HOMILY First Sunday of Lent Cycle A 2020
I have been tempted in many different ways in my life. And you too probably have experienced various types of temptations. I bet we could come up with a pretty thorough catalog of various types of temptation just from the people in this room. But not once can I recall being tempted to turn stones into bread, nor to jump off a temple, nor to prostrate myself and worship Satan. And if we did a survey of the congregation here I bet we would come up with at most a handful of persons who were ever tempted in any of these strange ways. What is going on in this Gospel?
Well, I believe that these three unusual temptations of Jesus in the desert are variations of what the serpent said to Eve in the first reading: “You will be like gods.” That is the come-on, the sales pitch, the line the devil uses. The ultimate temptation is to refuse our status as creatures and want to be fully in control, answerable to no one, dependant on no one but our own self. It is, in effect, a rejection of our status as creatures and as humans, which is always to be dependent and contingent.
Jesus rejects these temptations by fully embracing his humanity, with its limitations and shortfalls, its aches and pains, its uncertainty and confusion, its weakness and vulnerability, its full human-ness. Jesus does not accept the power to turn stones into bread and so escape human need and want. Jesus does not accept being protected by a circle of angels and so be invincible. Jesus rejects the politics of power and force and accomplishing His goals by strength and might and intimidation. Jesus accepts fully what it means to be human. And that is to be limited, contingent.
But Jesus also shows us that that is OK, because of the trust we have in God our loving Father. Just as children can feel safe and protected when they are with loving parents, so you and I, as disciples of Christ, find our security and comfort, not in our ability to handle everything that comes our way, but instead in secure confidence in God’s ultimate care for us.
That is a risk. That is kind of scary. But that is what Jesus does in the Gospel today, and that is what we are called to as well.
We want to be in charge of our lives. But we did not cause ourselves to be. We did not choose the accidents of our birth: our gender, our nationality, our abilities, our weaknesses. We will not choose the number of years we are here on earth, nor when will be our proper time to die. We cannot control the development of the carona virus, nor how others act, nor so many important factors that shape our lives. We really are not in charge.
But we are beloved. We do not have to try to be like gods. Rather, we have to allow ourselves to be loved by God, and open our hearts and wills to God’s plan for us.
This Lent is a special time to renew our devotion and submission to God. With all our heart let us join Jesus in shouting, “Get away Satan! It is written: “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” AMEN.