Sunday, March 5, 2017

First Sunday of Lent Year A

Readings: Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Matt 4:1-11

The Lenten Season leads us along with Jesus towards Jerusalem and to the Cross. We are called prepare for that journey by imitating Jesus who spends 40 days in the wilderness where he faces temptations. The Lenten journey will be a challenge as we face one temptation after another just like Jesus. In our case these temptations may be around food, drink, alcohol, drugs, lustful thoughts, and by possessions (money). The Devil will want us to take short-cuts on our spiritual life or even giving us the excuse for not saying our prayers or fasting. It all starts by skipping prayer or going to church. The Devil too will tempt us to use all 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for ourselves because we own them! Well, we do not own our time. That is a gift from God. In the Gospel Jesus faces temptations by the devil three times. He resists, because He not only knows the Scriptures, but He also remains faithful: "Be off Satan! For Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone". It is not enough for us to know God's Word or his Commandments. We must be doers of the word. In the first temptation, the devil knows that Jesus is hungry after 40 days of fasting and so tempts him to turn stones into bread - (self-satisfaction with food). Next the devil takes Jesus to the highest point of the Temple and asks him to throw himself down, which would immediately convince the people of Israel that He is truly the Son of God (shortcut to success). Finally, the devil tempts Jesus with the illusions of power and glory by taking him to a high mountain and showing him all the kingdoms of the world which the devil pretends he owns and will give them to Jesus if he only worships the devil! Jesus overcomes all these temptations one after another because he is focused on his mission. As human beings, temptations are bound to come our way. The three temptations of Jesus remind us that any shortcut without sacrifice does not last. The temptations call us to the same faithfulness that Jesus had in overcoming his temptations. During this season of Lent, we have opportunities of prayer, almsgiving and fasting to help us. Prayer in particular is a great weapon in moments of temptations. We also need to know the scriptures and live what they say. That can help us remain focused in following Jesus Christ.

The central message of this Sunday may be summed up in four points. 1) We will be tempted by food, drink and other material desires. What satisfies our hunger is not physical food but God’s word and every teaching that nourishes our faith. 2) We will be tempted to take shortcuts to achieve success; to give ourselves without sacrifice. The alms and the offertory you give must have an element of sacrifice. The temptation is always to try tip God who owns everything! God cannot be tipped! 3) We will be tempted to embrace the idolatry of power and control, rather than focusing on our baptismal faith journey that has one purpose and mission for which God created us: to be the best version of ourselves by seeking closer relationship with Christ. We do this through the Lenten disciplines of prayer, almsgiving and fasting. 4) Finally, we will be tempted to use all the 24 hours God gives us daily for ourselves and for some, only the Sunday time at Mass. To give no time to God is very selfish and even very arrogant! God gives you 24 hours a day. That is 1,440 minutes a day. This Lent commit yourself to giving at least 10 minutes a day to God. If you do not come to daily Mass, consider visiting the church near you on your way to work or after work, and pray for 10 minutes a day. At home, commit another 10 minutes to scripture reading. I guarantee you will see a change in your life, your work and family life. May God give us the grace to deepen our baptismal faith journey this Lenten Season. ©2017 John S. Mbinda

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