Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent Year C. 10-03-2019
by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10
Psalm: Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15
Second Reading: Romans 10:8-13
Gospel: Luke 4:1-13
Every year on the first Sunday of lent, we are presented with the temptation of Jesus in the gospel reading. In all of the four canonical gospels, John alone does not have an account of the temptation of Christ. This means that only Matthew, Mark and Luke, have an account of the temptation. And this year we are given the one from the gospel according to Luke. We can quickly notice that the order of the temptations in the Gospel of Luke differs from the order found in the Gospel of Matthew, while Mark is brief as expected. In Matthew, the final temptation is when the devil led Jesus to the mountain and offered Him all the kingdoms of the world if He worshipped him. In Luke, this is the second temptation, while the last is the temptation of jumping from the pinnacle of the Temple in Jerusalem. Luke does this because beneath his relating of the teachings and miracles of the Lord, Luke has the theme of the journey: Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem to suffer and die in fulfilment of the will of the father. This journey is continued in the second volume of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles, which opens in Jerusalem and ends in Rome, the centre of the world at the time. This journey narrative was prefigured in the 40 years journey of the people of Israel from Egypt to the Promised Land. And Moses gave to them the formula contained in our first reading of today, for the ceremony of the First Fruits, when in Spring time each Jew was to come before the altar of the Lord in the Temple, to present the first and best fruits of their fields to the priest of the Lord in acknowledgement of their faith and total dependence on the generosity of the Lord; that all they had was from Him.
Giving us this same passage today is to remind us just like Luke has done, that for us all too, life is a journey we are called to walk with the Lord, relying on Him in order to complete His will in our lives. The forty days of Lent too reminds us of this journey and invite us to examine how well we are travelling. So Lent is also a journey, and we cannot be successful on this journey unless we make it with the Lord, relying totally on Him. This is what we learn from the temptations of Jesus today. So today we must ask ourselves how well are we travelling on this journey?
Luke’s account of the Temptation comes soon after the baptism of Jesus. These temptations of Jesus relate to us in very concrete terms, and this means that none of us is free from temptations as long as we are in the world, and not even when we have begun our spiritual journey in the Lord. That is why the devil could tempt Christ even after He was baptized and led by the Holy Spirit and had fasted for forty days and forty nights. So do not begin to think that because you have intensified your praying, fasting, and almsgiving in this season of lent, then you are free from temptations. The devil must tempt you whether you like it or not, and the devil always tempts us with our own desires. This we can only overcome when we try to be selfless in our thinking.
The first temptation of turning stone to bread was for the Lord to use His powers to take care of Himself since He was hungry. This is the temptation of selfishness. We give in to this temptation when shut out everybody else and begin to think that God’s gifts to us are to be used for our own good and benefit alone. Whenever we want to hoard and use our talents to satisfy only ourselves. When we put self-gratification first instead of love, forgetting that love is what can make us use God’s gifts properly to draw ourselves and others to God. Jesus decided to use His powers for others so that we also can follow likewise, because without doing so we can’t really call each other brothers and sisters. In the second temptation the devil promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if He worships him. This is the temptation of power. Anyone who sees power and authority as having control and domination over others, to subjugate them, humiliate them, deprive them of their rights, and force them down before him/her has succumbed to this temptation and is acting under the influence of the devil. That is why those who make power the goal of their lives end up worshipping the devil. Such people can do anything to acquire power over others, and this is sad. However, the truth is all of us have a certain power over others, bosses over their employees, priests over their parishioners, wives and husbands over each other, parents over their children, siblings over their younger siblings, students over their classmates. But ask yourself, how do you use your power and authority? Do you use your power to hurt others or to help them? The world today under the scourge of this temptation is full of bullies. That is why we see some politicians in office today use their powers to bully their opponents. Some husbands because they are stronger tend to physically abuse their wives and children. So today there are bullies not only in the schools but also in the homes and this has led to the abuse crisis in our society today that is affecting a large portion of women and children. If I should ask now, there are some of our women and children here too who are suffering such physical abuses from their husbands but are keeping quiet for the sake of peace. Today Christ is telling you to stop as He did not yield to the temptation of Power today. The temptation to use power over others is sick and comes from the devil because none of us has the right to use our power to hurt. God gave us strength and power to pick others up, not to knock them down. This is the example Jesus shows us in the Power of the Cross, letting Himself be crucified in order to restore God’s love to the world. We too can only show our greatest power when we act out of love, even if we have been unjustly attacked.
The third temptation was the devil asking Christ to jump from the pinnacle of the temple. This temptation was to put God to the test, forcing Him to act to prove His love. God does not need to prove His love for us in any other way than His death for us on the Cross. There are some of us who only believe that God loves us only when things are going well for us. When things turn awry, we begin to ask, ‘does God really love me?’ God where are you? Even while on the Cross Jesus refused to ask for proofs of love from His Father. We must also learn from Him not ask for proofs in order to have faith in the love of God for us. After all, faith comes from hearing and not from seeing, for it is only an evil generation that seeks signs in order to believe. And when the devil did not succeed with Jesus, he departed from Him until an opportune time. He returned again when Jesus was facing the Agony in the Garden. This is same with us too, the devil does not tire of tempting us, so also we must not grow tired of resisting him by turning to Christ. God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us. We must not allow that love to go in vain by completing the fight against evil begun by Christ. In these temptations, we are warned against selfishness, power and pride. Let us ask God to forgive us for the times we have given in to these temptations and turn to Him in prayer, fasting and almsgiving, so that He can help us on this journey. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.