By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 1st Sunday of Lent - on the Gospel
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Deuteronomy 26:4-10 Romans 10:8-13 Luke 4:1-13

In the heat of the President Bill Clinton and Miss Monica Lewinsky affair the head of a women's support group spoke on CNN. This is what she said, in essence: "Monica Lewinsky has done nothing wrong. In the world of corporate establishments and in the White House bureaucracy, women who want to advance must use everything at their disposal: power, connections and sex. If that is what she has done, we see absolutely nothing wrong with that." The name of the game is: use what you have to get what you want. I am sure you have heard that before. Many people indeed take it as their philosophy of life. In our Gospel reading today, however, Jesus shows us that the principle of using whatever you have to get whatever you want is not always right. In fact, when that principle is applied without putting God first, it becomes a philosophy of the world, the devil's own philosophy, a philosophy that should be rejected even as Jesus did.

Our Gospel today is on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Three temptations are recounted: to change stone into bread, to fall down and worship the devil, and to jump down from the pinnacle of the Temple. In each of these three temptations what the devil is saying to Jesus is, "Come on, use what you have to get what you want." And in each case Jesus overcomes the temptation by replying, "No, we can only use godly means to satisfy our God-given needs or to pursue our goals in life."

In the first temptation, Jesus had fasted for forty days in the wilderness and at the end of it he was very hungry. The devil puts an idea into his head: "If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" (Luke 4:3). Notice that the first thing the devil does is sow a doubt in his mind: "if you are the Son of God." "Are you really sure God is with you?" The same thing happened in the garden of Eden. The first thing the Tempter said to Eve was, "Did God really say you should not eat of any fruit of the garden" (Genesis 3:1). Temptation always begins with a doubting thought. Did God really say this or is it one of those Sunday school fairy tales? Jesus overcame the temptations by refusing to entertain such doubts and by standing on the word of God.

Note, secondly, that people are tempted only with what they need or want. After his fasting Jesus needed to eat. So the devil tempted him with food. It is not a sin for Jesus to eat after fasting. The sin may lie in how the food is obtained. Should he follow the normal way of obtaining bread or should he take the shortcut suggested by the devil to obtain instant bread? Jesus refuses to take the devil's shortcut. The means we employ to satisfy our needs must be in accordance with the word of God. Feeding on God's word is ultimately more important than feeding on bread. "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone'" (verse 4).

In the second temptation the devil shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and promises to give him authority over them if only Jesus would worship him. Remember that Jesus was about to begin his public life and was looking for a way to get the whole world to know him and accept his message. Again the devil tempts him to use what he has (his heart, his soul) to get what he wants (the loyalty of the whole world). Again Jesus says no. The end does not justify the means. "It is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him'" (verse 8).

In the third temptation the devil asks Jesus to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple as a way to prove that he was the Son of God. Remember that the people were asking Jesus for a sign to prove that he was the Messiah. Jesus wanted to convince them that he was the one. But how do you do it! The devil suggested this sensational sky jump without a parachute. Again, use what you have to get what you want. Use your supernatural power to get the people to recognize you and believe in you as the Son of God, the Messiah. And again Jesus says no. The God of Jesus Christ is not a God of the sensational but a God who works through the ordinary, everyday things of life. "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (verse 12).

So you see, unlike those friends of Monica who believe you can trade off everything you have to obtain what you want, Jesus shows us that we should never trade off our faith in God or our moral principles to obtain anything in this world, because faithfulness to God is more precious than anything in this world.

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