Just do good! First Sunday of Lent
Sermon by Emmanuel Suntheni – First Sunday Of Lent –
Sermon And Christian Act In The Word
Theme: Defeat the Devil during this year’s Lenten Season! Just do good!
Point of Departure: During this year’s Lenten period, I invite you to take up the Cross and follow Jesus. It is not enough just to go to Church on Ash Wednesday and take photo with ashes on your forehead and share them on WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook and yet we do not love and even not doing good to other, allowing the devil to lead us. As Christians we need four Inner Attitudes of Prayer-Fasting-Almsgiving-Love. If we pray, fast, share the little we have with the underprivileged and love others, then, we have really played our Christian role not just putting status or positing Lenten messages.
A Need of Lenten Action: During this year’s Lenten period, we need to increase our times for prayer: let us pray for peace. It is through genuine prayer that we make a room for God in our life and we express our deepest desire to interiorly dispose ourselves to God as Jesus said, If anyone wants to follow me, let him/her deny himself/herself and take up his cross and follow (Cf. Matthew 16:24-26).
Point of Reflection: If you have never met the devil in your life then you’re dead! Today the gospel is challenging as to learn how to defeat the devil during this Lenten period. As Pope Francis said on Ash Wednesday, just do good! As we begin this year’s Lenten season let us defeat the devil and just do good?
First Reading: Deuteronomy 26:4–10
Psalm: Psalm 91:1–2, 10–15
Second Reading: Romans 10:8–13
Gospel: Luke 4:1–13
Sermon (Reflection): The season of Lent is a time of intense preparation for the celebration and commemoration of the events foundational for the Christian faith. The first Sunday of Lent is the day which the mother Church celebrates the rite of election or enrolment of names for Catechumens who are to be admitted to the Sacraments of Christian Initiation at the Easter Vigil.
Before the start of his public ministry, Jesus had to defeat the devil and make his own “profession of faith”, narrated in the story of his temptations or, better, testing, narrated in the Gospel passage. Jesus’ threefold test took place in the wilderness where he confronted the devil, thus, God’s opponent whose goal was and is to disrupt and frustrate God’s plans and purposes. Understandable this God’s opponent attempted to prevent Jesus from carrying out God’s work in the world. Today too in our lives, we have devils around us, trying to frustrate our Christian mission, during this Lenten period, let us defeat the devil by practising inner attitudes of Prayer-Fasting-Charity-Love.
As recounted in the gospel passage of today, first the tempter challenged Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his bodily hunger. Doing so would mean that Jesus uses his God-given miracle-working powers to serve and satisfy his own needs and desires. Jesus refused and quoted Scripture to justify his decision. Doing so, Jesus made an unequivocal declaration that he would use the powers given to him according to God’s will and for God’s purposes alone.
In the second test, the devil offered to make Jesus the supreme ruler of the world in exchange for an act of worship and submission. Here, Jesus had to declare whether he would serve Satan or God. Relying on the Scripture again, Jesus unequivocally declared his choice for God, despite Satan’s grandiose and tempting offer.
The final test took place on the top of the Jerusalem Temple, that is, in God’s very presence. The devil, now quoting the Scripture himself, challenged Jesus to throw himself down. Since the Scripture states that God would surely protect his servant, the devil effectively asked Jesus to test God and see whether God would be true to his word. The tempter attempted to sow a seed of doubt in Jesus’ mind as to whether God can be trusted and see whether Jesus would trust God without asking for a sign. Jesus’ answer, again based on Scripture, revealed his unqualified trust and confidence in God’s protection, without any signs needed to confirm it. Armed with this confidence Jesus would be able to face death, trusting that God would not abandon him to the death’s destructive grip.
These three tests were the devil’s attempts to prevent Jesus from carrying out God’s work, for which he came into the word. Relying on the guidance of Scripture Jesus withstood these tests, confirming his “faith in God”, that is his confidence, commitment, and unwavering determination to carry out God’s will and to serve God and God’s purposes alone. Let us the Lord to increase our faith.
The second reading of today presents St. Paul’s teaching on how one obtains salvation. He states that salvation depends on two distinctive acts, first, confessing Jesus as the Lord and second, believing in his resurrection. This is our faith as Christians. To accept and believe that Jesus is the Lord and believe in his resurrection, this is what is inviting us to enter Lenten period, to witness the Cross that save us.
Confessing Jesus as the Lord needs to be done not only with the lips but with deeds and actions like visiting the sick, the prisoners, and doing good to others, doing works of mercy.
Christian Act in Word of God “Defeating the devil in the desert”
Like Jesus, there are moments when we find ourselves in desert-like situations. These are times of emptiness and dryness in prayer and our families and relationships. At a time when one is hard up and there is no money available, a corrupt deal comes knocking at the door. In a period of great challenge in one’s marriage, temptation slides in and beckons a person to seek forbidden pleasure elsewhere. In the face of calamity or great loss, doubts about the existence of God beseech us and the will to pray evaporates. Indeed, the depth of one’s faith is best assessed in desert-like situations and defeating the devil. Let us defeat the devil with prayer and love.
In this season of Lent, we too are invited to enter into the desert and face its challenges. It is a journey to spiritual renewal. However, it is precisely on this journey that one finds huge temptations and obstacles. Understandably, Satan hates it when he sees God’s children making spiritual progress. Like Jesus, we need to arm ourselves with deep faith in the Word of God if we are to overcome the wiles of the evil one. None of us should fall and crush our faith when tempted, but if it should happen, the Lord offers us the grace of restoration in the sacrament of reconciliation.
Action: I’m geared to defeat the devil by the works of mercy and prayer.
Prayer: Almighty Father, help me during this Lenten season to defeat the devil and just do good to my fellow human beings and all creatures. The devil is at hand, send your Holy Spirit to empower and strengthen me to pray, fast, do works of mercy and love. I ask this through Jesus Christ your Son who lives and reigns with you, Amen.
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