9th / 10th March 2019

posted 11 Mar 2019, 02:24 by Parish Office

Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year C (8 & 9/3/19)


I've often thought what a cheek Satan had to tempt the very Son of God to sin.  Yes, he tempts us, but to actually tempt God to sin – what a cheek!  It just goes to show that this infernal pest will stop at nothing to bring us down.  But thankfully, we have Christ to raise us up, who knows how to defeat him.


One of the first things to spot is that it's after Christ has been fasting for forty days that the Tempter comes.  He waits until Christ is at His weakest before he appears in person to bring his three temptations.  It can be easy to resist temptation when you are in a position of strength.  Why steal a sweet from a shop when you have enough money to buy bags and bags of them?  Why would you exchange an angry word with someone when all is well in the world for you and you're having a really good day?  Instead, it's when we're at a point of weakness and fragility that we are more likely to succumb to temptation.  But it's at this point that Christ resisted each and every temptation.


Each of his answers was not Him just being clever; each one was a quote from Sacred Scripture.  “Man does not live on bread alone” is from Deuteronomy 8:3.  This quote comes from a section that speaks about the Israelites' journey through the desert to the Promised Land, and it says that we must observe all that God commands us.  The Israelites were tested, and allowed to experience hunger to make them realise that it's God's sustenance that matters.  The section finishes with this moral:  “Learn from this that the Lord your God was training you as a man trains his child, and keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and so follow his ways and reverence him”.  Jesus was sticking firmly to this path, and He wasn't going to be sidetracked.  It's following God that comes first, and the rest second.


You would have thought that Satan would have gotten the message, but now he tries something even more daring:  “Worship me, … and it shall all be yours”.  I wonder if that comment made Christ's blood boil.  But He remains self-controlled and reminds him of Deuteronomy 6:13 “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone”.  The context of this quote is that the Israelites are reminded that when they get to the Promised Land and see “the great and prosperous cities not of your building, houses full of good things not furnished by you, wells you did not dig, vineyards and olives you did not plant”, do not forget the Lord your God who gave you all these things.  Once again, we are to follow God first and leave it up to Him to provide, not turn to Satan.  Unfortunately, some people do.  Some get involved with the occult, various spells, even satanism in order to get what they want.  Others use various underhand means to promote their careers.  Better to be honest, God-fearing and of modest means, than to be rich and powerful, yet tethered to Satan.


That approach didn't work, so now Satan tries a different angle.  Christ has used Scripture as His weapon each time so far, so now Satan tries using Scripture himself, although he twists it, quoting it out of context.  Yes, Psalm 90 says that God protects those who are God-fearing, but it doesn't say that they have control over God and can make Him do whatever they want.  So Christ reminds Satan of the verse which says, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test”, because He's not your slave.  This time Christ is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:16, a few verses on from the previous one.  This verse reminds the Israelites of the occasion when they tested Him at Massah in the desert, where they doubted Him and wondered if He was really with them or not.  The water had run out and the people panicked, so they went in a group to Moses and Aaron to oppose them.  Moses and Aaron fell face down before the Lord to ask Him for help.  God told Moses to take his staff in his hand and to speak to a rock for it to issue water.  But Moses used it as an occasion to glorify himself.  He gathered the people together and said to them, “Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?”  Then he struck the rock twice with his staff and the water flowed.  But God was displeased with Moses and Aaron and said that they would not lead the people into the Promised Land because of what they had done.  Christ was not going to repeat the same mistake, and show lack of trust in His Father, take things into His own hands and seek to glorify Himself.  Humility and trust are things we can learn from His example.


That was it.  Satan had exhausted himself and failed.  If we are to defeat Satan in the same way, we too need to be steeped in the Word of God.  For us, God has to come before anything else, we have to look to Him for everything we need, and remain in humble trust, even when things seem to go wrong.  “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt 6:33).