Homily for the First Week in Lent, by Fr. Gerard Jonas
1 March 2020
Dynamics of Temptation
Gen 2:7-9,16-18,25;3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11
We have just embarked on our Lenten Journey to Easter. We are an Easter People, already redeemed by Jesus Christ through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. We struggle through the challenges as we journey to fully claim this redemption. The evil one lurks and besets us with temptations; it is always on the move to thwart our salvation.
On this First Sunday of Lent, the Readings present us the dynamics of temptation.
- a) In the First Reading we see how in times of plenty, there is the temptation to be unmindful of God and His commands. In the Gospel Reading, we see how in times of want, there is the tendency to cling to God and His words. It was easier to fall amidst the bounty of the garden of Eden than in the aridity of the desert. The truth is we are always in need of God, to feel otherwise is to tread on shaky grounds. And yes, through disobedience, sin came into the world but through obedience, redemption is put in place.
- b) Temptations attack us through our strengths and not through our weaknesses, as we often think. One who is good at martial arts knows how to turn his opponent’s energy against himself. That’s the wily trick of the evil one. Real strength is in putting bounds to one’s power. Yes, Jesus can make bread available, and he later did for the multitude. Yes, Jesus can plead for life, as he later did cure, and raised to life. Yes, Jesus has dominion over all things, even death itself, as he later did resurrect from death. But all these are not for his own benefit. His power is for salvation for His people.
- c) Temptations feed pride and mask the truth. Our personal truths are the basis of our ‘personalized’ temptations, that’s why they are so attractive and feel so ‘connected’ to us. Humility is to live in truth. Jesus could have easily succumbed to the pomp and perks of his divine authority. Even using God’s own words, the Tempter could have easily twisted God’s promise of providential care into unreasonable intervention.
- d) Temptations give hints on the truth of our being and identity. In a way, they are warning signs of the possible breach that could damage our being. And also, in a way, they point to our mission.
Adam and Eve, as well-provided beloved creatures, were tempted to feel so ‘entitled.’ Jesus knows that his power is not for his own benefit. Later, in his public ministry, notice how the Lord so easily multiplied food for the multitudes. Here, we already get a hint of Christ’s mission.
- d) It is well to keep in mind that grace builds on nature, while on the other hand, evil corrupts nature; and that temptation is not yet a sin until we act on it.
This Lenten Season we are reminded that we a redeemed people. We are not only created according to the image and likeness of God, as Adam and Eve were. In Baptism we are created anew and made children of God, partakers of the divine life through Christ. Our Baptismal identity is Life in Christ.
So, Lent is not just a preparation for Easter. It is our journey of living as redeemed children of God, and of growing in faith and trust in God. The disciplines of Lent- prayer, penance, and almsgiving are practices to enhance our life in God with one another, of growing and maturing in the life of Christ in us with one another.
Evil lurks, temptations abound and we really sometimes fall. But we are equipped to recover and stay healthy and strong with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
At this Liturgy, this First Sunday of Lent, we are assured that the mission of Jesus is to overcome the power of sin. And so in hope, trust and humility let us turn to him. At this Eucharist, let us receive Him and so journey with Him together.