HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR A.
THEME: WILDERNESS TIME FOR SELF-CRITICAL AWARENESS.
BY: Fr. Vincent Onwukwe
Spiritually speaking, the ‘wilderness’, understood literally or metaphorically, is, among other things, a place of retreat and self-critical encounter with God. Self-critical spirituality invites us to have some time to reflect on how we have fared in our spiritual journey as individuals. There is a legend told about the Philosopher ‘Thales’, which could help us to understand the need for self-awareness. He was busy guessing into the sky and critically examining the heavenly bodies far away from him without being aware of a pit beside him. As a result of this inattention, he fell into the pit and was mocked by a little boy. Similarly, David was quick to pass judgment on the man who took a poor man’s lamb to entertain his guest without knowing that he was the one who had done this (2 Sam 12:1-7). Like Thales, he fell into the pit of self, and his self-awareness was imprisoned. But the good news is that David became more self-critical when he realised he had not given enough attention to examining his personal life. He repented.
Jesus went to the wilderness for a forty-day retreat which included fasting and prayers. This should remind us that the Lenten season is a period of retreat when we critically examine our individual lives, repenting from our sinful actions and dispositions. It is necessary to embark on this journey because it is easy to point out the wrong things in other peoples’ lives while becoming blind to our many inadequacies. After these forty days of Jesus’ intensive spiritual exercise, one would have thought the devil would go nowhere close to Jesus. But, on the contrary, the devil applied some compelling strategies to tempt Jesus, the Son of God. How daring the devil is!
Jesus had no sin to stop committing, but he was self-critical about His identity as the Son of God. Jesus’ self-awareness explains why he did not fall into the trap of the devil, who wanted to use a misconception of His title, ‘Son of God’ to lead Him astray. Jesus knew that His identity as the Son of God had little to do with eating bread. One does not live on bread alone (Mtt 4:4). He also understood that being the Son of God is not about earthly glory (Mtt. 4:10). Instead, the title has everything to do with obeying God and serving Him (Mtt 4:4).
Unlike Jesus, Adam and Eve were unaware of their identity, especially their capacity to be like God, having been created in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26). They knew about the fruits in the garden and the names of the animals (Gen 2:19) but had insufficient knowledge about themselves. The devil capitalised on this self-ignorance, offering them what God had already given them – being like God (Gen 3:1-6). They fell into this trap of the serpent because of their self-ignorance. Because of this ignorance, sin entered the world through one man and through sin, death, and later on, death spread to all humankind because all sinned (Rom 5:12-13). But God redeemed humanity through the death of Jesus on the Cross. He who had no sin was made sin that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In this Lenten period, we are invited to reflect on how this salvific action of Jesus has affected our life.
May God give us the grace of self-critical awareness, knowing what the devil could use against us. This self-knowledge is necessary to overcome the temptation of the devil.
I wish you a fruitful Lenten season as we pray for a new Nigeria!
God loves you!
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