Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we listened to the words of the Lord through the Scriptures reminding all of us of the need for us to prepare ourselves spiritually as we journey through this blessed season of Lent, a time of preparation and purification of ourselves, before we come to celebrate together the sacred mysteries of the Holy Week and the glorious joy of Easter. We are all reminded of all of the sins we have committed in life because of the temptations that Satan placed before us.
Today we listened to the temptation of the Lord Jesus by the devil in the desert, for forty days when He fasted from food and drink, right after He was baptised, to prepare Himself for His ministry in this world. The Lord met the devil who presented before Him three temptations by which the latter hoped to the good works of the Lord’s salvation to fail, by trying to tempt Him with the same temptations that we mankind often face in life.
While the first Adam, representing all of us mankind have fallen into sin, but Christ, Who became the new Adam, showed to us all that the sting of Satan, that is sin and death, no longer has power and dominion over us. The old Adam might have fallen and failed to remain faithful, but Christ showed us all mankind what it truly means to be faithful, and He defeated Satan in what can be seen as a rematch between Satan and mankind. The first man fell, but the New Man, Christ, overcome the three temptations by which Satan had tempted us throughout time, beginning from Adam and Eve.
The first temptation is the temptation of desire and selfishness, represented by the temptation when the Lord Jesus was told by the devil to turn the stones into bread when He felt hunger creeping up His flesh, just as Satan tempted Eve with the good looking fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. The devil was taunting the Lord, by saying that it is well within His power and authority to turn even rocks into bread, but that would be an abuse of His power to satisfy a selfish desire, the desire to satisfy the hunger of the flesh.
This is a warning for us all that gluttony and desire of our flesh can become our undoing, unless we make the conscious effort to resist those temptations. The desire to satisfy the needs of our body can easily end up becoming an obsession and a growing craving and desire for even more, as we are often prone to fall into the temptation of wanting more of whatever good things we have already had with us.
Many of us fall simply because we cannot resist the urge and the temptation of sexual pleasures and the temptations of our stomach, desiring good food and indulgences, and it is often that all these came from as simple as by looking at another person with desire, or at their possessions, and being jealous or being filled with desire to own what others have, to satisfy our own selfish desires.
To us, many of us will not easily find it enough just to have some good things we have gained in life. Soon enough, we would crave for even more, as the satisfaction that comes from fulfilling all these desires of ours are not long-lasting or permanent. Instead, we continue to find ways to gain more for ourselves and we become enslaved to the desires of our flesh, and disobey God and sin as a result.
The second temptation Christ faced was the temptation of glory, which imitated what Satan tempted man with, when he tempted them with the glory of the world, all of its knowledge and goodness, if they were to eat the fruits of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge. Satan presented to the Lord Jesus the whole glory of the whole world, which he said that he would grant Him if only He were to worship him as God. Jesus quickly rebuked Satan and did not fall to the same temptation, humbling Himself before His Father, despite of His own Sonhood and Divinity.
We know just how He humbled Himself, that eventually, He even willingly emptied Himself of all glory and dignity, when He chose to take up the cross, bearing it upon His shoulders, taking up all the heavy burdens of our sins on Himself, and to suffer and die on the same cross, so that by His humble obedience, contrasted to the pride of man and the pride of Satan, in their respective pursuits for glory, all of us have been saved.
Then, in the last temptation that Christ faced from the devil, we heard how He was brought up to the parapet or the peak of the Temple of Jerusalem, with the devil asking Him to jump down from the top of the Temple with the intent to prove that God would intervene and save His Saviour from harm. The devil did this to make the Lord Jesus fall by means of ego and pride, by testing and doubting God at the sane time, just as he has tempted Adam and Eve, to be like God if they were to eat from the fruit of the forbidden Tree of Knowledge.
This is a very common temptation that we often encounter all around us, especially because pride is most often the most dangerous of all kinds of sins. It was exactly the sin of pride that caused Satan to fall from the grace of God because of his vanity of pride, thinking that his seeming perfection, beauty and glory, as the greatest and most brilliant among the Angels God had created, gave him the right to boast about his own might and desiring even to take over the place of God.
Therefore, this is a sin that the devil is certainly well-acquainted with, and by which he will relentlessly assault us, to make us to fall as well into the same path towards damnation and destruction. And we easily fall into pride, to succumb to our ego and the ambitions inside our hearts. When people praise us and say good things about us, it is easy to slid into our prideful mode, and grow more and more egoistic and ambitious, thinking that we are greater than who we actually are.
And in time, unless we resist this temptation, we will begin to resent others and seek only personal glory and power, greatness and good things for ourselves. We will not even hesitate to cause others to suffer just so that we can enjoy what we want to enjoy and gain what we desire for ourselves, be it prestige, wealth, standing and position in society, influence, fame, and even appearances, beauty and vanity, and many others.
Even by now, we should have seen how the devil has so many means by which he is capable of attacking us with, to tempt us and even to pressure us into disobedience against God. And last of all, he tempted the Lord as he has done with us, with the temptation of worldly glory, that is to gain for ourselves everything that is good in life, the glories and wonders of the world, all of its riches and pleasures, so long as we are willing to bow to Satan and worship him.
This is what happens when we are distracted and swayed by the many idols present in our lives. These idols now no longer refers to those idols of the pagan gods, made of clay or stone, wood or gold, but rather, those idols refer to the desires that we have for worldly glory, for material wealth and possessions, for luxury in many forms, for indulgences and practices that kept us distracted in life and preventing us from living our lives as true Christians.
We may say that we are Christians and we love God, and we may think that we worship Him and serve Him alone, but as long as our actions in life show that we prefer to follow the path of worldliness, the path of selfishness, entertaining our greed and desires, satisfying our ego and pride, all that Satan has tempted the Lord Jesus with, then we are not true disciples and servants of out God. Instead, as long as we persist in walking down this path, we are the followers of Satan.
How should we then carry out our lives from now on, brothers and sisters in Christ? As long as we allow ourselves to be swayed and to be tempted by the devil, we will not be able to proceed down the path towards the salvation in God. And the best way forward for us is to listen to the Lord and follow His example, in how He Himself has resisted the temptations of Satan, to the very end.
He withstood the assaults of Satan through love and obedience to His Father, reminding us that we need to listen to the word of God, and put our trust in the words of God, rather in the words of Satan, the deceiver and enemy. This is the key essence of what each and every one of us as Christians must do in order to break out of the traps which Satan had laid down before us, through his many temptations.
If we are able to put God back at the centre of our lives, then Satan will no longer have power over us, for God will become the source of our strength and He will be our foundation in life. And in order to do this, we need to have a profound change in attitude in our own lives, from one that is selfish, self-glorifying and self-indulging, into one that is selfless, filled with love and care for others, and self-mortification.
Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that our primary goal in life is truly to serve the Lord and to glorify His Name, by all of our actions and deeds in life instead of to glorify ourselves. If we live only to glorify ourselves and serve our own purposes, then we must remember that our earthly life is limited, and no matter how much power, glory, wealth and worldly bounties we enjoy now, or plan to enjoy, the moment our earthly lives come to an end, or when disasters strike and destroy our hard earned worldly things, which are impermanent and temporary, what else will we have?
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to follow the examples of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the new Adam and model for us all mankind, and He is calling on us to take up our crosses in life, and follow Him. We have to commit ourselves to endure the same cross of suffering that He has borne for our sake. And if the devil has struck so hard against the Lord, again and again, by stirring up the Pharisees and others who opposed Him, many times, causing so much difficulties and problems, then we can expect to encounter the same opposition, challenges and hardships in life.
This is why in this season of Lent, we are called to renew our commitment to the Lord, to turn ourselves once again to God. There may have been many occasions when we have been tempted to turn away and to give up our faith, but we must persevere on, or otherwise, we will fall into damnation with the devil, and the way forward for us is only through the Lord. Let us all carry our cross in life with faith and conviction, knowing that in God alone we have hope and true assurance.
God will be with us, and He will guide us through this difficult journey. Let us all learn to rid ourselves off all the wicked things by which the devil has tempted us with, the allures of pleasures, especially that of the flesh, the temptation of greed, and the stubbornness of pride. Instead, let us put God at the centre of our lives once again, and fill our lives with obedience and love for Him. May the Lord continue to bless us and our works, and may He continue to watch over us. May all of us have a meaningful and fruitful season of Lent. Amen.