, prayer and almsgiving to “tame the heart” and ask God’s guidance about what we should or shouldn’t do, he said.
“Mortification is to enter into the desert by denial of our desires, one choice at a time,” while almsgiving is not simply about giving to the poor but also “developing a grateful heart for the small, ordinary, beautiful blessings in our lives,“ he said, noting that we are all restless for things that cause us harm.
The bishop said that at the end of his life St. Augustine wrote a line in his “Confessions” that has been repeated innumerable times in the life of the Church, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in thee, O God.”
As we begin Lent, we are asked to go to the “boot camp of the heart and to train it to desire one thing above all others, to give ourselves totally and completely to the one who forgives us, loves us, set us free and brings us eternal life,” he said.
Before giving the final blessing, the bishop prayed that as we begin the journey of Lent that “it may lead us to true freedom of heart, and freedom from the temptations that afflict us, that we may come to Easter renewed and ready for new life.”
The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 am and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist. You are invited to join Bishop Caggiano for the Sunday Family Rosary every Sunday at 7:30 pm visit: https://formationreimagined.org/sundayfamilyrosary/