Homily for the First Sunday of Lent, Year C (5 & 6/3/22)

posted 9 Mar 2022, 02:08 by Parish Office

If you thought that fasting on Ash Wednesday was difficult, spare a thought for Our Lord’s fast of forty days. It’s perhaps one of the understatements of the gospels where it says: “During that time he ate nothing and at the end he was hungry”. He was probably a bit more than just slightly hungry. Some have said that forty days is probably the maximum anyone can survive without any food. Unlike us, Jesus was free from Original Sin, and so His self-control would have been much better than our own, but even still, it wouldn’t have been plain sailing. And something to note is that these temptations come, not at the very beginning of the forty days, but at the end, when Christ would have been at his weakest.

The next thing to note is that He does not repel the tempter with natural ability alone. Each time He repels the temptation, He quotes Sacred Scripture. Firstly, He says, “Man does not live on bread alone”. We could complete the quote with “but … on every thing that comes from the mouth of God”. The temptation is to satisfy the flesh at the expense of manipulating God and religion to serve selfish interests.

The next temptation is rather interesting. We might think that people giving themselves over to the evil one in order to get greater power and influence is a more recent phenomenon. But this is the first century AD we are talking about. Satan has always been at work to try and get the honour that should be paid to God, to be paid to him instead, or if he can’t manage someone to go that far, then he tries to get the person to give that worship and honour to creatures, rather than to the creator. Looking around us, it seems he’s being rather successful at the moment. But things can change. Once again, this second time when Christ quotes Scripture, there is no discussion, no attempt to reach a compromise. It is straightforward rejection of what the devil offers: “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone”.

So far, Christ has used Scripture to reject each temptation, so in the third temptation, the devil tries to use Scripture himself. He quotes today’s responsorial psalm, which speaks of God’s protection of those who serve the Lord faithfully. But, if you put the Lord to the test, you cease to serve God faithfully. You sin. So it would have been wrong for Christ to make a spectacle of Himself by throwing Himself off the parapet of the Temple. Once again, Our Lord uses the same technique, with no discussion. Instead,

simple statement of Scripture the way it is: “It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test”.

“Having exhausted all these ways of tempting him, the devil left him…” With these three temptations, Our Lord was tempted at the very root of all temptations: the world, the flesh and the devil. The world: “throw yourself down”. Make a spectacle of yourself. The flesh: “tell this stone to turn into a loaf. The devil: “worship me, then, and it shall all be yours.” By conquering at the very root of all temptations, Christ defeated all temptations. Now we have to do the same.

If the example of Christ is anything to go by, we can’t achieve that by ourselves. Firstly, we are weak. Despite we have been baptised and Original Sin has been washed away, concupiscence still remains, that left- over weakness and distortion of our nature, which at times is inclined to sin. We can’t rely on our own willpower alone. Christ refuted the devil with Scripture. We need to be sure we know our faith, rather than a distorted version of it that says we can put God to the test. And lastly, we need to show gratitude. In the first reading, the person making the offering before God recounts all the good things God had done for the People of Israel up to that point in salvation history. “Here then I bring the first-fruits of the produce of the soil that you, Lord, have given me.” As we ease of out of the coronavirus restrictions, one of the things we are allowed to bring back is the offertory procession, in which we offer ourselves with the gifts that are brought up to the altar. We thank the Lord for all He has given us, and we metaphorically bow down in the sight of the Lord our God.

Lent has only just started. Will we make it all the way through, or will we stumble and fall? Our Lord is God and free from all Original Sin – we are not. We need His help. The devil is a reality, a perverted spirit, who tries to pervert others in their following of the Lord, and it’s no good trying to pretend he doesn’t exist. Christ shows us the way. And with Him, we can conquer.