Homily by Fr Elmer Ibarra SVD (Australia)
1st Sunday of Lent
Time flies very fast. It was just a short while ago that we celebrated Christmas and now we’re entering the more sombre season of Lent. And we start this season of Lent with a reflection about Jesus being tempted by the devil.
The gospel for today tells us of what Jesus did just after his baptism. Led by the Spirit, he went to the wilderness to fast for forty days and forty nights then he was tempted by the devil three times.
In the first temptation, it seems a very harmless one. Jesus after fasting for forty days and forty nights is indeed very hungry. The devil tempts him to turn one small stone into bread so that he can have something to eat. For Jesus, it must be so easy. This is the same Jesus who can turn gallons and gallons of water into wine during that wedding at Cana. So for Jesus, it wouldn’t hurt to have some sustenance after not eating for many days. However, Jesus countered this offer by the devil by the words: “It is written: one does not live on bread alone.” And true enough, in life there is more than just what we need physically. It is all about our reliance on God. We must believe that God will provide because God does.
In the second temptation, Jesus was showed all the kingdoms and powers in the world. The devil promised him that all of these could be his if he would only bow down and worship him. For Jesus who wanted to usher the kingdom of God could make this happen and very easy by becoming the “ultimate king” and rule over all the nations of the world. Would the world become a better place? However, Jesus knew that what the devil is offering is completely false. Because, the devil who is a good liar, cannot claim that all the kingdom of the world belongs to him, since it is God who have created everything. Second, clearly once one worship the devil, that’s the end of all goodness. In this temptation, it is clear that under no circumstance that we are to worship the devil for we only have the Lord our God who is the source of all good that needs to be worshipped.
In the third temptation, Jesus was brought to the parapet of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus is standing on the edge of this tall building and the devil tempted him to just jump since the angels are going to protect the Son of God and wouldn’t let him be injured in any way. Jesus knew he has a message and his whole ministry is in front of him. It could have been very easy for him to attract huge crowds and they would believe in anything he says if he would show to everyone that he has extraordinary powers like Superman for example. However, Jesus knew that the world has so many clowns already and he won’t allow himself to be one of them. He believes that he can spread his message based on his sincerity and the promise of the Kingdom of God.
In the “Lord’s Prayer”, Jesus tells us to pray that we would be led not into temptation. Jesus experienced how it means to be tempted with no assurance that we would come out victorious. But the reality is that we are all bound to be tempted in one way or another because the devil is very cunning and wants us to go to his side. And yet, temptation is not a sin. It only becomes a sin when we succumb to it. That is why, we should avoid all instance of temptation and seek God’s help whenever we are in one.
The season of Lent is a season where the church emphasise the need to do fasting, prayer and almsgiving. And hopefully, some of us have made resolutions to do some sacrifice this Lenten season and yet there’s a temptation of evading our resolutions and succumb to it.
May this Lenten season be a fruitful for all of us. We try to stick to our resolutions and make this season a season of acknowledgement of one’s sins and the need for God’s mercy and compassion.