Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent

6 March 2022

When faced with an arduous task or an unpleasant duty it is a natural reaction to want to conserve energy, to try to find the easiest path, to take a shortcut to get the job done. Today in the Gospel we again heard the traditional reading for the 1st Sunday of Lent – the temptation of Our Lord in the wilderness. Here Jesus is presented with 3 short cut temptations, categorised by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen as an economic, a political and a showmanship temptation.

After 40 days of fasting, Our Lord is hungry. Satan goads Our Lord by saying if you are the Son of God, change these stones into bread. He is saying use your miraculous powers to feed yourself. Go further, win followers for yourself by giving the masses bread. Be a social worker, see to the stomach and forget about the soul.

In the 1st reading we heard how Moses tells the people that communion with God is brought about through sacrifice. The people, in thanksgiving must offer to God of their first harvest. Furthermore, sin required a living sacrifice, and animal to die to restore communion with God. Jesus knew that humanity’s sinful state and its separation from God could not be remedied by the giving of earthly bread – this required an expiation, a sacrifice to the Father that he was being tempted to bypass. Our Lord refuses to win followers by using his miraculous powers to make bread – he chooses the Cross as his means to save.

In the second temptation Jesus is taken to a pinnacle near the temple – the scene moves from the loneliness of the desert to the crowd in the city. Satan tempts Our Lord to use his power to perform a marvellous spectacle and so win followers. Forget the blood and gore of the Cross – do great sins and you will have many disciples. Our Lord rejects this shortcut – he knows that his way if not to do a marvellous sign from on high but to humble himself, to fall under the Cross and to ascend to Calvary to die for humanity.

In the third temptation Our Lord is tempted to seek a political solution – a mingling of good and evil. Satan says just worship me – just bend the knee – and I will give you all the kingdoms of the world. Our Lord rightly responds, “you shall worship the Lord your God only, and only him shall you serve.” What we worship, what we bow the head to we end up serving – Jesus demonstrates that He intends to do the will of the Father – no shortcut or easy way out is His path.

In Lent we are presented with a time of reflection, a moment to see how each of us rebuffs temptation. Unlike Our Lord we are sinful creatures – sometimes we are faithful, at other times we fall either to the desires of the body or to the temptation of our spirit. We don’t match up to our Lord who resists every assault of the devil. What should our response be? Despondency? Despair?

Today’s second reading gives us great hope: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!” On a daily basis, in our morning and evening prayers let us call on the Lord to help us. Let us emplore Our Lord that the same Holy Spirit who drove and assisted Him will assist us too. When faced with temptation, when faced with sin and failure let us call on the name of the Lord, knowing that we have a compassionate saviour who knows what it is like to have a human nature, to be tempted and to suffer. When we fall, we have access to his endless mercy in the Sacrament of Confession, we receive his help by receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus in Holy Communion.

Let us not be tempted to take shortcuts in our faith. We too may be tempted to be social workers rather than preachers of truth. We may desire marvellous signs and entertaining liturgies that appeal to our senses. We may be tempted to mingle good and evil practices or principles in seeking solutions to our problems or fulfilment of our needs and desires. Our Lord did not take shortcuts when dying on the cross to save you and me. Let us be firm in the Holy Spirit, taking every care to resist temptation, to be true to our calling and to be firm in our faith.