HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: Accompany Jesus in the Desert.
BY: Father Anthony O. Ezeaputa, MA.
On Ash Wednesday, we began the liturgical season of Lent, which is a forty-day preparation for Easter—the celebration of the death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is also the time set aside to remember, in the sense of Jewish anamnesis—making present—and epiclesis—continuing—the forty days and nights Jesus spent in the desert before beginning his public ministry.
On the first Sunday of Lent (Matthew 4:1–11), the Church asks us to accompany Jesus in the desert. We read that the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, where he fasted for forty days and forty nights to get ready for his public ministry. After that, he became hungry, and the devil tempted him three times.
It is worth noting that Matthew’s account of Jesus Christ’s desert experience fits into his portrayal of Jesus Christ as the new and greater Moses who leads the new and greater Exodus of God’s children from the bondage of sin through his death and resurrection. In fact, Matthew is recreating the forty years the Israelites spent wandering in the desert after Moses freed them from slavery in Egypt but before they got to the Promised Land.
Matthew uses the Greek verb “peirazo” (Matthew 4:1) to describe the temptation of Jesus Christ in the desert. “Peirazo” can indicate anything from “testing” to “tempting,” depending on the context. Matthew meant “temptation,” when one is enticed or seduced to fail. So, it makes sense that the evil one would try to get the new Moses to go in the wrong direction before he even starts his rescue mission.
Moreover, Matthew describes the evil one with two words: devil (diabolos) and tempter (peirazon). While the tempter (peirazon) tries to seduce or deceive us into doing evil, the devil (diabolos) tries to tear us apart, rip us apart.
Firstly, Jesus must have been extremely tired and hungry after fasting for forty days and forty nights, so the devil tempts him: “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread” (Matthew 4:3). In other words, show me what you can do!
One of the most basic questions we can ask ourselves during this holy season of Lent is, “Who am I?” And some people would define themselves primarily in terms of what they do—in terms of their occupation—instead of who they are, which is a child of God.
Furthermore, the devil then takes Jesus to Jerusalem and sets him on the parapet of the Temple, saying, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone” (Matthew 4:6). This is what the devil is saying: “Imagine what people will say about you if you throw yourself down from this height and God rescues you.” In other words, Jesus is what people say about him, not what the Father says about him.
RELATED: HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT.
Towards the end of their lives, most people reflect on their lives and wish they could change certain aspects to be more in line with who they truly are. Many people say something along the lines of, “I wish I had the courage to live a life true to me rather than the one others expected of me.” The season of lent is a time to make a conscious effort to be true to who God has called you to be rather than who circumstances or other people have molded you into.
Finally, the devil takes Jesus to the top of a very high mountain, where he shows him the beauty of every kingdom in the world. “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me” (Matthew 4:9), he says. Here, it appears that the evil one has all the kingdoms of the world and can give them to whoever he wants.
The evil one is offering Jesus power and saying to him, “Go ahead and use the power that I will give you to be the kind of messiah the people are yearning for.” And, of course, they want a powerful messiah who will drive out the Romans, restore Israel’s fortunes, defeat all Israel’s enemies, and usher in a period of freedom, prosperity, and peace in Israel here and now.
Dear friends, at the heart of these three temptations is simply worship. “Idolatry” is whatever we place as the object of our worship instead of God. Jesus tells the devil: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship, and him alone shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10).
Today and throughout the forty days of Lent, let us continue to ask ourselves, “What do I worship?” “Where do I invest my time, talents, money, energy, emotions, and enthusiasm?” It could be your job, your reputation, what people are saying about you, the power you wield, or the possessions you have amassed. They may be what you worship.
The evil one tested Jesus in the same way that he tempts each one of us. Our response must be that of Jesus: “We do not live on bread alone;” “we must worship the Lord our God and serve him alone;” and “we must not put the Lord our God to the test.”
During the liturgical season of Lent, we have the chance to accompany Jesus through the desert. Realize that if you want to go with Jesus into the desert, you’ll have to give up things that compete for God’s love, loyalty, and worship. It should lead us to ask ourselves honestly, “What am I giving up for Lent?” It should also allow us to ask ourselves, “Who am I, and what truly matters to me?”
Give up your anger, grudges, jealousy, envy, gluttony, greed, wickedness, hatred, division, gossip, infidelity, idolatry, and other forms of sin. Accompany Jesus to the desert to see more and better, to look at things and people we would rather not see, to face circumstances we would rather avoid, and to answer issues we would rather forget. Going into the desert with Jesus gives us a Lenten plan. Have a blessed Sunday and Lenten season!
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