BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong

1. Victory. From time to time, people ask us this question: “What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?” Radio and TV hosts, social media platforms, interviewers, etc., ask it. Well, the best compliment I have ever received from a human being, came from a young woman at the end of a long and difficult series of temptations in which she wanted us to become romantic partners and more. Thanks to the grace of God, victory over the temptations came. I had a lot of sympathy for her because she was following her feelings and unrequited love can be very frustrating. In the course of helping her to deal with the frustrations, she said what I consider the best compliment I have ever received from a human being, and also what turned out to be her “greatest consolation”. She said: “My greatest consolation is that I am fighting with God over you; and not with any woman or any human being. If I were fighting with anyone over you, someone would be dead by now. I know that you will always choose God over me, but I am consoled”. Wow! It was victory for God and a consolation prize for her.


And I said to her: “I pray that we both make it to Heaven and there we will both be in love with God forever.” Sisters and Brothers, today’s 1st reading (Gn 9:8-15) is about God’s covenant of love with us. Both the Gospel reading (Mk 1:12-15) and the 2nd reading (1 Pt 3:18-22) present our Lord Jesus Christ as the one who fulfilled the covenant on our behalf. He overcame all temptations to break that covenant and provides us the grace, even now, to overcome as well. How I wish I had used God’s grace in every other temptation that came my way, as in the case I just narrated. I’m not a saint. I’m a repentant sinner still struggling and constantly in need of God’s mercy. However, God is ever faithful. God’s grace is ever present in the desert of all the temptations I have ever experienced. I believe it is the same with you and you have been victorious in more dramatic ways than me. Thank you so much for using God’s grace to overcome temptations even when you got no human compliments. The absolute best compliment is from God. Let us encourage one another to overcome more, using our Lord’s example.

2. Lent. The Gospel reading states that after His baptism, our Lord was led by the Spirit “out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for 40 days, tempted by Satan.” (v.12). The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) explains: “The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. (cf Rom 5:20)” (CCC 358). So as part of the eternal Salvation won for us by Christ, “that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray” (Rev 12:9) was allowed to tempt Christ, just as he was allowed to tempt our first parents, just as he is still allowed to tempt us. It is in His victory over temptation and sin that Jesus is revealed as our Savior. “Jesus is the devil’s conqueror. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.” CCC 539. “By the solemn 40 days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” (CCC 540). All of us are invited to join. Why 40?

3. 40 Days. The number 40 is mentioned over 140 times in the Bible. It is often connected with a period of hardship leading to joy, of promise leading to fulfilment. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God (Ex 24:18). Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Horeb (1 Kg 19:8). God sent 40 days and nights of rain in the great flood after instructing Noah to build an ark (Gn 7:4) leading to a covenant following the flood, as we heard both in our 1st reading today (Gn 9:8-15), and in the 2nd reading (1 Pt 3:18-22). Likewise, our Lord was on a retreat in the desert, where He fasted for 40 days, and was tempted by the devil (Mt 4:1–2, Mk 1:12–13, Lk 4:1–2). Let us use these 40 days of Lent for repentance, for deeper prayer, fasting and almsgiving/charity so as to be prepared for the commemoration of our Lord’s victory over death, a commemoration of the Resurrection at Easter. Let us use this period to deliberately take up or give up some things for the sake of the Kingdom of God. May the Holy Spirit lead us to victory over our temptations throughout this Lent and always, so that we may receive in the end, the only compliment that matters, the absolute best compliment from our Lord: “Well done, good and faithful servant”. Mt 25:23. “…inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” Mt 25:34. Amen.



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