Saturday, February 13, 2016

Homily [2] First Sunday of Lent Year C: Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily [2] First Sunday of Lent Year C:  Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Deut 26:4-10; Ps 91:1-2, 10-15; Rom 10:8-13 and Luke 4:1-13

“One does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

These are words of Jesus, charging back to Satan in that wilderness area, where he was led by the Spirit, for 40 days of fasting with prayers,  and to be tempted after his Baptism. Lent, among other things, commemorates these 40 days, and reminds us to stick with the God of our Fathers manifested in Christ!

There is hardly any of us here who has never experienced trial, testing or temptation: temptation to over eat, to over enjoy a bottle of wine, temptation to over study- putting your health into danger, temptation to get angry, or to over reactor to commit one sin or the other.  How to manage these trials and temptation is an important aspect of our faith, such that three Evangelist Matthew, Mark and Luke took note of this, with slight variations, in the light of Christ’s events. The Church is delightful with these stories that we read them in all the three liturgical cycles on every first Sunday of Lent.

Lent, introduced to us (the other day), on Ash Wednesday, is not only a time for prayer, fasting and doing charitable works; it is also  a time we pay closer attention to Jesus and learn from Jesus how to manage crises, troubles, trials, temptations since we all, are vulnerable to these things- even as years pass by.

I say, “as years pass by” not that we have not been praying or practicing corporal and spiritual works of mercy in the past, but remember this is  2016  different from 2015. Lent 2016, falls in this  Year  of Mercy, is a time we want to re-examine ourselves spiritually; it’s a time for a new kind of spiritual renewal, with hunger for a renewed  spirit of forgiveness and compassion towards our neighbors. None of us recharges his or her cell phone once a year. We recharge them occasionally. Lent is a time we want to recharge our spiritual batteries again, and pay closer and renewed attention to how we listen to, study, live or actualize the Word of God, and the teachings of the Church, particularly in the face of present day, challenges and trials.

The three temptations in the Gospel reading of today, demanding Jesus to turn stone into bread, to prostrate and worship Satan or jump from a high storey temple building for a prize, in order to prove that he was the son of God, is indicative of the fact that temptation or testing of one’s faith and love for God "of our fathers," is not a new phenomenon. Temptation does not respect anybody.

I guess, it would have respected Adam and Eve in the Garden. But it did not. They ate the forbidden fruit. It would have respected Abraham( Gen 12-25), Isaac(gen 26-36) and Jacob(Gen 37-50).  A few times, Abraham was tempted to tell Pharoah  Sarai was not his wife, but sisters. For a while Sarai was barren- and the promises made by God to Abraham in Genesis 15, 17 were under threats!  Temptation did not respect Moses and Israelites  in the desert.  Those Israelites were tempted to forget the freedom God had given them or the battle God, the Divine warrior fought on their behalf against Pharaoh. Rather, they were tempted to rebel and complain bitterly against God and Moses. They even went as far as making other god’s for themselves. They slipped into idolatries. Even Moses became angry and impatiently struck the rock indiscriminately for the water and impatient community. Anger, inpatient, ingratitude!

 We find these stories of temptations dotting biblical histories, down to us. But the difference is in Jesus, in his teachings on faithfulness, prayers and resilience. By resisting that temptation and being able to say, “One does not live by bread alone,” by being able to say “you shall worship the Lord your God, by being able to say,” you shall not put the Lord your God to test”, Jesus  rejected, worldly power, wealth and materialism, and teaches us how to do same. He teaches us how to stick with the God our Fathers (Deut 26:4-10).

Though divine, remember he was human too. But his divine power was not meant for his own glory, but for the glory of God his Father and for the service of humanity. We see this in his miracle in Cana; we see this in his feeding of the crowds, in his healing ministries, raising Lazarus from the death, eating with those the society considered as sinners, we see this in his universal approach to the gospel- reaching out to the Gentiles and Jews. Making sure, as Paul would put it, “no one who believes in him (is) [will be] put to shame,’ (Rom 10:8-13), even in times of troubles and temptations.

 In this Lent, let us strife to re-acknowledge how weak and broken we are, prone to temptations of our times in our own desert of selfishness, individualism or tendencies to put God last instead of putting God first. And in this Year of Mercy, may we pray with the psalmist “Be with me Lord, when I am in trouble” (Ps 91:15b). May we pray with Christ “one does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of [the God]God”([of our fathers [(Matt 4:4; Luke 4:1-13).