Lent I [C] Sunday (March 10) Homily – On-page summary
Central theme: Lent begins with a reflection on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The Church assigns temptation stories to the beginning of Lent because temptations come to everybody, not only to Jesus, and we seem almost genetically programmed to yield to them.
Scripture lessons, summarized: The first reading describes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits and gifts to God during the harvest festival in order to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 91), points to Satan’s third temptation of Jesus in the desert as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. In the second reading, St. Paul warns the early Christians converted from Judaism not to yield to their constant temptation to return to the observances of the Mosaic Laws. He reminds them that they will be saved only by acknowledging the risen Jesus as Lord and Savior. The graphic temptations of Jesus described by Matthew and Luke in their Gospels are pictorial and dramatic representations of the inner struggle against a temptation that Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was trying to prevent Jesus from accomplishing his mission of saving mankind from the bondage of sin, mainly through a temptation to become the political Messiah of Jewish expectations, and to use his Divine power first for his own convenience and then to avoid suffering and death.
Life Messages: 1) We need to confront and conquer temptations as Jesus did, using the means he employed: Like Jesus, every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth and a position of authority, and is drawn to the use of unjust or sinful means to attain good ends. Jesus sets a model for conquering temptations through prayer, penance and the effective use of the ‘‘word of God.” Temptations make us true warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. We are never tempted beyond the strength God gives us. In his first letter, St. John assures us: “The One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Hence during Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies with prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), with penance and with the meditative reading of the Bible. Knowledge of the Bible prepares us for the moment of temptation by enabling us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly, day by day,” as William Barclay puts it. 2) We need to grow in holiness during Lent by prayer, reconciliation and sharing. We become resistant and even immune to temptations as we grow healthier in soul by following the traditional Lenten practices: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him and listening to Him; b) by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives by uniting ourselves with God both by the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by forgiving those who have hurt us and asking forgiveness of those whom we have hurt; and c) by sharing our love with others through our selfless and humble service, our almsgiving and our helping of those in need.
LENT 1 [C] (3/10/2019): Dt: 26:4-10, Rom 10:8-13, Lk 4:1-13
Homily starter anecdote: # 1: From Eve to Buddha. Muhammad & Dr. Faustus: In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree to become like God. The devil (Mara) came to the Buddha as he sat in contemplation under the Boddhi tree, tempting him to renounce the spiritual enrichment he sought by bombarding his mind with sensual pleasures of this world. The founder of Islam, prophet Muhammad says in the Quran that he takes refuge in Allah from evil witches who may cast spells on him (Sura 113:4). Literature and films abound with stories of people who have sold their souls to Satan for temporary earthly pleasures. The classical example is Faustus, treated by Christopher Marlowe in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (1588) and Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe in Faust (Published: Part One, 1808, Part 2, 1833). In the early version of the legend, Faust had turned his back on God, and decided not to be called a Doctor of Theology, but rather a Doctor of Medicine. He turns to black magic to call the Devil, and the demon Mephistopheles answers his call. Using Mephistopheles as a messenger, Faustus strikes a deal with Lucifer: he is to be allotted 24 years of life on Earth, during which time he will have Mephistopheles as his personal servant and the ability to use magic; however, at the end he will give his body and soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. This deal is to be sealed in the form of a contract written in Faustus’ own blood. Mephistopheles, of course, uses his tricks and lies to keep Faust from accomplishing much of anything during this time, and Faust tries to revoke his pact, which Satan of course refuses. Eventually, Faust loses his soul to eternal damnation. Today’s Gospel passage describes Jesus’ temptations. C. S. Lewis says in the preface of his book Screwtape Letters that readers should avoid two extremes in the matter of dark powers. On the one hand, skeptics may believe that all of this talk about the devil is myth or rubbish. They have succumbed to modern rationalistic philosophy or scientific materialism. Satan is delighted that these skeptics no longer believe in him. Now he can ruin their lives without their knowing it. But on the other hand, the religiously inclined may let their curiosity about the dark world run away with them, dabbling in things that are dangerous and forbidden. These extremists have given up too much of their reason. Both positions are wrong.
# 2: The Exorcist: Because of the book and movie, The Exorcist (1973), there was probably more talk about the Devil than ever. The movie earned even more than The Godfather – $180 million in the 1970s. For blocks, people lined up, waiting to enter the theaters. The movie was so frightening that one theater operator reported that, at each showing, there were four blackouts, six vomiting spells, and many spontaneous departures during the show. Today, we are pre-occupied with the Devil. In New Jersey, a twenty-year old lad persuaded his two best friends to drown him because he believed that upon death, he would be reborn as a leader of forty legions of devils. In San Francisco, there are 10,000 tithe-paying members of a church of Satan. In The Exorcist, we see how terrible it is to be possessed by the Devil and how hard it is to get the Devil out of a person. The film tells the story of how a twelve-year old girl was possessed by the Devil, how unsuccessful every attempt was to cure her, and how two priests were brought in to perform an exorcism in the Name of Jesus and with His power. So horrible is it to be possessed by the Devil that the movie was considered a horror movie, leaving viewers with psychological trauma. Our real concern today should not be how to get the Devil out of us, but how to keep the Devil out. Even if we get the Devil out of us, we may not be permanently free of the Devil. Recently, someone asked me what would happen if one did not pay one’s Exorcist. I did not know. He told me, “You will be repossessed!” In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ challenge was to keep Satan from entering Him. We see Jesus confronted by the Devil and watch Jesus refuse to allow the Devil to come into his life and thinking. Today, we need to study the methods of Jesus that we, too, may keep the Devil out! (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
Introduction: Lent begins with a reflection on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The first reading describes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits and gifts to God to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 91), gives us the source for Satan’s third temptation as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. The Psalmist sings, “No evil shall befall you, nor affliction come near your tent,/ for to His angels He has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways./ Upon their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone!” In the second reading, St. Paul warns the early Christians converted from Judaism not to yield to their constant temptation to return to the observances of the Mosaic Laws. He reminds them that they will be saved only by acknowledging the risen Jesus as Lord and Savior. The Church assigns temptation stories to the beginning of Lent because temptations come to everybody, not only to Jesus, and we seem almost genetically programmed to yield to them. We are surrounded on all sides by temptations, and they have become so familiar to twenty-first century life that we scarcely notice them.
The first reading, Deuteronomy (26:4-10), explained: The passage from Deuteronomy describes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits and gifts to God during the harvest festival to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert. After setting forth the first fruits in front of the altar of the Lord, the people were to bow down in God’s presence and hear the recital of the mighty acts of Yahweh in Jewish history which centered around three decisive events that shaped Israel’s evolution as a people: (1) the demographic shift from Mesopotamia to Canaan to Egypt motivated by God’s call of Abraham; (2) the deliverance from Egypt of the enslaved Israelites, their passage to freedom and their formation as a people covenanted to God (Exodus); (3) the promise of Canaan and Israel’s eventual possession of it. This ritual was performed annually as part of the Covenant renewal ceremony known as the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Passover and the day after the Seventh Sabbath which ended the seventh week after Passover, thus got the name Feast of Weeks]. The people formally declared their loyalty to the Covenant with Yahweh. By this ritual of thanksgiving, they thanked God for the gift of land, for the abundance they enjoyed due to God’s provident care, and for the gift of freedom. As Christians entering the Lenten season we thank God for (a) a new exodus, i.e., a new passage from slavery to freedom, from death to life; (b) a new and eternal Covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus on the cross; (c) a new manna in the gift of the Eucharist; (d) a new promised land over which God would reign: and (e) a new people of God, inclusive of all the peoples of the earth.
The Second Reading Romans (10:8-13) explained: Paul counsels the early Christian converts from Judaism not to yield to their temptation to go back to the practices of the Mosaic Law. Many of these early Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentile converts to Christ needed to become Jews first and to keep the whole Jewish law for their “justification.” But in today’s second reading, Paul teaches that none of us can achieve righteousness on our own. Hence, Paul argues, God offers us a share in Divine righteousness as grace — a free gift — to which we contribute nothing except our co-operation with God’s grace, our Faith (also His gift) in Christ’s Resurrection and our public acceptance of Jesus (also His Gift) as our Lord and Savior. Our faith in Jesus Christ must be expressed fully in our words and actions, indeed, by our very lives. We live out that acceptance through our Baptism and by using His ongoing gifts of grace in our later virtuous words and deeds. Salvation, in the final analysis, is God’s gracious gift to undeserving sinners whose sole responsibility it is to call upon God for mercy and by Faith to appropriate that saving mercy as it is extended to us in Jesus. Thus, Paul answers those who are tempted to dismiss the Resurrection and take from the Gospels only what seems most reasonable. “Christianity is belief plus confession; it involves witness before men. Not only God, but also our fellow men, must know what side we are on.” (William Barclay).
Gospel exegesis: Forty days of fasting and prayer. The phrase “forty days” was the Hebrew way of expressing a long period of time. We find it used in the recounting of various incidents in Jewish history: a) forty days of rain in Noah’s time (Gn 7:1-23); b) forty days which Moses spent on the mountain with God (Ex 34:28); c) forty days during which the prophet Elijah traveled in the wilderness (II Kgs 19:8). The wilderness was probably a desert in Judea, perhaps the great deserts of Horeb or Sinai, where the children of Israel were tried for forty years, and where Moses and Elijah fasted forty days.
The temptations. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the huge fifteen-by-thirty-five-mile desert between the mountain of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea so that Jesus could prepare by prayer, fasting and penance for the public ministry which he was about to commence. Bible scholars interpret the graphic temptations of Jesus described by Matthew and Luke as a pictorial and dramatic representation of the inner struggle against a temptation that Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was not trying to lure Jesus into some particular sin — rather, he was trying to entice Jesus away from the accomplishment of his Messianic mission, mainly through a temptation to become the political Messiah of Jewish expectations and to use his Divine power for his own convenience and to avoid suffering and death. The opposition, hostility and rejection which Jesus experienced were constant temptations for him to use His power as God’s Son to overcome evil. The temptation story depicts Jesus as obedient to his Father’s will, refusing to be seduced into using his Divine power or authority wrongly. Each of the three temptations, according to the Fathers of the Church, represents an area in which humans regularly fail: the lust of the flesh (stones to bread), the lust of the eye and the heart (ruling over all kingdoms), and the pride of life (a spectacular leap from the Temple). Note that Jesus overcame these temptations through the knowledge of his identity, his purpose, and God’s plan for human salvation.
The offensive and the defensive techniques employed: The temptations to turn stones into bread, to worship Satan and to leap from the pinnacle of the Temple demonstrate three aspects of self-control: material, civil and spiritual. Likewise, they correspond with three levels of human blessings: 1) material goods, 2) political power and 3) spiritual powers. These, in turn, correspond to three human seductions: 1) If you will worship me, I will make you rich; 2) If you will worship me, I will give you political power; 3) If you will worship me, I will endow you with magical power. Jesus dismisses the temptations by references to Deuteronomy. “One does not live by bread alone” (8:3); “Worship the Lord your God“ (6:13), and “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (6:16). Jesus used two powerful weapons against the temptations: the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture. First, Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” and the Spirit helped him to survive his temptations (Lk 4:1, 4:14, 4:18). Second, Jesus quoted Holy Scripture in response to all three temptations.
The first temptation: The first temptation was well-timed. Jesus had been fasting for forty days and nights. Since the people of Israel in the Old Testament had been miraculously fed by manna, why not the Son of God? Giving in to the temptation to make bread from a stone (vv. 2b-4), would, therefore, be analogous to Israel’s failure to trust God for sustenance in the wilderness (Ex 16:3, Ex 16:4-5, Ex 16:20). Quoting from Deuteronomy (8:3) Jesus recalled Israel’s longing for the foods they had left behind in Egypt (bread, onions, meat) and their dissatisfaction with the sustenance (manna, quail, water from the rock) which God provided. Unlike the grumbling Israelites, Jesus was pleased to be nourished by the food that God provided for him, viz., every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3) and doing the will of the Father (John 4:24). Besides, the first temptation was not merely aimed at the urge to satisfy Jesus’ own physical hunger. It was also a temptation to ignore His real mission as Messiah and to respond to others’ physical needs alone, without, at the same time, showing them that the Kingdom of God is more than mere food and drink. Let us ask ourselves the same question: do we use the powers God has given us – physical, financial, mental, or spiritual – for our own satisfaction, comfort or enrichment, or for the well-being, spiritual as well as physical, of others in the community?
The second temptation: In the second test, Satan offers Jesus an easy way to establish the Kingdom of God on earth: enter the world of political power. The temptation to gain the kingdoms of the world by worshiping the devil (vv. 5-8) is analogous to Israel’s temptation to worship other gods (Dt 6:13-15, Ex 32:4; Dt 9:16). The temptation for Jesus was whether he would opt for political power and success or choose the path that would lead to suffering, humiliation and death. Satan said: ““Worship me and it will all be yours.” But this was really an invitation to accomplish His mission by dishonorable means: “If you are going to get along in this world, you need to compromise now and then.” This temptation points to our subtle attraction to doing the right thing by using the wrong means. Jesus answered Satan: “It is written, ‘Thou shall worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.'” (Dt 6:13).
The third temptation: Luke ironically presents Jesus’ third temptation as taking place on the pinnacle of the Temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the center of Jewish religious life. This is analogous to Israel’s testing of God at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:3, 17:7, Dt 6:16). Perhaps the devil was also alluding to the popular expectation that, at his coming, the Messiah would appear suddenly on the pinnacle of the Temple. In this final temptation, Jesus was urged to doubt God. Satan suggested that Jesus should put God to the test: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” trusting in Divine protection as promised in Psalm 91:11-12. Jesus responded by quoting another text from Deuteronomy: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Dt 6:16), which refers to an incident in which “the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?'” (Ex 17:7). Jesus’ command, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (v. 13) silenced the devil and also affirmed his identity as both Lord and God. Sometimes we become angry with God when He fails to respond to tests we set up for Him. The test may be something like this: “If my husband is healed of cancer, then I’ll know God loves me.” “If my boy comes back safely from Iraq, I’ll know God is on my side.” “If I get the job that I’ve been praying for, I’ll know that God cares about me.” The devil tries repeatedly to tempt us to do something reckless and make us expect God to rescue us from it every time. Jesus teaches us that the Spirit-filled life requires unconditional surrender to God’s will.
‘Bye for the time being: The devil departed from him for a time. He left Jesus but would wait for another opportunity. That is why St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote, “In order to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, put on the whole armor of God.” Prayer, fasting and almsgiving help us to do just that, because they help us to “put on Christ” (Rom 13:14). The Holy Spirit, Who brought Jesus safely through the temptation and empowered him for his ministry, would later fill the disciples and empower the Church (Acts 2:4)., However, the temptation story ends with the ominous statement that the devil departed from him until a more opportune time. That “time” came at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. It came again whenever people demanded signs from him to prove who he was (Lk 11:16, 29-32; 22:3, 54-62; 23:35-39). Ultimately, it came in Jerusalem when Jesus was crucified.
Life Messages: 1) We need to confront and conquer temptations as Jesus did, using the means he employed: Like Jesus, every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth and positions of authority, and is drawn to the use of unjust or sinful means to attain good ends. Jesus sets a model for conquering temptations through prayer, penance and the effective use of the ‘‘word of God.” Temptations make us true warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. We are never tempted beyond the strength God gives us. In his first letter, St. John assures us: “The One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Hence, during Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies with prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), penance and the meditative reading of the Bible. Knowledge of the Bible prepares us for the moment of temptation by enabling us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly, day by day,” as William Barclay puts it.
2) We need to grow in holiness during Lent by prayer, reconciliation and sharing. We become resistant and even immune to temptations as we grow healthier in soul by following the traditional Lenten practices: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him and listening to Him; b) by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives, uniting ourselves with God both by the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by forgiving those who have hurt us and asking forgiveness of those whom we have hurt; and c) by sharing our love with others through our selfless and humble service, our almsgiving and our helping of those in need.
3) We need to be on guard against veiled temptations: Let us remember that even Spirit-filled, sanctified and vibrant Christians are still subject to the Original Temptation of Eve: “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil” (Gn 3:5). We are tempted to give ourselves godlike status and treat others as our subordinates. Consequently, we resent every limitation of our freedom and vigorously deny the fact that we are dependent on God and on others. We don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of our choices. We are also tempted to accomplish honorable goals by less-than-honorable means such as the use of lotteries to help schools, or casinos to provide jobs for Native Americans, thus setting traps for the most vulnerable members of our society. These are veiled temptations to accomplish good ends by bad means. We are also tempted to fraternize with people of questionable character. Our temptation to adopt pop culture in liturgical services ultimately leads to trivialization of the worship service.
JOKE OF THE WEEK
1) Satan or God? A priest was ministering to a man on his deathbed. “Renounce Satan!” said the priest.” No,” said the dying man. “I say, renounce the devil and his works!” “No,” the man repeats. “And why not, I ask you in the name of all that is holy?” “Because,” said the dying man, “I want to wait until I see where I’m heading, before I start annoying anybody.”
2) “Get behind me, Satan!” (A) little boy always went next door to play even though his mom had warned him against doing so. This worried his mom so badly that she asked him why he was so disobedient. He replied that Satan tempted him so bad and he did not know what to do. His mom then advised him to say ‘Get behind me Satan’ whenever he was tempted. She then built a fence around the house. This worked for a week, then one sunny afternoon his mom looked out the window and there was her son playing on the neighbor’s lawn having cut a hole in the fence. “Jeremy”, she yelled, “come here!” She then said, “Did I not tell you to say ‘Get behind me Satan’ whenever he tempted you?” “Yes”, the boy replied, “I said, ‘Get behind me Satan’, then he went behind me and pushed me through the hole in the fence.”
3) “Get behind me, Satan!”: (B) I saw a cartoon on this notion recently. “A woman had bought a new dress which was very expensive. Her husband asked why she had been so extravagant. She replied, “The Devil made me do it.” “Well,” the husband asked, “Why didn’t you say ‘Get thee behind me Satan!'” “I did,” explained the wife, “But he said it looked as good in back as it did in front.” So I bought it.”
4) Smarter than Einstein: At the conclusion of the Church service, the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the minister. As one of them left, he shook the minister’s hand, thanked him for the sermon and said, “Thanks for the message, Reverend. You know, you must be smarter than Einstein.” Beaming with pride, the minister said, “Thank you, brother, but why do you think so? The man replied, “Well, Reverend, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Reverend, no one can understand you!”
5) Priestly temptations: Once four priests were spending a couple of days at a cabin. In the evening they decided to tell each other their biggest temptation. The first priest said, “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but my big temptation is gluttony.” “My temptation is worse,” said the second priest. “It’s gambling. “Mine is worse still,” said the third priest. “I sometimes can’t control the urge to drink. The fourth priest was quiet. “Brothers, I hate to say this,” he said, “but my temptation is worst of all. I love to gossip – and if you guys will excuse me, I’d like to make a few phone calls!”
6) Picking Forbidden Fruit: It is hard to pick forbidden fruit if you are a hundred yards away, but it is easy if you are at an arm’s length. When you flee temptation, be sure you don’t leave a forwarding address. (Rev. Kent Crockett)
Spiritual Training Camp for Lent: Jesus prepared himself for his ministry by a period of fasting, praying, and strengthening himself against temptation. How will we use the time of Lent for our spiritual training camp? Lent is a time to practice the use of God’s word as our defensive weapon against temptation. What spiritual training plans will we put into practice during Lent? Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are traditional. Today’s passage from the Gospel might suggest that we spend a few minutes each day in reading Scripture. Are we trying to live by “bread alone?” We might write a plan for each week of Lent. Here are some suggestions to get us started:
First Week I will . . . spend some time reading the Gospels or the Psalms.
Second Week I will . . . fast from foods, unhealthy for body and soul.
Third Week I will . . . volunteer at a soup kitchen, thrift shop, or day care center.
Fourth Week I will . . . learn a few lines of Scripture by heart.
Fifth Week I will . . . give clothes, money, or possessions to the poor.
Sixth Week I will . . . participate in Holy Week liturgies.
WEBSITES OF LENTEN RESOURCES
- Pray, Fast, Give – USCCB’s Lent Page has it all:http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/
What Should I Do For Lent? Pope Francis’ 10 Tips –http://www.focus.org/blog/posts/what-should-i-do-for-lent-pope-francis-ten-tips.html
- Got Questions about Lent? Check out the USCCB Q&A Page:http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/liturgical-year/lent/questions-and-answers-about-lent.cfm
- Why do we give up something for Lent? http://bustedhalo.com/questionbox/why-do-we-give-up-something-for-lent
- List of Lenten Reflections and videos: http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Seasonal/Default.aspx?id=5
- Living Lent Daily: http://www.loyolapress.com/living-lent-daily.htm
- Creighton University Praying Lent: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/Lent/
- Read MAGNIFICAT online and on iPhone: https://www.magnificat.net/english/iphoneweb.asp
- Great Catholic Apps: http://catholicapptitude.org/lenten-apps/
- CRS Rice Bowl: http://www.crsricebowl.org/ & https://www.facebook.com/CRSRiceBowl
- Mathew Kelly’s 2016 Lenten reflections: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w67FFFsqguo
23 Additional anecdotes:
(“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables.'”(Janet Litherland, Storytelling from the Bible). In fact Mark 4:34 says, “he [Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable…”Visit the article: Picturing the Kingdom of God by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR: http://www.appleseeds.org/picture.htm).
1) The blow you never see coming is the one that can be the most dangerous: Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was an expert at sleight of hand and a skeptic when it came to the spiritualists and other psychic phonies of his day, but he was best known for his ability to escape from what seemed to be impossible situations. Straitjackets, chains, ropes, jail cells, strange devices such as a milk pail filled with water — he managed to escape from one situation after another in full view of his audience. What did him in, however, was the blow he never saw coming. While reclining on a couch backstage after a performance he was asked by a couple of college students if he could withstand a punch to the stomach. When he answered that he could, one of the students surprised him by actually punching him several times. These blows caught him off guard, and seem to have ruptured an already aggravated appendix. Houdini died a week later. The blow you never see coming is the one that can be the most dangerous. The temptation of Jesus might have been the blow Jesus never saw coming. Harry Houdini, after he had been hit by the college student, insisted that if he’d known the punch was coming he would have strengthened his abdominal muscles and received the blow without damage. You know a blow is coming. You know that only rarely are our temptations presented as obviously evil. More often we’re tempted to imagine we might do good if we take a moral shortcut. Don’t kid yourself. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) “Always look up to the Master’s face.” Leslie Dunkin once told about a dog he had when he was a boy. This was an unusually obedient dog. Periodically his father would test the dog’s obedience. He would place a tempting piece of meat on the floor. Then he would turn toward the dog and give the command, “No!” The dog, which must have had a strong urge to go for the meat, was placed in a most difficult situation to obey or disobey his master’s command. Dunkin said, “The dog never looked at the meat. He seemed to feel that if he did, the temptation to disobey would be too great. So he looked steadily at my father’s face.” Dunkin then made this spiritual application: “There is a lesson for us all. Always look up to the Master’s face.” (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, http://www.trinitycrc.org/sermons/jam1v13-18.html) As the hymn puts it, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / look full in his wonderful face; / then the things of earth will grow / strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) “Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo?” A mother camel and her baby are talking one day and the baby camel asks, “Mom, why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “To enable us trek across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the boy replies, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo in freezing Canada?” Modern life sometimes makes one feel like a camel in a zoo. And like camels in a zoo, we need sometimes to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are and how we are expected to live our lives as true followers of a crucified and Risen God. Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience of prayer and penance. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4) Temptations as ice cream & cake: I recently read a story about a little boy named Bobby who desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10-speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow.” Jim Grant in Reader’s Digest a few months back told about an overweight businessman who decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he showed up at work with a gigantic coffee cake. Everyone in the office scolded him, but his smile remained nonetheless. “This is a special coffee cake,” he explained. “I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be a parking spot open right in front.’ And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) “You put on a uniform. You get yourself a rifle and you fight.” During the Revolutionary War, a young man came to George Washington and said, “General Washington, I want you to know that I believe in you and your cause. I fully support you.” General Washington graciously thanked him and asked, “What regiment are you in? Under whose command do you serve? What uniform do you wear?” “Oh,” said the young man, “I’m not in the army, I’m just a civilian.” The General replied, “Young man, if you believe in me and my cause, then you join the army. You put on a uniform. You get yourself a rifle and you fight.” Jesus issues the same challenge to us today. He’s not interested in sympathizers, but in soldiers. For this is the kind of commitment that leads to a worthwhile and satisfying life. The civilian wanted to be an admirer. The civilian wanted to join SOME DAY. George Washington said: TODAY! On this first Sunday of Lent Jesus challenges us to join his army today itself and fight the tempter and his temptations using his power and using the means he used. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Tempter snake in The Passion of the Christ: In Mel Gibson’s controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, we see the nature of the Tempter quite vividly. This isn’t a scene from the Bible. It is a fictional account, but it is quite powerful. Jesus is shown at Gethsemane, in agony over his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. A shadowy figure appears and says to him, “No one was meant to save so many. No one can. It is too much. You cannot.” The presence whispers these words over and over, trying to split Jesus from his relationship with God. Finally, Jesus gets up, steps on the head of a snake the tempter has dropped near him, and goes off. The Tempter is unable to turn Jesus from his destiny and calling. There would be other temptations later. But for now the Tempter had been defeated. But even Jesus was tempted, tempted without sinning. (http://www.fortbraggpresbyterian.org/html/sermons/sermon2‑13‑05.html). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
7) “Wake up! Save yourself!” The Greek philosopher Plato once told a story of a carriage drawn by a pair of young and spirited steeds. In the vehicle, the driver held the reins and guided the horses on the straight and smooth road. One day a heavy drowsiness came upon the driver and he fell fast asleep. The horses, not feeling the restraint of the reins, went off the right path, and soon they were bouncing over bush and brush, to the edge of a deep pit, a bottomless abyss. A man standing nearby, seeing the threatened danger, called out to the driver in a loud and mighty voice: “Wake up! Save yourself!” With a start, the driver suddenly awakened. In a moment he realized his peril. Pale and trembling, he hastily grasped the reins, and, exerting almost superhuman effort, he succeeded in turning the horses to one side, thus saving his own life and those of his animals. Plato says the moral of the story is this: the fiery steeds are the appetites, desires, lusts, and passions to which the heart of the human inclines from youth. The driver is the wisdom, understanding, and intelligence with which God has endowed human beings that we might rule over our appetites and desires and have dominion over our self-destructive impulses. http://www.boydspc.org/sermons/20070304Philippians3,17-4,1.pdf). Woe to us if we never hear the voice of conscience, the voice of God, telling us to wake up before we destroy our lives! Temptation is universal and potentially deadly. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
8) Six Swans and their determined sister: There is an Irish tale called Six Swans. In this tale, the young heroine’s six older brothers were turned into swans by their evil stepmother. The only way the spell could be broken was for the girl to make each of her brothers a sweater out of starwort, a pesky nettle that buries its spines in one’s skin. She was told that the way to redeem her brothers would be long and hard. Furthermore, she had to gather this plant herself and spin it into thread by hand. She herself was not allowed to speak out loud until she could redeem her brothers. She was abducted from her land and carried to a new place that was strange to her and where she had few friends. The girl could not speak aloud until she had finished her task. But she kept on with the task even as her hands became disfigured and gnarled. Out of this experience she became a stronger person. (http://www.wpcdurham.org/Sermons/02132005paul.htm) Jesus was driven out into the wilderness. There he was tested, as you and I are tested in our daily lives. There seems no other way to do it. No pain, no gain. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
9) Wrong Reasons: The Becket controversy or Becket dispute was the quarrel between Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and King Henry II of England, from 1163 to 1170. The controversy culminated with Becket’s murder in 1170, and was followed by Becket’s canonization in 1173 and Henry’s public penance at Canterbury in July 1174. In his play Murder in the Cathedral, playwright T.S. Eliot describes how St. Thomas Becket struggled with the threat of martyrdom. He was not afraid to die because of the sufferings of martyrdom, but because he might not be acting from the proper motives. As he defended the Church of England against King Henry II, Thomas wondered whether or not he was doing this out of pride. “Nothing would be more tragic,” He says, “than to do the right thing for the wrong reason; to do what is noble for reasons of vanity.” The temptations that faced Thomas Becket are similar to those that confronted Jesus in today’s Gospel. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
10) “I’m already working on a murder case!:” The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants, who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. “Okay,” began the sheriff, “What is 1 and 1?” “Eleven,” came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, “That’s not what I meant, but he’s right.” Then the sheriff asked, “What two days of the week start with the letter ‘T’?” “Today and tomorrow.” replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. “Now, listen carefully: who killed Abraham Lincoln?” asked the sheriff. The job-seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, “I don’t know.” The sheriff replied, “Well, why don’t you go home and work on that one for a while?” The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, “The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I’m already working on a murder case!” In our Gospel reading this morning from Luke 4 it is Jesus’ first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations centering on the key question: why can’t you take the crown without the cross? (http://www.esermons.com/) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
11) “I had not given up my habit of eating sugar.” A woman once came to Gandhi and asked him to please tell her son to give up his addiction to sugar. Gandhi asked the woman to bring the boy back in a week. Exactly one week later the woman returned, and Gandhi said to the boy, “Please give up eating sugar.” The woman thanked the Mahatma, and, as she turned to go, asked him why he had not said those words a week ago.” Gandhi replied, “Because a week ago, I had not given up my habit of eating sugar.” (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
12) One-half of a pizza for Charles Barkley: Many of you basketball fans are familiar with former all-pro basketball player Charles Barkley. Barkley is now a popular sports commentator, but at one time he played for the Philadelphia 76ers where he was known as “The Round Mound of Rebound.” When Pat Croce became the physical therapist for the Philadelphia 76ers he instituted a new diet and exercise program for the team. At 6’ 5” and 300 pounds, Charles Barkley resisted. He had no desire to pay the price to lose weight and get in shape. After all, he was a phenomenal player, even with the extra flab. Croce is famous as a motivator; it didn’t take him too long to coax Barkley into an exercise program. But Charles’ eating habits were another story! He had been known to eat a one-pound bag of M&Ms in one sitting. He had a serious love affair with pizza. So Pat Croce decided to take some drastic steps to get Charles in shape. He waited outside Charles’ mansion one night and ambushed the pizza delivery man. The delivery man had two pizzas for Charles. Pat took one and one-half of the pizzas away. He also threatened to do serious bodily harm to the delivery man if he ever delivered more than one-half of a pizza to that address in the future. Charles got the message. That season, he lost fifty pounds. [Pat Croce, with Bill Lyon. I Feel Great, and You Will Too! (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 97-98.] Wouldn’t it be great if all of us had a Pat Croce in our lives, someone who would be there for us each time we are tempted? (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
13) M&M’S Chocolate Candy temptation: There was a 20/20 episode sometime back in which some children of about four years of age were forced to deal with the ancient scourge of temptation. They were left alone in a room. Sitting in front of each of them were two or three M&Ms. They were told they could have a whole package of M&Ms if they would wait five minutes for a bell to ring before devouring the two or three M&Ms in front of them. The struggle of temptation was recorded through a two-way mirror. The result was hilarious, says Jewell, as these poor kids twitched, fidgeted, wiggled and twisted their faces up in knots trying not to grab those M&Ms. About half made it, and half said in effect, “To heck with it, I want what I want when I want it!” (http://www.lectionarysermons.com/zun1l.html). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
14) We can begin again: It is reported that Thomas Edison’s laboratory was virtually destroyed by fire in December 1914. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were only insured for $ 238,000 because they were made of concrete and were thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s work literally went up in smoke on that fateful December night. At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24year-old son, Charles frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, and his white hair blowing in the wind. Said the sympathetic son, “My heart ached for him. He was 67 –no longer a young man – and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me he shouted, “Charles, where is your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.” The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver his first phonograph! (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life.)
15) Molting by shrimp: Shrimp wear their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, and have been known to discard their shells as many as twenty-six times during their short life span. They shed their shells to accommodate their growing bodies. It is known as molting. Perhaps, we human beings can take a lesson from the shrimp. Do we have some shells that need discarding? It may be a good idea to examine our lives and shed a few shells occasionally to grow further in the right direction. Perhaps, Lent, is a time to shed our shells of envy, pride, anger, hatred, and so on. Perhaps it’s time to shed our shells of selfishness and of narrow, confining self-interest if any. We need to refresh our Faith-living, with active prayer life, reading of the Scriptures, practicing love and charity in a more intensive way. (Fr. Joseph Chirackal C.M.I) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
16) Leading to temptation: A young boy was forbidden by his father to swim in the canal near their home. One day the boy came home carrying a wet bathing suit and his father asked him where he had been. The boy calmly stated that he had been swimming in the canal. The father was angry and said, “Didn’t I tell you not to swim there?” The boy assured him that he had. The father wanted to know why he had disobeyed him. The boy said, “Well, Dad, I had my swimming suit with me, and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” Furious the father asked the boy why the boy had his bathing suit with him. The boy answered with total honesty, “So I would be prepared to swim, just in case I was tempted.” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
17) Open for a Left Hook: On May 21, 2005, Andrew Golota fought Lamon Brewster for the WBO heavyweight boxing title. Golota, a strong fighter with a powerful punch, had 38 wins, 5 losses, and 31 knockouts. In preparation for the fight, Brewster had studied tape of Golota’s boxing, looking for an opening. He noticed that the way Golota held his hands left him open for a left hook. Within seconds after the first round began, Brewster found the opening and threw a left hook. Golota went down to the mat and got up. Brewster threw another left hook and Golota went down again. He stood up and the fight resumed. Brewster threw another left hook to the same opening, and Golota went down for the 3rd time, which counted as a knockout. Lamon Brewster won the fight in the first round because he was the smarter fighter. All he had to do pound on his opponent’s weakness. In a similar way, Satan is looking to pound on our weakest areas. When we leave an opening by yielding to temptation, he’ll take advantage and throw a left hook. But if we’ll not yield to temptation, we’ll close off the area and cut off his opportunity. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:27 NAS). –Kent Crockett (www.kentcrockett.com). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
18) The temptation of the Sundew trap: In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the “sundew” (Drosera). It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. The devil uses the same technique in tempting us. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
19) “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?” “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn’t. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
20) Catching ring-tailed monkey with a melon: Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it’s simple. They’ve been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the hard-skinned melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. Satan tempts us with similar traps. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
21) When you flee temptations, don’t leave a forwarding address: Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights champion in the United States. He was a pastor who fought for the equality and freedom of the Afro-Americans in the U.S. He was shot dead on the 4th April 1968. The day before his death, he spoke thus: “We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now. Because I’ve been to the mountain top… Like anybody, I would like to live a long life… But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land.” Confronted with the prospect of his own death, he was unconcerned. All he wanted to do was – to do the will of God. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
22) Desert Experience: When winter comes to the South Pole, the so-called Polar night begins. The sun disappears below the horizon and doesn’t show its face again for four and a half months. Every day is the same: 24 hours darkness. Years ago, explorer Richard Byrd spent the winter alone at the South Pole. For four and one-half months he lived in total darkness, buried beneath the snow in a tiny room. The temperature in that room often dipped to 50 degrees below zero. Three times a day, Byrd climbed the stairs to the roof of his room, opened a trapdoor, pushed away the snow, and went out into the cold and darkness to record weather information. Why did Byrd choose to live by himself during these months of total darkness? He answers that question in his book Alone. He says he is it because he wanted to get away from everything. He wanted to do some serious thinking. He writes: “And so it occurred to me … that here was the opportunity…I should be able to live exactly as I choose, obedient to no necessities but those imposed by the wind and night and cold, and to no man’s law but my own.” After the first month of solitude, Byrd discovered something “good” happening. He discovered that you can live much more deeply and profoundly if you keep life simple and don’t clutter it with a lot of material things. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ desert experiences after his baptism. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) “The boot Monument:” One of the strangest monuments in the world is “The boot Monument” at Saratoga in America. It shows a boot with the inscription, “In memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental army, who was desperately wounded on this spot, winning for his countrymen. The decisive battle of the American Revolution, and for himself the rank of Major General.” But the monument does not mention the general’s name. This monument is the symbol of a man’s succumbs to temptation to wealth and power, memorial of a great treason that took place in the history of America. Benedict Arnold was an early American hero of the war. When he was tempted with the offer High Military rank and 10,000 pounds, he was willing to accept terms from British Commander Sir Henry Clinton, and to betray his country. “The boot Monument” declares his treason to the posterity. Today’s Gospel tells us about the three temptation of Jesus. Jesus was tempted to “turn a stone into a loaf of bread in order to appease his hunger; to worship in exchange for wealth, power and glory; and to throw himself down from the Temple top, so that he would get popularity, that people would acclaim him as messiah. (Fr. Bobby Jose).
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 15) by Fr. Tony: firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit this website: http://frtonyshomilies.com/for missed or previous Cycle B homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at email@example.com. Visit http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily.
Fr. Antony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604. Email ID= firstname.lastname@example.org)