14Feb 14 Feb. First Sunday of Lent

 Fasting, prayer and alms are three traditional forms for expressing our conversion to Christ’s way. Lent is our penitential season, prompted by the gospel account of his forty days in the desert.

1st Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4-10

Offering the firsts fruits of harvest, they give thanks to God

When the priest takes the basket from your hand and sets it down before the altar of the Lord your God, you shall make this response before the Lord your God: “A wandering Aramean was my ancestor; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. When the Egyptians treated us harshly and afflicted us, by imposing hard labor on us, we cried to the Lord, the God of our ancestors; the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. The Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with a terrifying display of power, and with signs and wonders; and he brought us into this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground that you, O Lord, have given me.” You shall set it down before the Lord your God and bow down before the Lord your God.

Second Reading: Epistle to the Romans 10:8-13

The core of our credo is that Jesus is our Saviour and Lord

Now what does Scripture say? “The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with he heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Gospel: Luke 4:1-13

Jesus was tempted like we are, but he did not sin

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone.'”

Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'”

Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'” Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'” When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.


Bible

Ideas for homilies on the ACP website

As mentioned before, readers are welcome to send us homily ideas and outlines for use on our ACP website. Generally we tend to edit them down, to fit in with our sober house style. We will acknowledge any homiletic contributions received, whether or not we can fit them in on the website. The Readings for Masses throughout this year are on our monthly lists.

Fr. Pat Rogers (Homily Ideas sent here will be forwarded to me.)


Fundamental Options

The temptation narrative is the most mysterious and symbolic of stories, because since he was alone throughout his days in the wilderness, no one other than Jesus himself could have known what went on in his heart. The implication of the temptations is  how he struggled within himself to find the most effective way to live his life for God. We ordinary mortals will hardly try turning stones into bread, for  such a thing is impossible for us. It could only be a temptation for someone of unique power. In the first temptation Jesus seems to toy with the possibility of providing a limitless supply of bread for people, like the free dole by which the Roman emperor kept popular with the crowds. But Jesus saw how a focus on food and drink can lead to forgetting spiritual values. “Man lives not on bread alone.”

Next, being taken up mountain and being shown all the kingdoms of the world — suggests a temptation to become a secular messiah, dominating the world’s politics to have power to impose religion on people, like it or not. He dismisses this, since people will enter into a true union with God, if, and only if, they are drawn to it in spirit. The third and final temptation was to be a messiah of a sensational kind, focused  entirely on miracles – since throughout his public life they kept asking for signs. What if he were to throw himself from off the pinnacle of the Temple and rise unscathed. But Jesus saw quite clearly that this had no genuine value, so he said, “You must not put the Lord your God to the test!”  as a warning to himself not to be rash and superficial.

Jesus realised that his final and fullest way of service to mankind, the effective one that would endure, would be through suffering and the Cross, after which would come the crown. Without his crucifixion he would long since be forgotten. In every event of Christ’s earthly life, God is saying something to us too. The story of the Temptations is surely a warning to us not to allow pure selfishness to govern our lives. We must let ourselves be guided by the Holy Spirit, who continues to prompt our conscience throughout our days. Imitate Our Lord by taking up the challenge of every day, not with an air of gloomy resignation, but with a cheerful acceptance of what it may bring. Let Jesus be a major influence in our lives, reflect upon his words and actions with reverence and affection, so as to bring about an inner purification of our minds and wills.


the greatest temptation

The scene of Jesus’ temptations is an account not to be taken lightly. The temptations it describes are not properly of the moral order. The account is warning us that we can ruin our lives if we stray from the path that Jesus follows.

We focus on the first temptation, as the decisively important one, which can debase and corrupt our life at its root. Apparently Jesus is being offered something innocent and good: put God at the service of his hunger. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.”

Jesus reacts quickly and surprisingly: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” One’s bread shall not make one’s bread into into an absolute. One shall not place God at the service of one’s own interest, forgetting the Father’s project. You shall always seek God’s kingdom first and his justice. At every moment one shall listen to God’s Word.

Our needs do not get satisfied only with our having bread assured us. Human beings need and yearn for much more. In order to rescue from hunger and misery those who do not have bread, we also need to listen to God our Father, and awaken in our conscience hunger for justice, compassion, solidarity.

Our great temptation today is to change everything into bread. To reduce more and more the horizon of our ambition to mere satisfaction of our desires; to turn our obsession for a greater well-being, or our indiscriminate and unfettered consumerism, into our one and only ideal.

We fool ourselves if we think that this is the path to follow toward progress and liberation. Do we not see that a society that drags people into a consumerism without limits and into self-complacency does nothing but give rise to emptiness and meaninglessness in people and to selfishness, alienation and irresponsibility in the community?

Why do we cringe that the number of people who commit suicide tragically keeps growing? Why do we respond by shutting ourselves up in our false well-being, erecting barriers that are increasingly more inhuman lest the hungry enter our countries, get into our neighborhoods or knock on our door?

Jesus’ call can help us to be more aware that human beings do not live on well-being alone. Human beings also need to nurture the spirit, know love and friendship, develop solidarity with those who suffer, listen responsibly to their conscience, to be open to the ultimate Mystery of a life with hope.

(with thank to J. A. Pagola)


Saying “NO” to our temptations

A Catholic family, one that adhered strictly to fasting and abstinence during Lent, moved into a new neighborhood. They had a problem with a Hindu neighbor, whose window closely overlooked their home. The man had a chicken roasted every lunch and dinner. The smell of chicken roast became so tempting that they decided to talk him into becoming Catholic so that he would practice abstinence. When he agreed after much convincing, they took him to the parish priest. The parish priest then told him “Look, you were born a Hindu, your name is Ganesh”. Then the priest took water for Baptism and pouring it on his head and said “By these waters of Baptism, you are now baptized a Christian and your name will be Peter”.

On the first day of Lent, as the Catholic neighbors peeped from their window, they saw Peter say and do something strange. He placed a plucked and dressed chicken on the table and poured water on it saying “Look, you chicken, you are born to be non-vegetarian. From today by these waters, you will be a vegetarian dish, vegetarian I say, vegetarian”. With that he began to roast it for his meal.
When we want to give in to any temptation, we will always find reasons, arguments and logic to support our desires. But when we need wisdom from God to challenge, question and walk over our temptations. Every year on the First Sunday of Lent we read the gospel story of Jesus being tempted by Satan. The message of the Gospel is not just about saying “NO” to temptation but about challenging the temptation or the tempter.

The first temptation was to turn stone into bread. Stones were in plenty around Jesus. If all the stones changed to bread, there would be enough food for a lifetime. The problem of poverty in the world is because so many people want to stack up and store money and material for a life-time. It is the feeling of insecurity. Jesus spoke of a parable of a man who wanted to pull down his barns and build larger ones but the Lord asked him ‘you fool. If your life would be demanded of you tonight, whose will all this be?’ Giving in to the first kind of temptation is like trying to accumulate for a life time when God wants us to live one day at a time. Giving in to this temptation will lead us to pillage, plunder, cheat, grab and snatch from others as much as we can.

The second temptation was that Satan would give all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will worship him. This temptation is all too evident from the growing power struggles seen in the world today and increase in violence and bloodshed; one religion trying to dominate another, nations trying to out-do another in economy and weaponry to become world-superpowers; cultures, communities and ethnic groups claiming superiority over another. This temptation for power begins at the individual level when we forget Jesus teaching ‘those who wish to be first must be the servant of all’ leading us to clamor for power, position and fame even at the cost and dignity of another.

The third temptation was for Jesus to perform a spectacular act of falling from the pinnacle and not getting hurt. This temptation reveals itself in certain dangerously advancing technologies where man is trying to play God. Technology is good if it improves the quality of life, but dangerous when the creature wants to become creator. When we rely only on our own strengths and intelligence we will discount God. All our intelligence put together still cannot stop a tsunami, an earthquake or the raging waters of our flood. Paradoxically, it is our intelligence itself that has breached nature’s course and aggravated natural calamities.

So when any temptation faces you, don’t just say “No”. Instead, question it like Jesus does. Liken your temptation to any of the three temptations of Jesus and seek the wisdom of God to handle and walk over it.

Sent in by Fr. Adolf Washington, from Bangalore (India)


Jesus and Temptation

Three temptations are listed: to change stone into bread, to fall down and worship the devil, and to jump down from the pinnacle of the Temple. In each of these what the devil is saying to Jesus is, “Use what you have to get what you want.” And in each case Jesus overcomes the temptation by replying, “No, we can only use the proper means to satisfy our needs and seek our goals in life.”

In the first temptation, Jesus had fasted for forty days in the wilderness and at the end of it he was hungry. The devil puts an idea into his head: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3). The first thing the devil does is sow a doubt in his mind: “if you are the Son of God.” “Are you really sure God is with you?” The same thing happened in the garden of Eden. The first thing the Tempter said to Eve was, “Did God really say you should not eat of any fruit of the garden” (Genesis 3:1). Temptation always begins with a doubting thought. Did God really say this or is it just a fairy tale? Jesus overcame the temptations by refusing to entertain such doubts and by standing on the word of God.

His temptations and ours

The threat of rising interest rates, more taxes and less welfare, huge amounts of foreign debt putting a strain on health and education spending, are a lot of what we’ve been hearing about lately in our media. All this talk about money, understandable as it is, leaves us wondering: ‘Is this all there is? Is it really money that makes the world go round? Whatever happened media to human interest stories, to human relationships? Are our only values economic ones?‘ Thank God we still have the living memory of Jesus, and the stories of his teaching and example to remind us that there’s a lot more to life than money!

Today we remember how Jesus understood and obeyed God’s highest commandment: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.’ ‘With all your heart‘ – i.e. with total determination! ‘With all your soul‘ – i.e. loving and serving God our whole life long! ‘With all your strength‘ – i.e. putting all our personal possessions, qualities and gifts, at God’s disposal and for the service of others!

The love of Jesus for God and God’s people was total; but this does not mean that it was any easier for him to practice than it is for us. It is clear that he had to struggle to choose between God and self. The tension and agony of it all is spelled out in Luke’s dramatic story of the temptations Jesus faced during that time when the Holy Spirit led him into the desert. There he spent forty days working out the meaning of his life, trying to discover just what God wanted him to do with his life. In the process he came face to face with certain alternatives, which he came to judge as subtle temptations.

First, the tempter suggests to Jesus, extremely hungry after forty days of fasting: ‘If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.’ In other words, use your power and influence, not for others but for your own satisfaction, comfort and convenience. But though Jesus is desperate for something to eat, he will not dally with this desire, even for a moment. Instead he seeks nourishment of a different kind, relying on God’s clear message: ‘One does not live on bread alone.’

That was one kind of temptation, but the idea that next comes to Jesus is even more subtle and appealing. This is to use his intelligence and his charisma to gather round him the rich and powerful from every nation, and, eventually, to become a great political leader. It was the temptation to seek world attention and become a political messiah, a temptation to fame and fortune and empire-building. This attraction is the very opposite of what God has said in Scripture about his chosen servant, the saviour of the world’s poor and marginalised. God clearly means his Messiah to be a humble servant, a suffering servant, one who sacrifices his life in love. Jesus remembers this, realizes this, and takes it to heart. And so he blitzes the temptation with another clear and definite command of God in Scripture: ‘You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

The third temptation of Jesus (according to Luke) is to go to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem and take a flying leap from there. A stunt like this will surely attract a horde of followers, and prove to Jesus personally whether God cares about him or not. The very thought of it is fascinating. Jesus, however, promptly puts the idea completely out of his mind as he remembers and relishes God’s word: ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

His replies are more remarkable if we remember that Jesus was feeling very weak, fragile and vulnerable. He hadn’t eaten anything for forty days. And yet his fidelity and love towards God hardly wavered for a moment. What is his secret? Clearly, it is his reliance on God’s word in the Scriptures. He just keeps nourishing his mind, heart, attitudes and his very life, by remembering the word of God.

What the three temptations have in common is the lure of selfishness, for taking the soft options of security, power and prestige. We ourselves are often exposed to temptations to selfishness of one kind or another – in the form of pride, anger, lust, gluttony, envy, sloth, etc. Like Jesus we turn to God for guidance and strength, relying especially on the power of the holy Eucharist to remain faithful.

For better results when we are tempted, we would do well to do as Jesus did – read the scriptures, reflect on them and pray them. Our Church encourages the practice of reading, thinking about, and praying the scriptures each day of Lent. Whatever ways we choose to help us take God’s word to heart, our Lent is meant to be a time for correcting our faults and raising our minds to God, a time of personal and community renewal, a time for coming face-to-face with God in his all-powerful word. (Brian Gleeson)

 


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