First Sunday of Advent: The Temptation of Jesus Christ
My Homilies

HOMILY OF 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR C

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; 2nd Reading: Romans 10:8-13; Gospel: Luke 4:1-13.

THEME:  ABSOLUTE TRUST IN GOD’S GRACE: A KEY TO OVERCOMING TEMPTATIONS.

First Sunday of Advent: The Temptation of Jesus Christ

Our world is like a battlefield for the survival of the fittest. Most times, there are unprecedented tribulations or temptations that we encounter in life, which are being occasioned by the evil ones in an attempt to thwart our future plans or goals. Sometimes, these temptations come in an attractive as well as clandestine or deceitful forms, but in the real sense, they are very harmful.

Meanwhile, today is the first Sunday of Lent in the Church: a period of 40 days of prayer, fasting, penance, mortification and almsgiving, which commemorates the 40 days that Jesus Christ spent fasting in the desert. It is a period of penitential preparation for Easter, which begins on the “Ash Wednesday” and ends at the evening of “Holy Thursday”.

In the Gospel, Jesus Christ went into desert experience (moment of prayer, penance & mortification) for 40 days, so as to prepare Himself for His Ministry (Salus animarum – Salvation of Souls) and to restore the dignity of humanity that was lost through the temptation and fall of Adam. The Devil tempted Him with palatable things in order to make Him fail and lose focus of His mission. First, the devil asked Him: “If you are the son of God change the stone into bread.” Then Jesus replied: “scripture says, man shall not live by bread alone except by the word that comes out from the mouth of God” (Luke 4:3-4).

Meanwhile, bread or food as we know, is what satisfies one’s hunger or thirst, or what stimulates or nourishes one’s body, mind or soul. However, Jesus Christ is not really talking about physical bread or food per se, rather He is using it in a metaphorical sense. In other words, the bread or food being used here could be viewed in a generic sense; it could be physical, spiritual, emotional, intellectual, psychological, social, or any kind of food. This implies that, anything we cannot do without, or anything that we love so much, that thing automatically becomes our food. Now, the question is, which kind of food do we love most or allow to dominate our minds?

In the second temptation: “the devil showed Jesus Christ all the kingdoms, powers and the splendour of the world and said: ‘I will give them to you … If you worship me, they shall all be yours.’ But Jesus answered, Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him” (Luke 4:5-8). Certainly, Jesus Christ did not want to compromise with the standard of the world, nor to allow material things (wealth) or positions of honour (power) to distract or prevent Him from worshipping God sincerely and faithfully. “For what shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul” (Matthew 16:26)?

In the third temptation, the devil realized that Jesus Christ always made reference to the scripture in order to back His words and actions, he decided to use the same scripture to tempt Him. “Then the devil led Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple, and said: ‘if you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for scripture says: God has given His angels orders over you, to guard you, they will carry you in their arms so that you will not strike your foot on the stone.’ But Jesus answered, ‘Scripture says: do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:9-12).

Here, Jesus Christ did not want to give the people sensations or to prove Himself by performing wonders in order for people to believe in Him.  But He made reference to the scripture: “You must not make senseless experiments with the power of God(Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus saw quite clearly that if He produced sensations He could be a nine days’ wonder: but He also saw that sensationalism would never last. Can we Christians especially ministers of the gospel emulate this?

As Christians, we should be careful and vigilant, and also be mindful of those that preach only about prosperity, and deny suffering as part of authentic witnessing of the gospel. For many fake pastors (modern occultists) or religious pundits always use the scripture to deceive or brainwash their congregation. They do a lot of abracadabra during evangelization in order to prove the omnipotence of God, and to gain people’s admiration. Be conscious of them, anyone can read the scripture and proclaim it, but only those that are guided by the Holy Spirit accept suffering as a way of gaining salvation. For true Christians live by faith, and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Although Jesus Christ was very hungry after 40 days fasting, yet He refused to perform a miracle the devil requested of Him, because His main food is to always listen to His Father and to do ONLY what He wants Him to do (John 4:34). He does not do miracles for vainglory or show off, rather He does miracles as the Holy Spirit directs Him so as to glorify His Father in Heaven. He was firm and focused on His mission. Hence, obedience to the voice of God and not man should always take precedence in our daily endeavours.

In the first reading, Moses recalled how God harkened to their prayers and delivered the Israelites from the excruciating tortures of the Egyptians when they cried to Him for help. He told them to always show gratitude to God for His love, care and protection. Similarly, we are called this Lenten period, to always acknowledge God for the wondrous deeds (redemption) He wrought for us through Jesus Christ.

Moreover, one of the ways to do this is to journey with Jesus Christ in the desert this period of Lent; through prayer, fasting, penance, mortification and almsgiving, which are ways of assessing and reviving our fidelity to God (1 Chronicles 7:14) despite all temptations, so as to prepare ourselves for the renewal of our Covenant with God during Easter. However, if we deny ourselves our material needs; like food, drinks, clothes, money, etc., yet our lives do not change positively in our relationship with both God and our neighbour, what it means is that we just succeeded in starving ourselves and not fasted.

Finally, as Christians, we should not compromise with the standard of the world, nor allow power, authority, fame, wealth, food, etc., which are the underlying factors that make people succumb to the devil’s temptations, to distract us from worshipping God sincerely and faithfully. Nevertheless, when we put our trust in God via His Words, and always ask for His divine assistance (Holy Spirit), just as St. Paul averred in the second reading, then God will always deliver, empower, and protect us from the tricks that the evil ones employ in order to make us disobey Him, and lose focus of our mission or goal in life.

PRAYER:

May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, grant you the grace and discernment in order to always overcome temptations in your life to the glory of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!

Peace of Christ be with you…

Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.

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