Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the occasion of the First Sunday of Lent, the first of five sundays dedicated to the celebration of this holy season of preparation for the Holy Week and Easter. Today also happens to be the feast and celebration of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle in Rome, the Apostolic authority of the Chief and Prince of the Apostles, the Vicar of Christ and the Leader of the Universal Church.
On this day, the theme of the Scripture readings is about God, His love and mercy that He showed to all those who have sincerely looked for Him and are genuine in their desire to repent and address their wrongs. Today we heard of the promise which God had made, that so long as we are faithful to Him, we shall receive His grace and will not perish, but receive eternal life.
In the first reading, which was taken from the Book of Genesis, we heard of the narrative of what happened after Noah had been saved by God through the ark he was told to build. God made a covenant with Noah and his descendants, that includes all of us, that He shall never again destroy us with water, the waters of the Great Flood that had made all creations to perish, except that of Noah and his family, and all those which had been gathered in the ark.
There are many symbolisms in the readings today, the first of which is water itself. God will no longer destroy mankind with water, but instead, through water, life will come forth. Water becomes a life-giving object, and it is not just because we need water to survive and live, but even more importantly, because we all know that all of us at one point of time in our lives, be it as a very young infant or as a child, a teenager or as an adult, we have been baptised in the Name of the Lord
Thus, we can see clearly, the symbolism of the reading on Noah and the Great Flood. The Church is often portrayed as an ark, a large boat or a ship, where all the faithful are gathered inside and safe from the storms and the waves outside. Therefore, the rites and the sacrament of baptism is also a reminder of the Great Flood, the time when God separated the righteous from the sinners by the means of water that destroyed and annihilated the wicked, but saved the righteous out of the water and into the ark.
Therefore in the same way, through the waters of baptism, we who have made the conscious decision, or the decision by our parents and godparents, have been saved from the darkness and ignorance of the world, and were joined into the Church of God, the Ark of salvation, and together we are braving through the storms of this world, the difficulties, the oppositions, the challenges and the temptations that come our way from the devil and all of his forces.
And the significance of this to the other feast we celebrate today is that, the one who helped to steer the great ship that is the Church, is the Vicar of Christ, the one who had been entrusted with the governance and authority over all the souls of the faithful, who is our Pope, the successor of St. Peter the Apostle, who is the first of the Vicars of Christ, and whose seat of authority is in Rome, as the Bishop of Rome.
Thus, on this feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle, we should all reflect on the nature of the Church itself, the Ark of salvation, which is rooted in Christ and because it is safely and strongly anchored in Christ, no storm or wave can overcome it, and steered by St. Peter and his successors, the Church is moving forward in this world full of challenges, chair being the symbol of authority and teaching in the Church.
Therefore, all of these remind us that even though we have been saved by the grace of God through the waters of baptism, where our sins, the taints of the original sins of our ancestors had been erased from us, but we must still adhere closely to the teaching authority of the Church, which is centred upon the authority of the Bishop of Rome, our Pope, as the Vicar of our Lord Jesus Christ, His representative in this world.
And another strong reminder for us all today is about the nature of evil and what Satan and his allies are always busy doing on continuous basis, in trying to tempt us back into sin. Sin is always around us, and the temptations of the world are always very hard to resist at times. Temptation is the tool of the devil to bring us back into his dominion and so that we will suffer together with him in the eternal suffering of hell.
In the Gospel, we heard about the temptation of Jesus in the desert, when Jesus went for forty days and forty nights right after His baptism in the Jordan. He did not eat or drink anything during that period, and being in the desert where practically nothing lives, it must be really a great hunger and thirst that affected Him by the end of the forty days.
After all, although Jesus is divine and Lord of all creations, but at the same time He is also fully human, being both God and Man, and therefore, as all of us mankind are, He was also feeling the fatigue and the hunger that tempted Him to have something to eat. Although He is without sin, but He allowed Himself to be tempted by Satan to show us all an example, of what we should be and how we should live our lives and reject all forms of temptations and sin.
There are three things that we have to be aware of, brothers and sisters in Christ, the three greatest dangers that will often be on our path, which threaten to prevent us from achieving salvation in God. These three are gluttony and desire, human pride and finally the desire for power. These three were aptly showcased by Jesus, as He resisted the temptations of the devil who used these three against Him.
The first temptation, that of hunger, is playing against our human weakness against our stomach. When we have plenty with us, be it in terms of food or in terms of possessions, we tend to keep them all to ourselves. It is indeed not very wrong to say that we live by our stomach and for our stomach. When we have more, we tend to seek more and want for more, and when we do not have, we do all we can to obtain what we want, often at the disadvantage of others.
We are always worried about our lives, every single days of our life. We worry about what we are to have, what we have to eat, what will happen to us on this day and that, but in worrying so much, we forget that we have One who is always looking after us and He who indeed knows all that we will ever need in our lives. We have to learn to break free from our desires and know when to limit our desires.
There is no point if we are all well fed and had everything in the world, but we have no God inside of us, and if His words does not take root in us. In that manner, we secure for ourselves a good and prosperous life in this world, but we fail to secure the life that is in the world to come, then it is truly pointless. Remember of what had happened to the rich man in the story of Jesus on the rich man and Lazarus. He had all the food that he would ever want, and Lazarus had none. The rich man was cast down into hell because he had no love inside of him. He failed to show mercy, concern and love to those around him who need them.
And then, human pride, a great danger and threat to all of us. All of us mankind are by nature predisposed to hubris, arrogance and pride in ourselves. It is our pride that often make us boast of our own accomplishment and even looking down upon others because we think of ourselves as superior to them. It is pride that Satan was trying on Jesus, by pushing Him to glory in His greatness as God and Lord of all and show off to all the peoples His power, and therefore saving Him the need to labour and work hard as if He had done what Satan wanted Him to do, everyone would likely believe in Him and followed Him.
But Jesus knew that pride is not the way to go, as pride, hubris and arrogance will inevitably make us to be disobedient and rebellious, as we are less likely to admit that we have made a mistake and persist therefore in our sinfulness. Just as Lucifer the greatest and mightiest angel had been brought down by his pride, and becoming Satan, accursed and condemned, therefore, pride will lead us down the same path to destruction.
And the last of all, and the greatest of all temptations is power, and the desire to have that power. Indeed the saying is correct, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Satan showed Jesus the power He could have if He would just worship him, who is the master of all the powers of the world, and also all the wealth that would accompany that. He would no longer need to go on and suffer for the sake of mankind and die for them.
That temptation is indeed the ultimate and greatest temptation of all. Any man would be sorely tempted by such offer, and with the offer literally given to them on a silver platter, it is obvious why it can be so easy for us to be tempted and fall into sin. But Jesus knew that true power does not lie in earthly wealth or through tyranny.
Rather, true power lies in the responsibility that comes together with that power and how to use that power responsibly. He chose to let go of all those temptations and faithfully carried out the mission which the Father had entrusted to Him. And because of that, all power and glory now belongs to Him alone, and dominion was passed from Satan and his allies to the triumphant Saviour.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have been told of all these, so that we too may learn of the devices of the devil in his attempts to bring us down with him into eternal damnation. He is wicked as well as cunning, and he has many means within his disposal to trick us and to mislead us into sinning before God, including what he had tried out with Jesus and failed.
Yes, what I mean is that we must be ever vigilant, as the devil himself can use the verses of the Holy Scriptures itself and twist them to serve his own desires. That was what He did with Jesus, but our Lord knew what was the true meaning of the devil’s words and He did not fall for Satan’s trickery. But we may not be as capable in resisting the devil and knowing the right from the wrong when the devil assails us.
That is why today all of these are a reminder yet again that we should all seek to deepen our faith in God, by growing deeper in our understanding of the teachings of the Faith, and the way to do so is by putting ourselves ever close to the teachings of the Church and obey her teachings completely and fully as espoused by the Vicar of Christ, our Pope, who is leading the Church of God and all the faithful in it through the tumultuous times and tribulations, facing the forces of the devil in this world.
Therefore, as we progress through this season of Lent, let us all renew our faith for the Lord and let us no longer sin and commit any sort of evil, but strengthen our commitment and devotion to Him, so that we may resist all of the devil’s tricks and false promises and remain truly faithful to our Lord, who then will reward us for our faith and bring us to eternal life and glory. Amen.