To be an Evangelist

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20

Some of you may be familiar with the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.  A monument that is established to honor and remember the fallen and their families, who bear the loss of a loved one in military service to our nation.  There are 47 of these monuments located in 41 states in our country and the newest, which is located in Pocatello, Idaho, was dedicated this past Friday.  An event for which I had the honor and privilege to attend.

It was a solemn ceremony as there were several families present to witness the unveiling of the monument and hear the reading of the names of their loved ones who had paid the ultimate sacrifice for their service.  This dedication ceremony even more so significant considering it occurred on the eve of the Memorial Day weekend.  A weekend on which the country is asked to reflect and recall all of those whose lives were sacrificed for the benefit of their country and our freedom.

Today, on this the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are asked to reflect and recall on a similar theme; that is the mystery of the Holy Trinity, which is the central mystery of the Christian faith, and our responsibility to carry the “Great Commission”, which is the message of salvation and hope, to all.

My sisters and brothers in Christ, let us not deceive ourselves for one moment.  Let us not fall into the terrible deception that our faith is without struggle, is without suffering, and is without sacrifice.  In the fulfillment of our duty to carry the message of salvation to all the world there is risk… a fact that is evident in the names of the Martyrs and Saints of the Church.

Today we read in St. Paul’s letter to the Romans his reminder that all who are called Children of God, and thereby joint heirs with Christ, must also suffer, “so that we may be glorified with him.”  Our salvation, our freedom from sin, our hope for our glorification with Christ did not come without suffering and sacrifice.  With our very presence here this day, in front of this altar, on which Jesus Christ offers up his very body and blood, we attest to the reality that our hope and our salvation is founded on sacrifice.

We also read today in the Gospel of Matthew the “Great Commission” which is Christ’s call to all who are his disciples to participate in the continuation of his work, which is the salvation of the world.  And so, this day the challenge, which is presented to us all, both laity and clergy, is: are we carrying out Christ’s command to “go and make disciples?”  In essence, how are we doing in our role, dare I say obligation, as evangelists?

To be an evangelist is not a responsibility or title many of us feel comfortable assuming.  Typically, the term “evangelist” is reserved for individuals with a specific gift, or charism, or apostolate.  We use that term to describe anyone but ourselves… right?  We say, “Oh, so and so really has the gift of evangelization.”  Or “The Spirit has given that person the ability to tell others about Jesus.”  Or worse, we abdicate responsibility all together and say, “Evangelize… that is what Protestants do.  We are Catholic we don’t tell people about Jesus.”

My friends in Christ, please forgive me for what I am about to say… when Christ issued this command… when he called his disciples together and laid out their mission and responsibility… there were no Protestants.  Christ was speaking, nay dare I say, he is speaking to us.

So, I will ask again… how are we doing as Evangelists?

When is the last time we have talked to somebody about Jesus?  When is the last time we have shared… with anyone… our own relationship with Jesus?  When is the last time we have invited someone to church?  When is the last time we have taken a moment to provide comfort, counsel, or share our concern with someone who was in desperate need of hearing about the hope available to them in the promises of Christ?

The responsibility of sharing with others the love of God, the forgiveness of sins, and the hope of salvation found in Christ cannot be abdicated.  This responsibility cannot be dismissed, or passed over, or ignored by the simple statement, “I am not called to evangelize!”  Christ in his final words did not provide an escape clause, or place conditions or qualifications on his command to “go and make disciples.”  Rather, his expectation, and our responsibility is clear, concise, and without exemptions… we are all called to share the Good News, the Gospel, with each and every person we know.

So how do we do that?

We do that first by living the Gospel.  We demonstrate to those around us that we are people of faith.  We do not succumb to fear.  We value human life above all things… and I mean all human life, just not life in the womb.  We show kindness and compassion to those who are both physically and spiritually hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned, sick, and estranged.

We evangelize when we are generous with our time and talents.  When we share what we have even when what we have is not in abundance.  It is easier to give money when we have it and it is just easy to give our time when we have it, but how are we in giving when we are running short of both?

We evangelize when we prioritize being in right relationship over being right.  Jesus came to this earth, fully God and fully Man, so that all might be saved. The forgiveness of sins, offered through his sacrifice, is free to all, without condition or qualification.  As evangelists that must be our message.

My friends, just about everyday I meet people who are in desperate need of knowing that Jesus Christ desperately wants to have a personal relationship with them.  When I engage them in conversation, and they share the obstacles and barriers to having that relationship, they very rarely blame the Church.  In fact, from my experience, most people do not have a problem with the church, per say, rather, their problem is with us… the people who call themselves the church.

As evangelists we must never place conditions on God’s forgiveness of sins.  Jesus Christ died on the cross, and was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven so that all of humankind may be forgiven for all of their sin.  As evangelists we must first be a people of love.

I ask now that we all, each and everyone of us, take a moment and reflect on that one person.  That one person whom God has placed on our heart.  That one person who desperately needs you to be the embodiment of Christ in their lives.  Who needs your generosity and to hear from you that God loves them and will forgive them.  Take a moment and recall that person’s name, visualize their face, consider their need… and ask God to give you opportunity this week to evangelize them.

The Ascension of our Lord

Gospel of Mark 16: 15-20

Earlier this week Kristina and I were taking stock of the condition of our home.  As most of you know we are currently empty nesters… well, except for our youngest son who, thanks to the pandemic, is currently residing in our basement as he prepares to go back to college in the fall.  Anyway,  as empty nesters we are beginning to turn our attention to the overall condition of our home.  Taking measure of all the things that need to be updated, replaced, or repaired.  Having lived in our home for the past 20 some odd years, our home, for lack of a better description, is well used and the list of projects is quite long.

The garage roof needs replacing, the driveway needs patched, cracked and outdated windows need to be replaced and updated, scuffed floors need to be refinished, and the worn carpet needs, well just to be torn out.  And, of course, I cannot fail to mention the most glaring, the most argued over, and subsequently the most ignored repair item in our 25 years of marriage, trim.

Yes.  You heard me correctly.  Trim.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I stand here this morning and confess that the one repair project in our home, and, I might add, the simplest to complete, that has remained on the “need to fix” list the longest, is trim.  All the trim, whether it be baseboard, window, or door is either missing or in need of replacing and for some reason, though my wife could for sure give you a few, it all has gone untouched.

Now, some of you might be wondering why I should be talking about my many unfinished home projects on today, this seventh Sunday of Easter as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord.

The Tradition of Church, celebrating the Ascension of our Lord 40 days after Easter is indeed an incredibly old one.  There is some evidence that the celebration of this day was established as early as the 2nd Century.  St. Augustine described this celebration as an “Apostolic Tradition.”  However, most church scholars confer that the tradition of celebration the Ascension of our Lord 40 days after Easter was an accepted practice in the 4th century.

Why the importance and significance of this celebration?

The Church answers this question by stating, “Christ’s ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again.”  In other words, without the Ascension the work of salvation is incomplete.  Jesus Christ Ascended into heaven in order to complete the work of salvation and provide evidence of the promise that we, whom God calls his children, can live in hope that we too will be with him forever.  The Ascension of our Lord is the completion of his salvific work.

However, the work of salvation of the world is not done.  We read very clearly today Christ’s instructions, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”  The work of salvation was completed in Christ’s Ascension, but our work, as followers of Christ, is not.

Earlier this week, as I pondered the list of incomplete projects around my home, I stumbled across the thought, “what other projects in my life are incomplete?”  What other things, and even more so important, what relationships in my life are in a state of disrepair?”  Are there relationships that have worn thin by disagreement?  Have I been ignoring people, putting them on the “get to when I get to it” list?  Are their relationships in my life that need updating, attention, and care?

Now, for the real risky part of my homily… What about you?  Are there relationships in your life that have been damaged, wounded, or neglected?  What names are on your “I will get to it when I get to it” list?  Can you recall the faces of individuals whom you have pushed aside or brushed away due to differing opinions, or political positions, or disagreements?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord.  The completion of the work of salvation and the joy of the promise that we too shall one day be with Christ in heaven.  However, let us not doubt, not even for one second, that our work here on this earth is complete.

There is a beautiful invitation to prayer in our Catholic liturgy that is traditionally said at the vigil of one who is deceased.  It reads, “My brothers and sisters, we believe that all the ties of friendship and affection which knit us as one throughout our lives do not unravel with death.”  The intent of this invitation is to remind us that our responsibility and our compassion for our sisters and brothers in Christ, and in fact all of those whom we call friends, continues beyond the grave.

Today our challenge is to take stock of our relationships… not just the things… in our life and, through the power of the Holy Spirit and in the example of Christ Jesus, begin to mend, attend, and repair those relationships to fully engage in the work to which Christ has commanded, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel.”  For the Gospel is not about rules, and rites, and tradition.  The Gospel is about relationship.  God’s desire to be in a relationship with us… his creation.

In order to be in right relationship with God, and in order to fulfill Christ’s command to share the Gospel, we must strive to be in right relationship with one another.

My prayer today… for myself and for each and everyone of you is… to tend to your home… your spiritual home and make right the relationships that are broken.

Jesus’s Motivational Speech

3rd Sunday of Easter

Gospel of Luke 24:35-48

This past week tragedy came to my family and the loss we are experiencing is significant and substantial.  However, my family is not unique in this experience of loss, for many more of us have had to endure the grief and pain of losing loved ones, most especially this past year.  The death of my father in-law, though sad and unexpected, was predicted, for death is a reality in this world.  Death takes those whom we love and very rarely are we, who are left behind, ever truly prepared to live in a reality existing in their absence.  Though death may be a reality… death is very rarely a real part of our daily consciousness.

I apologize for beginning today’s homily with such a stark and somber topic… however, in light of the recent loss experienced in my family, I feel I am able to approach today’s Gospel with a different perspective and I hope that you might be able to find some truth and inspiration as a result.

Today we read St. Luke’s account of Jesus’s appearance to the disciples in the locked room.  We read how he suddenly appeared in their midst, granted them peace, and how they responded in terror and fear, in wonderment and amazement, and in doubt and dismay.  We read how Jesus proved himself through touch, demonstrating that he is not only flesh and bone, but that he also shares a common humanity.

So, this morning I ask you, for just a moment, to reflect on the loss of a loved one that you have experienced.  Bring to mind the image of a loved one who is no longer with you.  Consider their influence and significance and recall the reality of their absence.  If you can do that this morning, you are able to identify, dare I say, empathize with those disciples present in that upper room behind that locked door.  For they too, were, at that moment, attempting to deal with loss.  They too were recalling the life they lived with Jesus and attempting to learn how to live their lives without him.  Just as we have no illusions that our deceased loved ones will mysteriously appear in our midst, so too did they have no framework for thought that Jesus would suddenly appear in their midst.  Yet, he did!  And, just as he did to them… so too does he present himself to us today!

I have a not so well-known fact about myself that I would like to share with you today.  I love motivational speeches, especially ones from movies.  Movie monologues such as those that are found in Braveheart, or Dances with Wolves, or just about any decent sports movie ever made will eat up hours of my time as I re-watch them as I travel down a YouTube worm hole.

In today’s Gospel, I propose that Jesus’s final words are in fact just that… a motivational speech.  It starts with, “These are my words!”

If this were a Hollywood movie this scene would start with the appearance of Jesus in a dimly lit room.  Initially, he would be shrouded in shadows, the figure of a man for sure, but lacking details and specific features.  As he begins to speak the shadows disappear and Copeland’s Fanfare for the Common Man begins to subtly play in the background.  (If you are not familiar with that piece of music, I encourage you to Google it when you get home.)

Jesus speaks to his disciples with clear and direct language.  He tells them that that he is fulfillment of the very Word of God, and that because of his suffering and death all of humankind can be forgiven.  And then, as the music crescendo’s, Jesus pauses to look directly into the eyes of each and every one of his disciples and states, “You are witnesses of these things!”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, those exact words are also directed to us.  We are the witnesses of the reality that Jesus Christ, fully man and fully God, walked on this earth as the fulfillment of the Word of God and, that he died, and that he is resurrected, and our sins are forgiven.

Our witness to Christ this week begins here in front of this altar.  When we come together in communion and profess our belief that Jesus Christ is indeed risen, we will do so with our amen.  We, as one Church, in community, and in faith believe that the risen body of our Lord and Savior is present in this, our Eucharistic Feast.  And when we say our amen… we must also commit to living our amen.

We fulfill Christ’s command to be witness in how we treat one another.  We fulfill Christ’s command to be a witness when we live out our faith in our homes, in our neighborhoods, in our works spaces, and with all those whom we encounter.  We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, provide refuge to the stranger, and visit those in prison, and provide comfort to the sick and dying.  We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when we treat others with dignity, respect, kindness, and mercy.  We fulfill Christ’s command to be witnesses when strive to become like Christ here on this earth.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let today, this 3rd Sunday of Easter, be our day to be encouraged, to be inspired, and to commit ourselves to strive fully and completely and be “witnesses to these things.”

Life Lessons From Lynn

By Kristina Batalden

What I want to first do today is swear.  I would love to scream Dammit! Son of a Biscuit! Mala Fala, Dad, why did this happen now?  It is much too soon and I had plans for you and I.

But now we all have to move forward- past this moment, past the graveside, past the reception. Because our dad is in a much better place.  One where there is sunshine and warmth, one with old friends and new, one without pain and an abundance of fresh air.  I imaging my father in a place that is like standing in the middle of pine trees and a light breeze wriggles the branches and touches your face- the sunshine squints through the stands and all there is, is peace.

You know, there is just no way today to make sure that I encapsulate our dad and grandpa’s life without leaving something or someone out.  But he would say- “just do your best”.

Today, I want to share with you, some Life Lessons from Lynn

When I was younger, I would often hear my father say to himself in front of the mirror as he combed his hair or shaved: Lynn you handsome devil you, I hope you never die.  It was like sweet music- combined with a little whistling and a twinkle in those sky-blue eyes of his- I can almost hear it now… in fact, I have tried to say it to myself in the mirror- it just doesn’t sound right.  The lesson: don’t give up on yourself, every dang day YOU are a handsome devil, as long as you believe it.

Once upon a time my dad was a young adult trying to make some money raising lambs.  He had all these lambs he was taking care of to sell and make quick cash, but my dad also had a dog.  And this dog like to chew on soft little lambs’ ears.  Apparently, my dad learned, and I have learned as a result, when little lambs ears are chewed on, they don’t live long and my dad lost every single lamb except one. My dad was devastated- all that work and money down the tube so he gave that last lamb away to a friend, who picked it up in his convertible and my dad’s last vision was that lamb sitting in the back seat with his ears a flapping.  The lesson- admit failure when you have failed.  The only way you will get better at anything is admitting when you make mistakes.

When my dad had his shop west of town and owned his drilling businesses, he always had a group of young men working for him.  He took them under his wing, taught them skills, mentored them, helped them.  Once, an employee needed a vehicle to get to work and my mom and dad had an old Jeep, sitting at the shop.  My dad gave that man the Jeep and told him to pay him back, X amount… the man took off with the Jeep and was never seen again.  Years later, that story stuck with me as I was struggling with charity and the charity of others…I asked him, Dad, didn’t it make you mad that he ran off and never paid you back?  Doesn’t it just ‘get’ you when people do that to you?  He said, babes, (he always said ‘babes’ or Baybay) you have to keep giving and not let it harden your heart.  The lesson- always give to those who don’t have. 

My dad loved to tell me how his teachers were so eager for him to leave high school, they put him in a room to take the test, gave him the answers and said, hurry up and pass.  With that kind of experience in high school, one would think he would be an education hater.  But he wasn’t.  My dad was very educated but in a way that no one would think- in fact, he taught me how to read by using the comics- some of my greatest memories.  My dad believed in improvements.  He believed that you should always be a life-long learner.    He expected my sister and me to get good grades, graduate and get a degree.  Although the traditional set up of school was not what worked for him, he believed everyone should learn and keep learning.

The lesson: improve yourself.  Improve your life.  Don’t sit stagnant not making improvements or you will never make a move.

My dad had this dog Jack, a springer spaniel and my dad’s best friend.  Jack would loyally sit in my dad’s truck for hours when my dad was frequenting his favorite watering holes.  One day at my dad’s shop while the men were moving pipe- a pipe fell right on Jack’s head and popped his eye out.  Jack ran around the shop with my dad chasing him and when my dad caught him, he poked the eye back in.  Things didn’t look too good for Jack, but my dad had faith.  This was a Saturday afternoon and the vet would not be available until Monday so my dad put him on the deck, gave him food and water and shut the door (and curtains).  Two days later, Jack jumped up ready to go to work with my dad with a googly eye and a dent in his head.

Lesson:  don’t give up on anyone. 

In our vehicle, on our family trips -which by the way were only to Yellowstone to the West or Rapid City to the East and anything in between we only listened to a cassette my dad bought on a TV commercial.  It included trucker songs, the song “Green Door”, some Johnny Horton songs, to which I know all the words.  But one summer I said, “Hey dad, can I listen to this tape?” and I hand him my Madonna tape.  The song “Like a Virgin” starts playing and when my dad hears the lyrics, he pops the cassette out of the player, rolls his window down and throws my cassette out the window. The lesson: don’t share your music with your parents.

15-2, 15-4, 15-6, 15-8, and I’ll take a point for your mistake.  If you have ever played cribbage with my dad, then you have lost points for your inattentiveness, your lack of math skills, or in my case, I always forget about the point for turning up the Jack.  Imagine when you are young and trying to learn a new game, it is super frustrating- just ask my four children that all experienced learning Lynn’s game!  I will say one great thing about my dad is he never ever let me win- even when I was a young whipper-snapper- no one is entitled to win, we must all work for it.  The lesson:  There’s no room for whiners – especially in Lynn’s cribbage.

There is no whining in moving pipe, either, as my oldest will attest to.  He took a summer to live with grandpa and work on the ranch moving irrigation pipe.  My oldest didn’t really enjoy it but he learned the hard work ethic my father had.  The very next year, my next son came out for the summer, but dad had finally decided to ‘retire’ – probably his first try at that word.  That summer was an absolute joy.  My son learned how to be a retired person.  My dad taught him about naps in the daytime, coffee with friends in the morning and shopping for four-wheelers like retired people do.  My son didn’t want to come home.  My father enjoyed his retirement buddy and the two of them were not ready to part.  But all good things must come to an end. The lesson:  enjoy your time off- find your time off- relax, have fun and play.  There must always be a balance between work and rest.

My dad worked very hard and was so excited when he purchased The Glen Haven ranch with his brother.  I remember the phone call while I was at college- he was giddy.  There is something magical about the fruits of one’s hard labor, right?  He had found his serenity.  I want you to know that my father’s wishes, when he owned the ranch, were to be buried on the top of this one hill with accoutrements of his life- whatever those were at the time, a gun, a cribbage board, an elk mount, a drill bit— many things.  His hope was that a thousand years from now a future archaeologist would find him and pronounce- oh my gosh, this must be a great king!  The lesson:  dream big, my friends.

This last story is probably more myth than reality, but the only one in the room that might know the truth is my Uncle John- so you’ll have to ask him.  My dad and his older brother Preston were out late at night and wrecked their car- see, they had to share a car and we all can admit it is no fun to share a car with a sibling, but that’s another therapy session. So, they left the wreckage, lit it on fire and hid over a nearby hill and watched it blow up.  Needless to say, they didn’t get another car when their dad found out.  The lesson: Don’t let your parents find out when you do stupid things.

I could go on and on…there are so many stories.  But they all end in a lesson for life.  Lessons we all should consider if we want the memory of my father to be everlasting.

This week has been devastating for many of us.  But my dad has been training me for this day.  Look, this is hard and I don’t know if crying is what I should do or just keep on trucking. So, I am going to take a lesson from my dad.  He couldn’t handle my sister crying, so I am NOT going to cry.  I am going to think about my dad every day and the amazing gifts of the spirit he has given my sister and myself and our children.  Last night, as I felt my lowest, my children finally arrived in town.  While I listened to them tell their funny stories of their grandfather and laugh and as we discussed how to go forward to make grandpa proud, I realized, he would have been his proudest watching our crazy in a hotel lobby.  I can see those twinkling blue eyes.

As Christians, we believe that all our ties of friendship, affection, good times and bad times, knit us as one wonderful sweater and that sweater does not unravel at death. We are in communion with my dad.  We, as Christians, are all part of one body that moves, grows, loves, lives, and dies together.  When one is gone, we feel the absence, but know the certain rewards.  My dad didn’t ask for anything from anyone.  But right now, he might ask for your prayers and I would ask you to take a moment today, or tomorrow…when you see that blue Wyoming sky, think of my dad’s beautiful eyes, do good for others and enjoy this life we have been gifted.

Lacking Drama & Pageantry

1st Sunday of Lent, Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Mark’s account of Jesus’s desert journey is in stark contrast to Matthew’s and Luke’s account.  In typical Markan fashion he refrains from including the details which he considered non-essential.  Readers of his Gospel are not privileged to Jesus’s dialogue with Satan or the specific nature of the temptations.  Instead, Mark only states that Jesus was “drove” out into the desert, he was “tempted” by Satan, and surrounded by “wild beasts”.  This account lacks the drama and pageantry of his Synoptic Gospel counterparts.

Yet, strangely, Mark’s concise account of Jesus’ 40-day desert trial has a certain attraction.  The idea of going off into a deserted and desolate place, with the opportunity to overcome personal weakness, and draw closer to God is, too me, quite appealing.  I do know that I am not alone in thinking this way, because throughout the history of the Church men and women have left off the trappings, possessions, and distractions of “normal” daily life seeking a deeper more dependent relationship with God.  It started with St. Paul of Thebes, followed by St. Anthony of Egypt, who was then followed by thousands of men and women seeking God in the deserted places.

However, I must confess that the idea of leaving the complications attached with possessions is, for me, an extremely attractive idea.  In fact, I once asked a monk if there was any precedence or protocol that would allow for a Deacon to join their order.  He just looked at me and walked away mumbling something about “being disordered” and the “dismal state” of the Church.

Now, that was not the worst of it, because, for some reason, I chose to ask my monk friend this question in the presence of my wife.  It did not take too long after those ridiculous words left my mouth before I felt the cold icy stare of my wife’s enchanting blue eyes piercing the back of my skull.  Oh, she waited… and once we were together in our “isolated place”, absent witnesses, she had a few things to say about how I might find living in a monastery with a bunch of old men more appealing then living with her.

In today’s Gospel we find clear instructions to those who seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Jesus ventured into the deserted places out of obedience and necessity, and in so doing clearly established the model.  Without the encumbrance of detail, Mark clearly communicates that those who seek Jesus must too also venture out into the desert.

Using today’s Gospel as a guide I am proposing 3 reasons why, as followers of Christ, we too must venture out into the deserted places.

The 1st reason is obedience.  Mark clearly states that Jesus was “drove out by the Spirit.”  The literal Greek wording for this phrase is translated, “impelled to step out”.  The Spirit of God “impelled” Jesus to step out… away from… the normal routine of life and go into a place where necessity was the priority.

Recognizing that we are all called to live in the state and in the place at which we exist we must not allow to be an excuse to abandon our responsibilities.  Rather it is an opportunity to identify specific things, habits, practices, and behaviors that are unnecessary, and then set them aside.  Out of obedience we are obligated, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to honestly examine ourselves.  To identify that which encumbers us, and then, in faith, step away from them.

The second reason we are called out into the desert is for ministry.  But, not in the way in which you might think.  Rather, we are called to enter the desert so that God can minister to us.  Mark’s Gospel is clear when it states, “and the angels ministered to him.”

Let not my words be confusing.  The desert is difficult.  When one ventures out into the deserted places one will encounter temptation.  One will encounter hardship.  One will encounter struggle, difficulties, and discouragement for, after all, it is a desert.  However, by God’s mysterious design, and in his infinite mercy, when we enter the desert we are allowing God to minister to us in a way which was not been previously available.

In the original Greek, which is translated in English, “the angels ministered”, portrays the image of a servant serving at a table.

I recall a time when Kristina and I spent one Valentine’s evening in Chicago, Illinois.  We were in Chicago visiting a friend who happened to be a Sommelier at this ultra-fine eating establishment.  He had made arrangements for us to enjoy our Valentine’s dinner at his restaurant as his guests.  First, I will tell you the food was magnificent and second, the service was amazing.  Our glasses never went empty.  We did not even have to pour our own wine.  The magnificently prepared and presented plates of food were brought and then removed as if by magic, and not once did we have to ask for anything.  Although the restaurant was entirely full of paying patrons we felt as if our table was the only one that mattered.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience… and that is the image that comes to mind when I read the phrase, “the angels ministered to him.”

The third reason why we must go out to the desert is found in the 14th verse of Mark’s gospel; “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.”

When we go out into the desert we do so for a period of time.  A time of refinement.  A time of preparation.  A time with purpose.  God does not call us out to the deserted places on a whim.  He calls us out to the deserted places because he wants us to return to a purpose.

Following John the Baptists arrest, Jesus returned from the desert and began to preach and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Jesus’s time in the desert; the trial, the temptation, the ministry of the angels, prepared him to engage in the mission for which he was called.

Today, this 1st Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of our desert journey.  When we respond in obedience to God’s calling, we do so in the knowledge that we too shall encounter trial and temptation.  We too, do so in the knowledge that God will not abandon us.  He will not turn his back from us.  And when, at the completion of our 40 days Lenten journey, we return from the desert we will be prepared to engage in the mission for which we are called.

Our challenge this day, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is to approach this Lenten desert journey in the full knowledge that upon its conclusion God will have prepared us for his service.  There is a unique and vital ministry awaiting each one of us this coming Easter morning, and I for one eagerly await the great work for his Kingdom to which we all will be called.