Men, Where Do You Stand?

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year B.

In the long history of marriage, from Adam and Eve down to the present day, many husbands have been impressed by the fact that their wives can think about more than one thing at once. And in the long history of marriage, many wives have been bewildered by the fact that, at any given time, their husbands can be thinking about absolutely nothing.

This may have been what happened in the Garden of Eden when Satan came to tempt Adam and Eve to disobey God. Adam and Eve both stood by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but Satan tempted Eve, not Adam. Satan was able to get Eve to think about more than one thing at once. He was able to get her to see that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. And while Eve was thinking about three things at once, Adam may have been thinking about nothing at all. He may have been completely zoned out.

Now, God had created Eve from Adam’s rib. And even as a rib guards and protects the heart, so Adam was meant to guard and protect his wife as if she was his own heart. But Adam failed in this task. Instead of standing in between Satan and his wife, instead of engaging in spiritual warfare with Satan, Adam simply stood by her side and allowed her to be tempted.

This is one of the reasons why we speak of the Sin of Adam rather than the Sin of Eve. Although Eve was the one directly tempted by Satan, although she was first to eat of the forbidden fruit, Adam was the first to fail in his responsibility. He was the first to disobey God. A husband’s first responsibility is to guard and protect his family—not just physically or financially, but first and foremost spiritually. A husband is called by God to stand in between Satan and his family, and to repel the temptations and spiritual attacks which threaten his wife and children. A husband is called in a particular way to engage in spiritual warfare with Satan.

And this is what we see Jesus doing in our gospel today. Throughout the Old Testament, nuptial imagery is used to speak of the kind of relationship God wants to have with His people. God wants to have a more intimate relationship with His people than even a husband has with his wife. Israel, God’s chosen people, is called to be the Bride of the Lord. This makes Jesus the Bridegroom, a title which He frequently uses to refer to Himself in the gospels. And like a good bridegroom, like a good husband, Jesus intends to succeed where Adam failed. Jesus intends to stand between Satan and His family. He intends to engage in spiritual warfare with him.

This is why St. Mark includes the detail in our gospel about Jesus being “among wild beasts” in the desert. It’s a detail that’s often overlooked, but it points back to Adam and the Garden of Eden. Adam was among the wild beasts—among the animals—in the Garden of Eden. But the Sin of Adam turned the Garden into a desert: his sin brought death where there once was life. And, so, Jesus goes to the desert, to this place of death, as a kind of new Adam. He goes to be among the wild beasts like Adam was. But He also goes to do what Adam failed to do: to repel the temptations and spiritual attacks of Satan, to guard and protect His family.

Jesus knows what His first responsibility is, and He takes it seriously. Immediately after He is baptized, He goes into the desert to engage in spiritual warfare. He immediately goes to the front lines and stands between Satan and His family. As such, Jesus, though a celibate man, is the model for all husbands and fathers. Jesus is not willing to stand by the side of His spiritual family and allow Satan to get at them. Jesus does not stand by the side; He stands in front. He takes the lead. He bears the brunt of Satan’s temptations and spiritual attacks.

Men of St. Charles; husbands and fathers of St. Charles—where do you stand in your family? Do you stand by the side, or do you stand in front? Do you take the lead in guarding and protecting your family from Satan? Do you take the lead in helping your family grow in holiness? Do you take your family to Mass and Confession, or do you just come along with them? Do you take responsibility for your family’s prayer life? Men, where do you stand: by the side, or in front?

As men, we may not be able to think about more than one thing at once. And it’s ok, on occasion, to think about nothing. I would never begrudge my fellow man that venerable pastime. But, as men, as husbands and fathers, we can’t be zoned out when Satan attacks. We can’t be standing idly by the side. We must be in front. We must be ready to engage in spiritual warfare. And we must keep our minds fixed on one thing: Protecting our families and helping them grow in holiness. If we do so, Jesus will be with us. And so will His army of angels, who will fight alongside us. As men who follow the new Adam, as men who follow Jesus Christ, may we not be afraid to take up spiritual arms this Lenten season. May we not be afraid to fight for our families. Amen.