On the third Sunday of Great Lent, Fr. Matthew Howell talks about dopamine and its effect on the brain and human behavior, especially as it relates to addictive behaviors. He then explains how neuroscientists are discovering that indulging in pain can lead to prolonged feelings of happiness. He ties this back to how our Christian life is one that must be crucified to the passions and how we must engage in the struggle against sin and death by the power of the Cross. This spiritual struggle, he says, releases grace to us which is much stronger than dopamine. Along the way, he refers to St. Constantine’s vision of the cross and the Nike slogan, creates a pretend scenario with a bank robber, and uses someone’s recent experience with daily exercise to illustrate a point about the results of spiritual discipline and temporary pain.
Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:1-6
BRETHREN, since we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was. So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee’; as he says also in another place, ‘Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.’
Mark 8:34-38; 9:1
The Lord said: “If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? For whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.