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Homily for the First Sunday of Lent (A) (5th March, 2017) on the Gospel

Gen 2:7-9.3:1-7;
Ps 50:3-6.12-14.17 (R. v.3)
Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12.17-19;
Matt 4:1-11.
An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.
Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. “I don’t mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?”
“‘Tis odd, isn’t it? the man replies. “You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.”
Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. Word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers. The next day, the bartender says to the man, “Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you on the sudden death of your brother. You know, the two beers and all...”
The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well. It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.”[1]
Topic: Your Desire, Your Temptation.
In today’s gospel, the tempter tempted Jesus. Note that the tempter did not tempt Jesus immediately he went into the wilderness despite the fact that the bible tells us that Jesus was led into the wilderness for that purpose. It was as if the devil (tempter) waited for the appropriate time. This did not happen until Jesus had fasted forty days and forty nights and was very hungry. Any hungry person ought to desire food. The tempter cashed in on this natural desire: “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”.
The devil even backed his temptation with scriptural passages: “…it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone’” (v. 6, cf. Ps 91:11-12). In Saint Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians he wrote: “… even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2Cor 11:14). It is very important to note that the ability to quote the scripture is not and will never be a sign of being from God.
Looking at all the temptations of Jesus at the face level it will be difficult if not impossible for one to see anything evil in them just like the suggestion he made to Adam and Eve in the first reading: “4… You will not die; 5for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God ….” (Gen 3:4-5). The first reading went further: “… the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Gen 3:6). The serpent is very crafty (cf. Gen 3:1); as a result, will not allow anyone see the consequences of what he asks one to do because he knows that if he allows anyone see this it will be very difficult if not impossible for him to get anybody. Our watchword as Christians should be ‘Do not negotiate with the devil for anything; he has nothing good for anybody’.
There is need for every Christian to fortify him/herself always but in a special way during this season through fasting and prayer. Following Jesus our Teacher and our Lesson, everyone is called to prayer and fasting. Fasting does not simply imply abstaining from food likewise prayer is much more than vocal prayers many know about. They do not exclude these but they mean much more than these. As we struggle to abstain from food it is also more important to abstain from every form of sin. Again, as we say our vocal prayers we should know that prayer is communication. No healthy communication is one-way. God expects us also to listen to Him. In the words of St John Chrysostom “Prayer is a precious way of communicating with God, it gladdens the soul and gives repose to its afflictions. You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire for God, and indescribable devotion ….” (The Divine Office, II, 1997, pp. 21-22).
The period of Lent is a special period for us. It is time to hearken to the word of God through the apostle James:
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you” (Jas 4:7-8, 10).
My dear one in the Lord, “Our pilgrim life here on earth cannot be without temptation for it is through temptation that we make progress and it is only by being tempted that we come to know ourselves. We cannot win our crown unless we overcame, and we cannot overcame unless we enter the contest and there is no contest unless we have an enemy and temptations he brings” (St. Augustine on the Psalms. In The Divine Office, II, p. 95). Take time to fast and pray with your desires. They will help you know how the tempter will cash in on them to tempt you. It is not bad for one to desire for anything good but let our desire/s not lead us into sin.
Bible Readings: 2Tim 4:1-8; Jas 1:12-16; 4:1-10; 1Pt 5:1-11; Eph 4:25-5:2; 6:10-20; 1Jn 2:29-3:10.
Thought for today: The tempter’s snare lies most in your desire/s (cf. Jas 1:14).
Let us pray:
Lord God, help us to triumph in every temptation of this life so as to win the unfading crown of glory through Christ our Lord – Amen (cf. 1Pt 5:4).

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[1] Thomas, T., (2010). Spice up your homilies. Mumbai: St Pauls, pp. 20-21.

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