HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: NO NEED OF MIRACLES.
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong,
1. Joke. Two boys were walking home from church after Mass on the 1st Sunday of Lent, when the Scripture readings recount how the devil tempted Adam, Eve and even our Lord Jesus Christ. One said to the other, “What do you think about all this Satan stuff?” The other boy replied, “Well, you know how Santa Claus turned out. It’s probably just your dad”. Jokes aside, in spite of the elaborate fairy tales around Santa, there was and there is a St Nicholas. In spite of some superstitions around the devil, the truth remains that behind the disobedient choice of our first parents lurked a seductive voice, opposed to God, which made them fall into death out of envy. Satan and other demons were indeed angels created naturally good by God, but they became evil by their own doing. Thus, our salvation also involves deliverance from the devil’s influence.
2. Lent. Lent is truly a time for us to receive forgiveness of sins more eagerly, to learn to overcome temptations as our Lord did and to receive deliverance from evil, deliverance from our sins. These three: forgiveness of sins, overcoming of temptations and deliverance from sin are all consequences of God’s graces, consequences of God’s actions in our lives, consequences of Divine intervention in human history, consequences of the greatest miracle of redemption, namely, the incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. And our three Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving enable us to receive these graces more abundantly. In the first reading (Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7), the origin of things we experience in our own lives, namely, fall into temptation and inclination to sin are presented. Just as you and I fall into sin, people before us fell, Adam and Eve fell. Referring to Adam and to Christ respectively, the 2nd reading (Rom 5:12, 17-19) summarizes the fall and the redemption of mankind thus: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.” Of course, the obedience of the Savior included obedience to God in spite of temptations by the same Satan who tempted Adam and Eve.
3. Overcoming Temptations. In today’s Gospel reading (Mt 4:1-11) our Lord teaches us how to overcome temptations. Let me mention just 5 out of many lessons from the way our Lord overcame temptations. 1. Miracles beyond what God has done already are not needed to overcome temptation. In fact, the devil suggested miracles and our Lord refused to perform them. Our Lord was hungry after 40 days and nights of fasting. But stones are stones and food is food. Thus, against the suggestion of the tempter, to command that stones become bread, our Lord turned to Scripture, precisely Dt 8:3, “it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord”, pointing out that humans have both bodily and spiritual needs, and that our ultimate nourishment is the Word of God. 2. Second lesson: when tempted in regard to bodily needs/pleasures, consider ultimate needs of the soul, which bodily pleasures cannot fulfil. 3. Third lesson, distortion of truth, distortion of the Word of God is the tempter’s strategy. Notice that when our Lord mentioned the Word of God as source of nourishment, the devil distorted that Word of God: citing Psalm 91:12, in the second temptation: “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.” Well, the Word of God did not say throw yourself down. Again, the devil is appealing to miracles. Our Lord invokes Dt 6:16: “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” 4. Fourth lesson: don’t be surprised when people try to twist Scripture to make sin appear as virtue, as with current pro-abortion activism or those who tried to use Scripture to justify slavery. Seek the true meaning of God’s Word to overcome diabolic distortions. 5. The enticement of power and wealth. Having failed to entice our Lord with immediate bodily needs and protection, the tempter then offered wealth and influence of the material world if our Lord should worship the tempter. Our Lord then drew the line, again, without performing any miracle but again, using the true meaning of the Word of God from Dt 6:13 “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” Hence, to overcome the enticements of power and wealth, God must be first in my life. Sisters and brothers, let us end with the words our Lord about temptation: watch and pray so that you may not fall into temptation. (Mt 26:41). To give a perfect example, our Lord overcame those temptations after fasting and praying.
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