Sunday, February 17, 2013

The First Sunday of Lent - Satan Tempts the Lord Jesus

The First Sunday of Lent         17 February 2013         Deacon John McMullen

We are God’s Beloved Sons and Daughters, and with this knowledge we can withstand temptations, rooted in the word of God
and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

Immediately following Jesus’ baptism, the Father declares him his BELOVED Son. Jesus is then filled with the Holy Spirit as he goes into the desert. And then Satan comes to tempt him. Satan tempts Jesus towards materialism, pleasure, fame, popularity, and political power.
Lastly, the devil then led Jesus to Jerusalem, made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. The devil wanted Jesus to use religion for the wrong reasons.
Satan said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you, and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” The devil quotes the Psalm our cantor chanted earlier.
It is as if Satan is saying, “JUMP, JESUS!JUMP! Be popular! Be a media star! Put on a cape and fly off the temple roof and let the angels catch you! We can film it and put it on youtube! You’ll be more popular than anyone! We can post the photos on facebook and instagram!
Jesus, you need popularity and fame! Avoid the splintery Cross. You need to wow the crowds. A suffering messiah will not sell. No one will believe you are the Beloved Son of God if you die on a cross. Avoid the Cross. The Beloved Son should not take up a Cross.
The Devil constantly tempted our Lord to avoid the cross.
We too will be tempted to avoid the Cross of discipleship. All kinds of temptations come our way. We are tempted to skip our prayers. Tempted to ignore our community. Tempted to just let others proclaim the gospel through deeds of mercy or acts of justice. Temptations to act religious but to not really allow the Word of God to change our  hearts, to ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and avoid making that extra effort in being merciful or compassionate or helpful.
Jesus turns his back on that and urges us to be rooted in the Living Word of His Father and to be empowered by the Holy Spirit. He calls us to trust in God.
He will guard you in all your ways. There is grace in that old rugged Cross. There is grace flowing from that cross.
Satan tempts Jesus to Avoid the Cross. But Jesus has set his face toward the cross. We too are journeying toward the Cross.
Jesus relied on the Word of God. We too must rely on the Word of God. We too must trust in the Holy Spirit.
          Jesus did not take the easy way out; he did not take any short-cuts away from the Cross; and he was even willing to die so that others might live.
St. Paul reminds us that “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.” The Holy Spirit breathes life into the Word.
So where did Christ find his strength? In His Baptismal call, in the Word of God, and the power by the Holy Spirit.
In the midst of the temptations we face every day, where will we get the strength? We can find strength in our own baptism. We too are the Beloved of the Father. And when we recognize that we are the Beloved of God, then we will be rooted in the word of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And the Word of God will feed our souls.
You and I have the Word of God--sacred scripture. And if the devil can quote scripture, then you and I had best get into the Word or allow the Word of God to get into us, or we will be dead in the holy water!
There are bible studies here at Nativity we can take advantage of. Attend our Lenten Programs. Attend Daily Mass. Read the daily scriptures. The Holy Spirit breathes life into the Word of God. And when we read the scripture and pray the scriptures, He will breathe the Holy Spirit into us as well.
The important thing is to make time for prayer. Retreat to your prayer space and choose one of the gospels, such as Luke, and read a chapter each day. You might even re-read a passage. A daily diet of the Word of God will do wonders for your heart, mind, and soul. Remembering that we are His Beloved Sons and Daughters, we can withstand temptation, because we will be rooted in the word of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Our task this Lent and beyond is to believe that we are the Beloved adopted child of God through our daily lives, in the ordinary events where we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our actions. If we can hang on to the truth that we are His Beloved Sons and Daughters, we can withstand the temptations, because we will be rooted in the word of God and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
As Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” May we knock the devil out with our love for Christ, His Word, and His Cross.