Homily for the first Sunday of Lent

Year A  -  Mt. 4:1-11


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."  But he answered, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"
"Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you,' and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'"  Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'"
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them;  and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."  Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'"
"Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him."



Homily:


"Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil."

Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, the Church proposes to us a gospel reading that tells us about the devil's temptation of Jesus.  The reason for this is that Lent is a time of preparation for Easter.  That is, we must strive to accomplish the great passage from death to life which constitutes the Passover of the Lord.  When Lent begins, it is as if today were already Easter!  But this preparation for the Passover of the Lord is not reserved solely to the time of Lent:  all of the liturgical year, all of our life is a preparation for Easter!

The proof of this is that each Sunday of the year we are reminded of the Resurrection of Christ, as the Council of Vatican II teaches:  "Holy Mother Church believes that it is for her to celebrate the saving work of her divine Spouse in a sacred commemoration on certain days throughout the course of the year. Once each week, on the day which she has called the Lord's Day, she keeps the memory of the Lord's resurrection." (Constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 102)

Lent, therefore, is but a special time during which the Church wants to apply herself, to an even greater extent, to her mission :  teaching believers and helping them to follow Christ in order for them to live more intensely the passage from death to life which the Savior accomplished once and for all.  The Church of the present time repeats to us what Saint Paul wrote to the Romans:  "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his." (Rm. 6:3-5)

"And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.  And the tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.'  But he answered, 'It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.' '"

Jesus wanted to be tempted three times by the devil.  Three temptations, each of which is greater than the ones before in malignancy and vice:  sensuality, cupidity, pride.  Each time, Jesus resists and does not succumb:  it could not be otherwise, since he is the Son of God!  But above all, each time, he answers the devil with a verse from Holy Scripture!  To the first temptation, Jesus replies:  "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Deut. 8:3);  to the second one:  "You shall not tempt the Lord your God" (Deut. 6:16);  and to the third one:  "You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve" (Deut. 6:13).

Apart from the subjects of temptation, sensuality, cupidity, and pride, is there not here a deeper teaching of the Lord?  Definitely!  It is this:  when we are tempted in one way or another, let us try to remember a verse from the Scriptures, such as: "God is love" (1 Jn. 4:16) if we are tempted by deep despair, for example;  or:  "Many are called, but few are chosen" (Mt. 22:14), if we are tempted by excessive pride.  In the Holy Scriptures we will find our comfort and our support, no matter what difficulty we presently find ourselves in.

However, all of this requires practice, especially in the use of our memory.  It is necessary for us to learn some passages of the Bible by heart.  For at the moment of temptation, we will then have neither the opportunity nor even the courage to open up the Holy Book and browse through it.  It is at the moment when our soul is calm, when it is not troubled by temptation, that we must store up good words, those which Jesus spoke to us and which the evangelists preserved for us.  We can profit in a special way from this time of Lent by taking the time to read the Holy Scriptures and memorizing some of the words of the Lord.

Now we are going to celebrate the Eucharist!  We will thus be able to remember all of what the Savior has done for us!  We will be able to do more than memorize individual things the Lord has said, we will be able to allow the very Word of God fill all of our memory in the sacrament of the Eucharist!  Let us ask Mary to help us with her kindly prayer so that Jesus may live in us forever!