I. Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent – Temptations and the Devil
II. Story of the fireman in Iowa
A. saved children
B. said he was just doing his job
C. but he was actually terrified the whole time…he did it in spite of his fear.
D. courage does not mean the absence of fear but of doing the right thing even in the midst of fear
III. Today we heard the Gospel passage of our Lord being tempted in the desert by Satan.
A. He temps our Lord in three ways:
1. He temps our Lord with the simple bodily necessity for food.
2. He temps our Lord with presumption on the mercy and love of God.
3. He temps our Lord with the allure of worldly power.
B. I wonder if the Devil had a fearsome appearance before our Lord.
1. Many of us have seen any number of films about exorcisms and invariably the devil manifests himself in violence and ugliness.
2. No doubt. Hollywood has dramatized these incidents of possession, but the presence of the Devil in the world is no less real.
3. There is a Devil. The reality, however, is that extraordinary situations like possession are exactly this…extraordinary…the Devil usually does not use these types of means, because they show him for who he is.
IV. The Devil usually uses far more subtle to get to us and these ways he uses all the time, because they has had great success with them…and they are so simple…the cost the Devil next to nothing…and Jesus…tells us today all about them.
A. Notice that the temptations that the Devil uses to try to corner Jesus are all within Jesus’ grasp…
1. Jesus could very well have turned stones into bread, throne himself down from the temple and flown away and…in fact, Jesus is already king of the Universe and landlord of all the kingdoms of the earth.
2. Jesus did not need the Devil to obtain any of these things.
3. But…how does this apply to us? …the Devil tends to entice us with those things that are already ours in order to get us to look away from that which we do not yet possess.
4. The Pope put it this way. He wrote: “At the heart of all temptations…is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives. Constructing a world by our own lights, without reference to God, building on our own foundation: refusing to acknowledge the reality of anything beyond the political and materials, while setting God aside as an illusion…”
5. The Devil tries to take the gifts that God has given us and make us long for something else.
a) Wasn’t this the case with Adam and Eve?
b) “Why don’t you eat of the fruit of the tree?” “You will not die.” “God doesn’t want you to eat the fruit of the tree of good and evil, because then you will be like Him.”
(1) Were not Adam and Eve already created in the image and likeness of God?
(2) Were not they already living forever in the Garden of Eden?
c) But, the Devil takes what is truly good and turns it on its head. He takes what is a gift of God and makes God the bad guy and he does this in spades, because there comes a point in which God must expel Adam and Eve from the Garden.
(1) I wonder if, after Adam and Eve were expelled, they didn’t say to each other, “See, God did not really love us, because he put us out of the Garden. The serpent was right God is a megolomaniac.”
(2) And, yet, the putting out of Adam and Eve from the Garden was actually an act of love…allowing them to experience death was actually an act of love.
(4) Because, if they had stayed in the Garden, they would have lived for all eternity with the image of God in them marred by the sin they had committed. Instead, God allows us human beings to experience death so that we can live forever in the joy of heaven and in God’s company again…but, here on earth, we tend to forget the purpose of this world…it is the next.
V. So, the Evangelist recounts our Lord being tempted in the desert to remind us of how the Devil works. “At the heart of every temptation is the act of pushing God aside, because we perceive Him as secondary…” and the Devil does not usually do this in obvious ways…he is quite subtle.
A. Let us take the temptation of turning stones into bread.
1. How many times has a tortilla chip at a football game been chosen over the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ?
B. Regarding the temptation of throwing oneself down from the temple and trusting that God will pick us up…
1. How many times have we permitted the little white lie or something we know is wrong in our life, because we presumed that God would forgive us? “Well…I know this isn’t really right, but I will do it anyway, because I want this or that thing or I want to preserve my pride.”
2. How many times have we reassured ourselves that we are good people in order to put in the background something we just did that was not so good?
C. What about bowing down to the Devil in order to rule the Kingdoms of the earth?
1. Well…how many times have dollars or career made the choices in our lives over principles?
2. Or…have we ever failed to speak up for what we know is right, because we were afraid of looking too goodie two-shoes or too religious or… because in-crowd might ostracize us?
3. Have we ever valued the respect of the in-crowd more than respect for the Almighty?
4. Or…we don’t like others telling us what to do so just to prove them wrong, we do the opposite of what we know is right? “I am going to show them!”
5. …There is, however, another way that we can bow down to the Devil…we can allow discouragement or despair or sorrow or scandal or disillusionment to push us away from God and His Church.
VI. The Devil is quite real, but he usually gets us without us knowing that we are eating out of the palm of his hand. This is the way he likes it and his ultimate goal is simply to get us to set “God aside because we perceive Him as secondary.”
A. The fireman ran into the burning building to save a life even though he was afraid…how often do we succumb to these temptations of the Devil for less perilous or certain results?
B. The fireman realized that life was at stake and he knew what his responsibility was…he knew what was right…and so he did it. He stood against the culture that would have told him that his welfare in this world should come first and saved two lives.
C. Jesus Christ has already done this for us…now he invites us to do the same, but what we often miss is that it is usually done in the small ways.