Homily First Sunday of Lent – 26th February 2023
The Gospel, like the first reading this weekend, is a story of temptation, the temptation of Christ himself. St. Matthew’s account is a series of invitations that Satan offers to Christ to set aside the slow painful limitations of his human nature and to use his power as the Son of God to get his job done quickly and effortlessly, to solve his problems with no personal involvement, no personal commitment, no personal sacrifice.
“Turn the stones into bread. Jump off the tower of the Temple, and when you land unharmed, everyone will follow you. One world, one people, united under you. Pay homage to me, and I will give you the whole world, uncontested. You could be a wise and benevolent ruler, assuring peace and prosperity for everyone.”
Sounds good. To feed the hungry, to be recognised as God’s own, as the Messiah, to bring peace and prosperity to the world, those were all things Christ would have badly wanted to accomplish. It would have been so easy for him to have said “Yes”.
Ultimately, of course, it wouldn’t have worked. Satan’s temptations were a pack of lies. They always are. If Christ had based his Kingdom only on power, it would soon have crumbled. It would not have been the Kingdom intended by the Father, a nation of believers, who freely choose to live out their lives not just for present satisfaction, but in preparation for an infinite future.
So, Christ recognised these ‘opportunities’ for what they were. Temptations. Lies. Impossible fantasies that would actually be the undoing of everything he had hoped to accomplish.
Each one of us, perhaps many times in the course of our lives, face such temptations. We too must decide.
Are we going to commit ourselves to a process of real growth in the real world, a mixture of success and failure, happiness and pain, companionship and loneliness, the company of good and wise people, certainly, but that of the weak and foolish as well?
Or are we going to give into the temptations, the thousand and one invitations we get every day to flee from the real world, to pretend that it is something it is not? The temptation to avoid responsibility, the temptation to avoid involvement in other people’s lives and other people’s needs.
It is not by accident that we hear these readings on the first Sunday of Lent. Sooner or later, we will each of us find ourselves in the wilderness, spiritually and emotionally. Any number of paths out will be offered. Most of them will be lies. And if we have built self-discipline in our lives that will be what assures us of success.