Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 50; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
There are two homily notes here for our reflection
REV. FR THOMAS OYODE
“Lent and Our Christian Memory”
Most of the books of Scriptures bear themes that border on memory and identity. In the Old Testament we can pick the book of Deuteronomy as an example, and in the New Testament we have Matthew as a good example too. The season of lent can be described as a season that calls us to a memory of our identity. Ash Wednesday which usually begins the season, reminds us: “you are dust and unto dust you shall return”. The readings of today also call us to begin the season by a memory of our identity as mere creatures of God, sustained by his life-giving breath.
First, in the gospel reading, Matthew addresses his Jewish audience using concepts and terms such as desert, forty days, temptation/trial that evoke this memory this memory and identity. It is thus an allusion to the history of a people, a Christian people. Jesus goes through temptation in the wilderness for forty days in the same way that the Israelites went through trials in the wilderness for forty years. Thus the Son of God comes to share our very existence,including our historical identity yet transcending history itself.
Now, in the first reading and in the gospel reading, the Tempter exploits this identity: “if you are the Son of God ”. It questions, also, how this identity bears on our relationship with God himself. Jesus is made to prove that he is God’s son by carrying out an act that is totally not in accord with divine will. He is to bow to the authority of Satan, and he is to test the fidelity of God. In the same way, Adam and Eve were also tempted to question God’s authority and fidelity: “Is God true? Is there something he is keeping away from us?”. However, while Jesus’ fidelity led to his purification and preparedness for mission, Adam and Eve were condemned, lost their relationship with God as well as the fulfillment of their mission. Lent thus reminds us that Jesus has showed us the way to purification which the way of fidelity to God. How challenging!
Precisely for this reason, lent reminds us of who we are., God’s children, mere creatures by his life-giving breath, mere humans with a forcible proclivity to sin and a pervading susceptibility to temptation. This means a lot for a meaningful living as Christians and as humans. First, it shows that common ordinariness, that equal nothingness that we all share as humans before God. It reminds us that the one who is at the highest in ecclesial hierarchy is equal in dignity to the lowest not only by the fact of our common baptism (as we learn from catholic ecclesiology) but also by our common origin in God and by our common finality (end) in God. We will all equally die and be equally buried, journeying through the same road to the same God irrespective of whether we are Popes, Bishops, Priests, Catechists, Superior Generals, Pastoral Assistants…just name it. Second, it reminds us of our helplessness and total dependence on God. It is thus a call to an acknowledgement of this dependence. No one is able to live a meaningful and fulfilled life who is not aware of himself, taking into cognizance his weaknesses, capacities and limitations. Even the monkey knows that he is able to jump from one tree to another simply because the branches are near one to another.
It also means, in the final analysis, that outside God, the Source and Summit of our existence, we are nothing., we are as good, powerful, beautiful and wealthy as the ashes, as the dust, or as the clay by the river sides around which we relax during summertime. Have we ever given it a thought how nothing of the world’s achievements and goods gives substantial satisfaction and happiness? As a seminarian in my philosophy days, at some points, I thought all there was to life was having a philosophy degree but as soon as I got it, it meant nothing anymore., it didn’t even seem that I had achieved anything. Have we given a thought to how we so wanted to get the model of the phone or other devices in our possessions right now? Are we as excited as we were when we first desired it and bought it? It is the same for cars, houses, attaining a new status such as being married, being ordained, getting appointed or promoted, being in positions of power,control, manipulation and so on. We soon realise that they do not worth the struggle after all. It is the reality of the uselessness of money, power, fame, prestige and egoism.
There is thus a void, a hole that can never be filled in the being of man. That very hole is God’s as a matter of necessity. It is the place where we cultivate a healthy spirituality of total trust, total surrender, offoolishly believing that God can not lie and obeying him to the very last word. Adam and Eve of course did have their eyes opened as the devil had told them but it only led them to complicating their needs, leaving them to want to fend for themselves as far as covering their nakedness. When we do not surrender our lives, dreams, achievements, aspirations, doubts and desires to God, allowing his will to be done, we become more confused, we complicate our situations, we find emptiness, guilt and shame. God is thus, displaced, pushed far away, and we assume his place in our lives.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary teach us to surrender to God in childlike trust. May she accompany us in this journey of lent that we may surrender every of our cravings, desires, ambitions, achievements, fears, temptations and weaknesses to God who is the Source and Summit of our lives, and may our lentenexercises bring us to purification and reconciliation with God. Amen.
REV. FR. DANIEL EVBOTOKHAI
FOUR WAYS TO OVERCOME TEMPTATION
Introduction: This first Sunday of lent we have one major theme cutting across the readings and that is the theme of Temptation. Lent is a season of deep spiritual experiences and no spiritual depth is free from opposing forces. One of such opposing forces is temptation and our response to temptation gives proper assessment of our spiritual growth and maturity.
What is temptation? In the Bible the word temptation primarily denotes a trial in which man has a free choice of being faithful or unfaithful to God; only secondarily does it signify allurement or seduction to sin. In the First reading of today, Temptation is an enticement or invitation to sin, with the implied promise of greater good through disobedience. Simply put, Temptation is the work of the devil to drag us to Hell. Placed in the garden the snake tempted the woman and she fell and the woman tempted the man and the man fell and condemned himself to unhappiness. But when Jesus was tempted he did not fall, thus as in the second reading he became the obedient Son of the Father. Therefore, if we must not fall; there are four things we must do. My topic today is “Four Ways to Overcome Temptation.” We shall draw inspiration from the experience of Jesus. This story is told in Matt.4:1-11 Parallel passages are Mark1:12-13 and Luke 4:1-13.
We need to be led by the Holy Spirit: Here me beloved in Christ every time you defeat temptation you become more like Jesus. And no one can defeat temptation without the Holy Spirit. The Gospel says Jesus was led by the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the power of God in every true Christian. Without the Holy Spirit the life of a Christian is like a deflated tire; you cannot move and cannot progress. With the Holy Spirit we can have the spiritual help that we desperately need to overcome our human nature. Gal.5:16 says “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify desires of the flesh” in Gal5:25 we are told to live and walk in the Spirit. Beloved in Christ, the world is sexually charged and many are being charged by it because of the absent of God’s Spirit in their life. If you are not led by the Spirit; when trials come your way you will fall for them. That is why we must continually steer ourselves daily in prayer so that we become more sensitive to the impulses of God.
We need the Word of God: The Word of God has always been our best defense against Satan’s temptations, and the better we know His Word, the easier it will be to claim victory over our daily struggles. Ps119:11 says “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you”. In the gospel when Christ was tempted by Satan in the desert, the first thing He did was to quote Scripture which eventually caused the devil to leave Him. Indeed, Christians need to be diligent in studying God’s Word. Don’t have the Bible as one of the books that decorates your shelf. Read it and it will lead you. Jesus used the weapon of the word against satanic forces. The Gospel is the greatest weapon against satanic spell. Ps.119:97-98 says “Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies”. Here me beloved in Christ, the Devil is wise; but the Word of God makes you wiser. It is in the word of God we learn how God intervened in the life of his people,
in it we learn to overcome sin, in it we learn about the hope of those who have fallen; like the psalmist of today told us to cry for mercy, God has provision for us at all times, he prepares our hands for battle; but when we fail he is merciful to wash us and make us clean. Beloved in Christ, let us be more conscious of God’s Word; anyone who is conscious of God’s Word will not fall into temptation. Knowledge of the word of God is knowledge of God. If you don’t know the bible sorry; you lack guidance and guidelines for the Christian life. Prob.19:2 says that a soul be without knowledge is not good. Is.1:3 the Ox knows his master, the Donkey knows his master’s crib but my people so not know me. Friends in Christ, if we don’t know the word of God; when temptations come our way we may think that strange things are happening to us.
We need to pray: In addition to God’s Word, prayer can help us to resist temptation. In Matt.26:41 When Jesus and his disciples went into the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus warned his disciples to: “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” In Matt.6:13 and Luke 11:4 the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus taught us to pray that we would not be led into temptation. Jesus knew that the disciples couldn’t fight temptation on their own and urged them to call out to God in prayer. God is our ultimate resource in fighting temptation and has total control to guide us through every situation. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual enemies. Jesus is able to help us when we are tempted. Heb.2:18 says “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” Beloved in Christ, the days are evil pray that you don’t fall prey.
We must avoid vain glory and resist the devil: Beloved in Christ, spiritual power is not for vain manifestation. Once you see somebody showing off with spiritual power know that the glory of God has departed from him. Children of God take note: No spiritual power is for display. Jesus rejected the devil’s suggestion to display, he said to him do mighty works of changing stones to bread, of throwing himself down, and of bowing to worship him; what for? Vain glory. Jesus response shows he can do those things but miraculous power is not for display but for salvation. Jesus resisted all that the devil suggested. He said “Begone satan!… and the devil left him.” Again, James 4:7 says resist the devil and he will flee from you. We too must resist the devil’s suggestions. In many different ways today the devil is suggesting satisfaction for our hunger; suggesting means for power and easy evil ways to acquire worldly treasures. If we don’t resist he will prevail over us.
When faced with temptations; we remember Job who had to endure a severe temptation when he lost all his possessions; all manners of suggestion were given to him, even his wife was not helping the situation; but he stood his ground and said to himself “I know that my Redeemer lives”. We remember men like Joseph in Gen.39:6 “handsome in form and appearance”; the desire of every woman; he faced the greatest temptation in Potiphar’s house; the wife of Potiphar tried and tried but failed; where is that man that is still being seduced that will not fall? Joseph ran away from this woman, Paul said to Timothy in 2Tim.2:22 flee from youthful lust. Beloved in Christ one solution we need at times may just be to run away. Today, the devil continues to offer men many suggestions for riches and fame. Young boys and girls are falling for these suggestions for quick money and fame. Many churches, prophets and pastors are falling for his suggestions. Vain glory earns you vanity. During this lent and beyond may the Lord help us in moment of trial and grant us the grace to overcome all temptations. Amen