HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: TIME OF GRACE IS HERE
BY: Fr. Johnbosco Obika
1st reading: Gen 9:8-15
2nd reading: 1Pt 3:18-22
Gospel: Mark 1:12-15
We have finally made it to the 2018 Lenten season. I see God’s grace at work. Another opportunity indeed it is to get close to God and turn away from our wrong doings. Let us therefore cash in on God’s grace and flourish in his mercy.
The first reading of today ushers us into the paschal mystery that is the bedrock of the Lenten season. Through the covenant God established with Noah and his descendants the church introduces us to the new and eternal covenant that Jesus made with his blood that brought us God’s mercy. God established a covenant with Noah after saving him and his household together with the animals from the great flood. The flood which destroyed the earth was caused by the sins of humanity. God’s covenant with Noah was therefore a sign of God’s mercy and grace to humanity. God set a rainbow in the sky as a sign of peace. This rainbow also typifies the cross of Calvary that is a sign of peace that Jesus made between God and man. St. Paul says that Jesus made peace with the blood of his cross (Col 1:20). So the end of the Lenten season is peace with God. So can we really achieve this in this forty days? The number forty is very symbolic in the Bible. It represents a period of great achievements through waiting, preparation and penance.
After forty days and forty nights Noah and his family together with the animals were saved from the flood (Gen 7:4,12,17;8:6). Moses successfully received the 10 commandments from God after forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:18; 34:28). The journey to the promise land cost the Israelites forty years. To encounter God at Mount Horeb Elijah had to walk for forty days and forty nights (1Kg 19). It took the Ninevites forty days and forty nights of prayer and penance to avert God’s rage on them (Jonah 3:1-10). By the end of this forty days journey may we achieve a newness of life characterized by holiness and God’s mercy. But we have temptations to battle with, and unfortunately no one is immune to temptation.The gospel of today says that after Jesus was baptized, though he was filled with the Holy Spirit yet was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil. The devil (satan in Hebrew, diabolos in Greek) is the tempter that comes to distract and destroy. Temptation is basically an effort of the devil to deceive God’s children by concealing the truth and reality. So we must be alert not to give the devil the opportunity (Eph 4:27).
One might be wondering why Jesus, who is God, one in substance with the Father, experienced temptation. He should have been be above temptation. The answer is simple: Jesus allowed himself to tempted by the devil because he was human like us in all things but sin, he passed through all we are passing through. We are tempted the same way he was tempted. It is still the same old method and weapon that the devil used on him that we still experience today, nothing has changed.
The weapons are:
1. Uncontrollable appetite (gluttony) 2. Pride (cheap popularity, vainglory, egoism, arrogance, boastfulness)
3. Unquenchable quest for power and wealth. Gehazi was trapped by the wealth of Naaman and he paid the price of leprosy. Achan hid gold from pagan altar and the whole army suffered. Annanias and Saphira lied because of money and the wrath of God fell on them. However we should not be afraid of temptations all we need is to place a premium on God. God and his will is our first priority. Any ambition, desire, knowledge, adventure or expectation that interferes with the will of must be avoided. Jesus used this method. He copiously quoted the scriptures, referring to how God wants it. When obedience to God is first priority, victory is inevitable!
Secondly, whatever we are tempted with today is just nothing compared to what God has in store for us tomorrow. If we endured, the reward will be so great. Christ who conquered the temptation of bread later multiplied bread for thousands at the appointed time. He conquered the seduction of earthly power, but now he rules over heaven and earth. He conquered the temptation of cheap popularity by falling from the pinnacle of the temple, now he is the most famous in heaven and on earth. Think about people you know who gave in to temptation and how much they have compromised their future. Thirdly, temptation can come at anytime. Expect it both when are you swimming in comfort like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden and when you are in great distress and despair like Christ who was in need of food and water after forty days of fasting. No one is immune to temptation. Even though he was filled with the Holy Spirit, yet Jesus was tempted (Luke 4:1).
Jesus' victory is our our victory strength. It reminds us that we too can overcome our different temptations in life. He is with us in our weaknesses. "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin." Be alert knowing that toughest temptation in life comes at the peak of success. Christ was tempted at the peak of spiritual preparation for his public ministry. Fortify yourself with the word of God, gird yourself with prayer and abstinence. Victory is yours through Christ our Lord. HAPPY SUNDAY