Homily for 1st Sunday in Lent, Cycle A

posted Mar 3, 2017, 12:21 PM by Church Office   [ updated Mar 3, 2017, 12:21 PM by Michelle Massung ]


            In order to truly understand what is happening in today’s Gospel, we need to look at the passages in the Gospel of Matthew prior to today’s reading. Just before this passage is the Baptism of Jesus. After Jesus comes out of the Jordan, a voice cries out from heaven, the voice of God, and God declares to all that can hear, this is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. After hearing this and seeing a dove descend on Jesus, the people that witnessed this knew that Jesus was possessed. The question they had was, was he possessed by a good spirit or a bad spirit. During the time of Jesus, those possessed by spirits went out into the desert to determine what type of spirit it was. So it was quite natural for Jesus to head out into the desert for 40 days. When the 40 days were up, he was then prepared to demonstrate that the Spirit inside of him was a good spirit.

            Also, God had claimed that Jesus was his Son, a very hard thing for the people to accept so Jesus not only had to prove that he was possessed by a good spirit, he had to prove he was the Son of God. In the beginning of the temptation by the Devil, he states clearly that if you are the Son of God, you will command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread. This first temptation reveals many things. The first is that the devil is challenging God’s claim that Jesus is the Son of God. The devil is trying to trick Jesus and prey on his weakness and his hunger. Jesus can’t simply refuse to turn the stone into bread, but rather, he has to have an answer that proves he is the Son of God. Well, since the Torah, the Word of God came from God; Jesus quotes scriptures to address the claims of the devil. The devil is trying to tempt Jesus on his need for earthly or material goods instead of spiritual goods. Sure Jesus was hungry and his desire for food is only natural especially right now. Yet to prove His point, Jesus clearly exclaims that material goods are not what truly feed us, only spiritual goods. If he had turned the stone to bread, he would have satisfied his earthly desires, yet he would have given us an example of giving into material goods, even when we feel the need is the greatest at the expense of Spiritual goods. Jesus has won the first round using words from his Father, God.

            In the second temptation, it is all about power. Jesus, like any humans was tempted to gain access to more worldly power and the status that comes with that power. It is not wrong to desire power and status, if it is used properly and for the good of mankind and not our own selfish interests. What Jesus is trying to avoid is the temptation of the passionate idolatries that lead us to sin. We place objects of our desire ahead of our desire for Christ. These idolatries may start slowly and then grow and get out of control before we realize they have become a focus of our desire, instead of God.

            As the devil continues to tempt Jesus, Jesus always counters the temptations of the devil by turning to Scriptures, However, as we heard in the third temptation, the devil brings out the Scriptures to use in his temptation of Jesus. The devil tries to convince Jesus to trust in God and God will protect him, if he but worships the Devil. The devil is putting conditions on trusting in God. So Jesus counters with an even more bold statement that we should not put our Lord to the test. We should trust in God without any conditions. How many times in our prayers do we try to make deals with God? For instance, I used to make deals with God regarding my prayers for those that I wanted to be healed. “I will go to church everyday for a month if you restore Aunt Margaret to good health.” and many others. This is not want God wants from us. He knows far better than any of us what we need and what is best for us.

            The bottom line is that temptation gives us a choice to make, to either resist the temptation and show our love for God, or to succumb to the temptation and to turn to the evil one. We have a choice and it is in the choosing that we grow closer to God. Now that we are in the season of Lent, our focus is on our sanctification, our holiness, by prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Unfortunately, we will also be tempted by the devil during this time period because he does not want us to grow closer to God. I know in my own life, my level of temptations has grown more and more as I get closer to the Priesthood. I was warned about these phenomena by others before they were ordained and I really did not believe them. I can assure you, the devil is alive and wants to prevent us from growing closer to God.

            So now that we understand a little about temptation and risks associated with it, what are some steps that we can use to resist temptation? Let me offer three ways:

The first thing to do when you are tempted is to take a minute and acknowledge that you are being tempted. It is in taking a moment to realize what is happening that you can make a clearer choice. You are not just reacting to the temptation. With this understanding of what is happening that you can do the third suggestion.

            The next thing to do if you feel you are being tempted is to turn that temptation over to God. We are human and we are weak. It is very hard for us to resist temptation on our own. We need to turn to God and offer a simple prayer such as: “Dear God, I realize that I am being tempted by the devil. Please remove this temptation from my life. Amen.” In most cases, God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, will give you the strength to resist the temptation.

The last step to help God answer our prayers about temptation is not putting ourselves in a position where we have been tempted before. For instance, as an alcoholic, I try not to go to places where I used to drink or to hang out with the guys I used to drink with. Or if you are tempted by types of food, try not to buy any of that type of food and have it around the house. Or if you are tempted by accumulating material goods, don’t go shopping, but rather, sort through your closet and see if there are any items that you could donate to the poor.

            May the Holy Spirit guide you and give you strength to resist the temptations you will face this week. May you continue to choose God over the devil.