Saturday, March 4, 2017

1st Sunday of Lent, Year A, 05.03.2017

Gen 2: 7-9. 3: 1-7 / Rom 5:12-19 (or 12:17-19) / Mt 4:1-11

If we look around at the sanctuary, we may notice something. We may notice that something is missing.

We may already have noticed that the sanctuary is rather bare, and then we will realise that there are no flowers, not even a leaf.

Someone jokingly asked: Father, why no flowers huh? Is it because the price of water is going to increase, so no budget for flowers?
Well, the price of water is certainly going to increase (30%), but that doesn’t mean we can’t afford some flowers.

Of course the reason is that the season of Lent has begun, today is the 1st Sunday of Lent, it is a season to go back to our spiritual basics.

And so to bring about that feeling, the sanctuary is not excessively decorated, so the flowers are left out, so that there is the bare so-called “desert” look.

And that is what the gospel tells us today: Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness (desert) to be tempted by the devil.

And there in the desert, He fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and that’s where we get that 40 days of Lent.

And after those 40 days and 40 nights, Jesus was very hungry and it was then that the devil began tempting Him.

At first it was for His physical needs i.e. His hunger – If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.

And then the devil challenged Jesus to put God to the test by jumping off the parapet of the Temple.

And then finally, it was to give in to the devil, in return for riches and wealth, for luxury and pleasure.

But in all three attempts, the devil did not manage to find a gap to make Jesus give in to the temptation.

We might say “Of course, it is Jesus. The devil won’t succeed in tempting Jesus. The devil won’t stand a chance”. That’s what we might think.

But let us also remember that the devil zeroed in on where Jesus was most vulnerable.

Jesus was hungry, very hungry, and a hungry man can be an angry man as well as a crazy man. Hunger cannot be underestimated.

Jesus was alone, and loneliness can make a person feel that God is not present and hence faith in God is easily shaken and eroded.

Jesus was human, just like us, and as we know it ourselves, we desire for comfort and pleasure and luxury, as well as riches and wealth.

But Jesus knew who He was. It was not a case of “If He was the Son of God”. He is the Son of God, and He had to hold firm to that identity.

On the contrary, we heard in the 1st reading how Adam and Eve fell into the temptation of the devil.

It is often presumed that Eve lead Adam to sin because it was she who first ate of the forbidden fruit and then she gave it to Adam causing him to sin. That seems to be what is often presumed.

But when we read the passage in the 1st reading again, there is this sentence – “She took some of the fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it”. So Adam was with Eve when the devil tempted her.

And here is where Adam failed. He was given charge over the garden, and he had the duty to protect Eve.

But it seems that Adam stood by passively as the devil tempted Eve. He did not protect Even from the cunning and subtle trickery of the devil. And as the master of the garden, he allowed evil to enter and he did nothing about it and said nothing about it.

We may call it the sin of omission. But more than that, it seems that Adam and Eve forgot who they were and forgot what God had blessed them with.

They could have their fill of all the fruit trees in the garden, but they still desired for what is forbidden.

More than desiring for what is forbidden, they also wanted control; they wanted to be like God. It’s the case of the creature wanting to be the Creator.

And finally they wanted the garden as their own possession. They wanted to build their own kingdom on what doesn’t belong to them.
But where Adam and Even failed and fell into sin, Jesus held fast and firm against the devil. Jesus is often called the Second Adam because He restored what Adam relinquished.

Jesus did not do nothing or said nothing against evil. On the contrary, He rebuked and repelled the devil. 

Yes, we have to fight against evil, in word and in action, because in the Opening Prayer for Ash Wed, we prayed that as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restrain. 

Because evil can only flourish when good people say nothing and do nothing against it.

Jesus assures us that the Word of God will sustain us and protect us from harm.

Let us put our trust in Jesus and follow Him as our Master. Let us spend these 40 days with Him in prayer and fasting and penance.
That is the only way that we can fight against the temptation of the devil.