Sunday, 14 February 2016 : First Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. Cyril, Monk and St. Methodius, Bishop, Patron Saints of Europe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate our first Sunday in the season of Lent, we always hear about the temptation of Jesus Christ our Lord in the desert by the devil, who tried to tempt Him three times without avail, and who then retreated, trying to undermine the works of the Lord in another way. This temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ is tied closely to our own observation of this Lenten period, and also to the history of our faith.

Mankind, ever since the days of Adam and Eve, our forebears and ancestors, had been afflicted with the disease of sin, as Satan managed to tempt them to disobey the Lord and by making use of our human desires to subvert us and to turn us against God, by disobeying His commandments, and by selfishly giving in to our desires. Satan had many weapons, and his greatest one is our pride, our greed and our insatiable desire to fulfil ourselves and our wants.

In the Gospel, as we heard about Jesus being tempted three times, we are heeded to take note of our weaknesses, and our vulnerabilities, which Satan and his agents can easily take advantage of, in their attempt to destroy us and bring us into the eternal darkness with them. First of all, is the temptation of our stomach, the needs and wants of our body, our flesh, the temptation of food and greed.

We all know that all living things require food in order to continue living and to survive, and without food we will eventually die of starvation and hunger. But we should also be aware of the distinction and the growing gap between the rich and the poor in our world today. All of us are indeed aware, and we should have indeed heard about how many of the poor people in places and parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and even in the developed countries and regions, who had not enough food even to sustain themselves, less still for their children and for their families.

And yet, we also know that there are many excesses that people in our time today had committed, squandering much money and wealth in pursuit of good food and good lifestyle, a lifestyle of hedonism and excess, where a lot of waste and a lot of injustice are being done to those who have little or even none for themselves, even to keep themselves alive. And yet, there are those who rejoice, revel at themselves and feast on top of the suffering of others.

This Lent, we are fasting because we ought to resist the temptation of our flesh. Our human needs and wants is such that, hunger and starvation can lead men to hurt or even kill one another, in order to get what we need and want. If we do not restrain ourselves, then surely we shall fall into the deep trap of sin that Satan has prepared for us. Thus, let us heed what Jesus said, that we do not live on bread or food alone, as these give us just what we need in this earthly life, but we should put our trust in the word of God, our true sustenance, for it is through the Word that we can find our way to salvation.

But we have to be careful, lest the devil used our lack of understanding of God’s words in order to deceive us and tempt us further. We saw how the devil was trying to use the verses from the Scriptures to tempt Jesus to show Himself to the people, by jumping off from the pinnacle of the Temple. Indeed, the verse meant that God will protect His people, and He will send His Angels to protect us from harm, but if we test God and try to see if He really will protect us, that means we have no faith in Him.

And the second temptation was also the temptation of pride, for we mankind are all inherently vulnerable to this trait, the pride and haughtiness in each and everyone of us. We see in many people, the desire to be recognised and to be praised, so that someone will praise us and recognise us for what we have done. But at times, we can be so desperate or our desire for such things may be so great, in the end, we lose sight and focus on what we ought to do, and again, we bring harm to others.

We see how people fight and jostle with one another, either with cunning, or trickery, with words of mouth, or even through physical violence, just so that they can have an edge over another people, and gain what they desire, that is power, honour, glory, fame and many others. And this is what the devil tried to tempt Jesu with, in his third attempt, as he brought Him to the highest mountain, offering all the kingdoms of the earth if Jesus would only worship him as lord.

But Jesus was not swayed, and He was not tempted. He knew that power, human praise, fame and glory, all forms of other temptations in the world were superficial and illusory in nature. They do not give lasting satisfaction and happiness, which can only be truly found in God alone. Power in particular is very dangerous, as the saying goes, that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This means that if we allow ourselves to be tempted, and to seek more things for ourselves, in power and all the goods the world is offering us, then we will only get ourselves dragged deeper and deeper into the darkness, and we will never be satisfied ourselves. We should already know that, it is our tendency that once we have something that we desire, we tend to desire even more.

And this is why we abstain, and do penitential works, during this season of Lent. It was not just a mere obligation or something we have to do as part of our observation of the laws of the Church and the faith. If we look at it as that, then our focus is wrong, and what we have done will avail little at helping us to strive for God’s salvation.

Instead, we have to do what we must do in this period of Lent with proper understanding and with good faith, so that whatever we do, we do it because of our love for the Lord, and the deep and burning desire in our hearts to be cleansed of our sins and wickedness, and the desire to reject Satan and all of his lies, and be freed from our enslavement to our pride, to our greed and all forms of the temptations of the flesh and the heart.

Let us all follow our Lord Jesus’ examples, resisting the devil and all of his temptations, and through our actions during this time of Lent, let us all grow stronger in faith, and spiritually, so that we will grow more capable of resisting the advances of evil and all of its forces in the time to come. Let us all love one another, giving alms and helping those who are less fortunate than us during this time, sharing whatever goods, food or care that we have, so that all of us will be able to live comfortably and harmoniously in this world.

May Almighty God bless us and forgive us our sins, and may this season of Lent be a fruitful one in the salvation of our souls. Amen.

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