Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Temptations. We all have them. Even Jesus was tempted in the desert. (see Mt 4:1-11) The temptations increase when we try to do holy and virtuous acts, especially during the season of Lent. As we increase our efforts to grow closer to God, the devil increases his efforts to pull us away.
How do we combat these temptations? One way is to make sure we’re listening to the right voice.
We can imagine two voices that speak to us all the time. One voice comes from the good spirit. This could be the Lord Jesus, our heavenly father, or the Holy Spirit. The other voice comes from the bad spirit. This could be the devil, his minions, our sin, and our own ego. The Good Spirit is trying to lead us to God. The Bad Spirit is trying to lead us away from God. Lent is a time to learn how to listen to the good spirit and reject the voice of the bad spirit.
The first point of attack for the bad spirit is through fleshly desires – our feelings, emotions, sensations, and bodily cravings. This is illustrated in the first temptation of Jesus. He fasted in the desert for forty days. Satan’s first temptation regards the bodily senses. Hunger.
The gospel gives a brief account (Mt 4:1-11) . If it were you or I, the voice would be in our minds. The inner dialogue might sound like this:
“I’m hungry. I need some bread. Surely God doesn’t want me to be hungry. I’ve got work to do, and I can’t do this if I’m hungry. I’ve got the power to change these stones to bread. Certainly, that is what God wants.”
When the bad spirit speaks to our emotions and bodily cravings, the Holy Spirit speaks to our intellect and conscience. That voice would sound like this:
“Hold on. Remember what God said to the Israelites who were also hungry in the wilderness? ‘Know that it is not by bread alone that people live, but by all that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.’
One voice says, “You’re hungry. You need to take care of yourself.” The other voice says, “Be patient. God is going to take care of you.” Which voice comes from the Good Spirit? The one that says, “Let God take care of you.”
If the second temptation of Jesus were our temptation, the voice in our head would say:
“How can you be sure you can trust God? Why don’t you jump from this parapet and see if his angels save you.”
In so many situations in our life, we have doubts. We want proof and certainty. God doesn’t work that way. In the midst of these doubts, there is another voice. The voice of the Good Spirit:
“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”
One voice says, “Test God.” The other voice says, “Trust God.” Which voice should you listen to? The one that says, “Trust God, even when you are filled with doubt and confusion.”
If the third temptation were our temptation, the voice in our head would say:
“Think the good you could do if you had command over “all of the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence”.
The other voice says:
“The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
The Lord your God rules over all of the kingdoms, not you. Too often we enter a new relationship, a new job, a new program with good intentions, but sometimes deep down, we only want to have control. We want to feed our ego. We want to make ourselves a ‘king’.
One voice says, “Serve yourself.” The other voice says, “Serve God.” Which voice do you listen to?
After the last temptation, Jesus said, “Get behind me Satan!” Jesus says this one other time in the gospel. After he tells Peter that he must go to Jerusalem to suffer and be killed, Peter says, “No, never.” Jesus says to Peter “Get behind me Satan.” The voice of the Good Spirit is not always the easy path or the path with the least amount of suffering. Those are also deceptions of the devil. Peter was listening to the wrong voice, and Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan.”
In your thoughts, words, and actions, ask yourself: Which voice am I listening to?