Homily - First Sunday of Lent - February 17, 2013
Deacon Rick Fisher
Temptation is something we have all experienced. We are tempted to eat that extra piece of pie. Or, we are tempted not to tell the clerk that she didn't charge enough for a particular item. Or maybe we've been tempted to leave the parking lot after a little fender-bender.
Luke aptly summarizes these experiences when he finishes narrating the story of Jesus' temptations: "When the devil had finished all this tempting he left him, to await another opportunity."
Pay particular notice to the last phrase, "To await another opportunity." We can never say, "Now that I've been tempted, that temptation will never come back again." It will be back. If we get away with something, we really want to try it again.
Temptation is a part of Christian life. The key is to be able to recognize it, unmask it, and strip if of its false promises. This is really rather easy because Satan is not creative! You heard correctly, the devil is not creative.
Temptation usually takes one of three forms, as the Bible tells us over and over again.
Hunger is one of the devil's favorite temptations. Remember Adam and Eve? They were hungry. They saw that the food on the tree of good and bad was pleasing to the eyes. So they ate it.
The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. They were hungry, and gave in to the temptation to grumble against God.
When was the last time you were tempted by hunger to over-eat, or to drink too much? And, if we add our hunger for companionship, our hunger for success, and a hunger for reward, we see how old and common this particular temptation really is.
Another common temptation found throughout the Bible is called false worship.
More than once the Israelites gave up on God who had freed them from Egyptian slavery and worshipped false gods of the people with whom they had come in contact.
False worship is not a thing of the past. Those seeking wealth often worship the money they seek. Power over others is sought after and worshiped in families, in schools, in religious congregations, and in business. Mix in our desire for food that is instant, apparel that is the latest fashion, and cars and computers that are the newest or best, and we see that false worship is very much alive and well.
The third common temptation is the test of trust. In the garden, Adam and Eve tested God. In the desert, the Israelites tested God - they wanted food and water, and some wanted to return to Egypt.
And how is it that we test God?
When we bargain with God in prayer, or proclaim that a God of love wouldn't let people suffer, or declare that God wills death, destruction, and disease. Or state that a good God would never condemn one to hell. Such temptations as these have been around a long time.
In Luke, Jesus is portrayed as one who did not succumb to temptations. The promises which God has made in the Scriptures apply to everyone at any time and in any place regardless of the circumstances, an important point to note for those who have never read it! All a person needs to do is lay claim to the promises. This is why the devil quotes the Bible - but beware of those who twist its words.
Jesus refuses to give in to Satan. Jesus demonstrates that the temptation to satisfy hunger, false worship, and to test trust can be resisted. Jesus also knows what the Scriptures say.
To hunger for the word of God, to worship only the real God, and to trust God - these are the characteristics of the followers of Jesus.
Luke makes it perfectly clear that Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit after His baptism in the Jordan and that He was led by the Spirit into the desert for 40 days, where He was tempted. And it's this Spirit that enables Jesus to resist the devil's temptations, to be victorious.
In Baptism and Confirmation we are given the gift of the Spirit, this same Spirit that was with Jesus, so that we, like Jesus, can recognize the temptations in our lives and claim victory.
During the 40 days of Lent, we prepare to renew our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday, when we will proclaim victory. Lent is our time to recognize those old forms of temptation. As we resist, we are transformed, and we travel forward as true followers of Jesus.
This is why we need Lent - to recognize the common temptations in our individual lives and to prepare to renew our baptismal promises of victory.
Do you remember them?
"Do you reject sin - so as to live in the freedom of God's children?"
"Do you reject the glamor of evil - and refuse to be mastered by sin?"
"Do you reject Satan - father of sin and prince of darkness?"
Be ready Holy Saturday or Easter Sunday to shout out, "I do!" "I do!" "I do!"