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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Reflection/Homily: First (1st) Sunday of Lent Year C (February 17 2013)

Reflection/Homily: First (1st) Sunday of Lent Year C (February 17 2013)
Theme: The Temptations of Jesus

This first Sunday of lent, the gospel reading (Luke 4:1-13) presents us with the temptations of Jesus Christ in the wilderness. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism for a forty day period of prayer and fasting. Jesus went to prepare for the commencement of his public ministry. As we begin our annual Lenten observance, it is worthwhile to learn from Jesus’ experience that nobody is above temptation and that the closer we are to God, the more we are tempted. From Jesus’ temptations, we realize that almost all our temptations are either to satisfy the desires of our flesh or to acquire material goods or to presume divine favours under the influence of spiritual pride.

The first temptation of Jesus concerns the human appetite and all that the flesh desires. The devil said to him “if you are the son of God, tell this stone to turn into bread”. But Jesus replied “The Scripture says: No one can live on bread alone.” The devil wanted Jesus to use his supernatural power to satisfy the desire of his flesh (hunger). But Jesus conquered this temptation by proving to the devil that “matter” (food) was not the only thing required for man’s survival and that we must not use what we have to get what we want when it pertains to the desires of the flesh.

Today, we are often tempted to use what we have to satisfy the desires of our flesh. That is why some people use their wealth, influence and position to lure young girls and boys into immorality. Others engage in alcoholism and the consumption of hard drugs while others still engage in all sorts of sexual immorality just to satisfy the desires of their flesh. In conquering this temptation, Jesus is teaching us to consider the desires of the spirit as more important than the desires of the flesh. We should always be aware that the devil knows what is pleasing to our appetite and tempts us with that. Therefore, we should be conscious not to give in to lust, gluttony, and inordinate desires of the flesh for these temptations come when our bodies are vulnerable.

The second temptation of Jesus as recorded in the gospel reading concerns the acquisition of power and material goods. The devil took Jesus to a place where he would see the kingdoms of the world and said to him “I can give you power over all the world and all their wealth … provided you worship me”. But Jesus replied “Scripture says: You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.” We observe that in our world today people are ready to worship anybody or thing that can guarantee them material goods, fame, success and honour. That is why people engage in all sorts of evil such as examination malpractice, prostitution, disgusting behaviours like the “Sugar-mummy syndrome”, kidnapping, injustice robbery, murder, extortion under the disguise of religion, etc just to acquire wealth, power, success, honour, etc. Jesus’ response therefore teaches us never to bow down to anything or body we have deified such as the evils mentioned above in other to receive material goods or power.

The third temptation of Jesus concerns the presumption of divine favour. The devil took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple and said to him “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written God will order his angels to take charge of you…” But Jesus replied “Scripture says: You shall not tempt the lord your God”. Today, the devil still tempts us to presume a lot of things about God’s promises especially about the mercy of God. That is why many people consciously engage in sinful acts and presume God will simply understand and forgive them since He is a merciful God. We are tempted to presume that God will grant us success even when we have not read, that God will give us children even when we have destroyed our wombs in abortion, that God will grant us healing even when we do not make efforts to treat ourselves.  This is a temptation to accept the gospel of prosperity.

However, one striking point is the use of the Sacred Scriptures. The devil used it to deceive Jesus while Jesus used it to stand firm against the devil. We should ignore the “is it in the bible” syndrome and learn to use the correct interpretation of the Scripture to strengthen our faith against temptations. Presently, secular humanism is tempting us to believe that we have less need for God but we have to be firm and not compromise our faith so that we will reach the promised land as the Israelites did in the first reading (Deut. 26:4-10). Therefore when temptations come our way, we should not forget to pray for the second reading (Rom. 10:8-13) assures us that “all those who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” God loves you.

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