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Friday, 12 February 2016

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

Theme: The Temptations of Jesus
Lent is a special period of preparation for Easter. It is an opportunity to reflect on and share in the sufferings of Christ who gave up his life for our salvation. Within this period, in order to suffer with Christ, we are obliged to accept some of our dislikes and reject some of our likes. This is the goal of self-mortification; voluntarily accepting suffering and willingly rejecting pleasure. As we try to do this, we may encounter several temptations. The temptations of Jesus narrated to us in the gospel reading (Luke 4:1-13) presents us with the various tactics and means the devil may use to tempt us. Jesus’ responses to these temptations equally guide us on how to overcome these temptations. On this first Sunday of Lent, the Church reminds us that nobody is above temptation  and in fact, the closer we are to God, the more we are tempted; the moment we decide to do good, that’s when the devil tempts us to do bad. 

Temptation itself is not bad. It is like an examination. When we fail, we know we need to work harder on ourselves and when we excel, we give God the glory and continue to make effort. 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) is 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 cultism, examination malpractice, prostitution, disgusting behaviours like the “Sugar-mummy/daddy 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 anybody we have deified such as the evils mentioned above in other to receive material goods or power.

The third temptation of Jesus concerns seeking vain and cross-less glory. 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”. Jesus came to save humanity by suffering but the devil wanted to show him an easier route other than suffering. Today, the devil still tempts us to think of a crown without a cross and success without hard work. Most of us want to be miraculously rich overnight. We want to do the extraordinary thing just to be famous. By such actions, we put God to the test asking Him “What can you do?” 

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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