Sunday, February 21, 2010

Homily for the first Sunday of Lent - 02-21-10

A Reading From the Holy Gospel According to Luke. (4:1-13)

" Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by
the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he
ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry.

" The devil said to him, «If you are the Son of God, command this stone to
become bread.» And Jesus answered him, «It is written, 'Man shall not
live by bread alone.'»

" And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world
in a moment of time, and said to him, «To you I will give all this
authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it
to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.»
And Jesus answered him, «It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your
God, and him only shall you serve.'»

" And he took him to Jerusalem, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple,
and said to him, «If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from
here; for it is written, 'He will give his angels charge of you, to
guard you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike
your foot against a stone.'» And Jesus answered him, «It is said, 'You
shall not tempt the Lord your God.'»

" And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him
until an opportune time. "


Ever since man and woman were created by God (cf. Gn. 1:27), they both
have had a jealous enemy: the devil. As soon as he could, that fallen
angel tempted the woman, Eve, who then led her husband Adam into sin, the
original sin. For the devil could not stand to see other beings having
what he himself had lost forever: the possibility of becoming similar
to God.

Man and woman had been created by God to be his "image" and his
"likeness" (Gn. 1:26). But this image and likeness, though perfect in
itself, had not yet reached its fullness when God created the man and the
woman. In order to achieve this fullness, Adam and Eve had to undergo a
trial: that of obedience to God. It was necessary for the man and woman
not to eat at all of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and
evil, which was planted in the middle of the garden of Eden, along with
the tree of life (cf. Gn. 2:9). By obeying God, by not eating the
forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve could merit - if that were possible - fully
becoming images of God, the son and daughter of God.

However, to the trial set before the man and woman was added another:
that of resisting the temptation that the devil suggested to them in
order to make them stumble on the way to eternal life. God allowed
this... Adam and Eve were not only to listen to the voice of God and to
obey him, but also to reject the suggestions of the demon and to refuse
to carry them out. Unfortunately, the words of the devil made an
impression on the spirit of Eve, who began to think about them, and
eventually she ate the forbidden fruit: "So when 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, and he ate." (Gn. 3:6)

Jesus, the Son of God who was sent by the Father to be the New Adam, was
also tested by the Lord: "Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from
the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness,
tempted by the devil." Jesus, throughout his life on earth, had to obey
the command of his Father and reject the despicable suggestions of Satan.
As the envoy of the Father, Jesus carries out, throughout his entire
life, the command of his Father, the Creator of all things. But to the
Word of the Father, whom the Son is in his essence and which he realizes
in all his person, comes the temptations of the devil, sometimes visible
and corporeal, as in the desert, and sometimes invisible and spiritual,
as in the Garden of Gethsemane (cf. Lk. 22:41-43) or on the Cross of
Calvary (cf. Mt. 27:46).

 Each time that the devil tempts Jesus, the latter replies by quoting from
the Holy Scriptures. Jesus thus provides us with the example we should
follow. For Jesus could have answered the devil by disputing with him:
Jesus is God, and he can never sin; and in disputing with the devil,
Jesus would have had the last word! But Jesus does not dispute! He
replies, simply, with the words contained in the Holy Scriptures, in
order that we might do the same. For, if we try to dispute with the
devil, sooner or later he will come out on top, as was the case with Eve
in the garden of Eden.

No, we must not dispute with the devil. But, in response to his perverse
suggestions, we must simply respond with the very Word of God. This
would presuppose that the Word of God is our own, through faith and love.
Finally, there is no better word to set against the temptations of the
devil than that of the Bread of Life, a word that we can make our own,
intimately, through Eucharistic Communion. Jesus is right to say to the
devil: "Man shall not live by bread alone." For man also lives, above
all, by the True Bread, the Bread of God who came down from Heaven (cf.
Jn. 6:33 and 51)!

 The devil then tries to divert Jesus from his proper mission, which is
that of leading all souls to the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the Servant of
God par excellence: he is at the service of the Father who wants to save
all men. Jesus the Man must always be at the service of the Word of God
which is in him and to which he is united in an absolutely unique way.
Nothing must divert him from this service. His kingdom is that of
Heaven. He has said so: "My kingship is not of this world." (Jn. 18:36)
So, when the devil tempts Jesus by showing him all the kingdoms of the
earth, the Lord replies by saying that he is at the service of the King
of Heaven, thus refusing to adore the Prince of this world: "You shall
worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve."

 God appoints a certain time for everything. It is only when he decides to
do a certain thing that it is actually realized, and not before or after.
Now, it was not yet the time of God when the devil used God's own words,
written in the Holy Scriptures, in tempting Jesus for the third time. It
is true that God will charge his angels with taking care of Christ, but
only when his hour has come. When Jesus will say to his Father:
"Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify
thee..." (Jn. 17:1), that will be the hour of the will of God, and the
Father will send his angels to his Son. In the meantime, Jesus replies
to the devil: "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." That is, you
will not try to make him act before his time. "And when the devil had
ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune
time." (Lk. 4:13)

May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary help us with her almighty prayer in order
that the grace of the Holy Spirit might accompany us all the days of our
life! In this way, we will be able to worthily communicate of the Body
and Blood of Christ, forming a single Body with him and with our
brothers, as we await the eternal Life that will come in Jesus, after the
temptation of this life!

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen

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