SUNDAY, FIRST WEEK OF LENT
Reading 1: Gen 9:8-15 After saving Noah and his family from the flood, God establishes a new friendship-agreement (covenant) with him. The rainbow is a constant reminder of that covenant.
Reading 2: 1 Pet 3:18-22 St Peter says that the waters of the flood of Noah’s time were a type of the waters of our Baptism by which we are saved.
Gospel: Mk 1:12-15 After being baptised by John the Baptist, Jesus spent forty days in the desert. While there he was tempted by Satan. Mark gives a brief account of Jesus’ temptations and the beginning of his preaching.
TEMPTATIONS STRENGTHEN US
Today, on the first Sunday of Lent, the liturgy invites us to be aware of the temptations of Satan and to ignore his vile suggestions. All of us face temptations. A temptation is a trick, a deception, a lie; therefore, Jesus calls the devil, “the father of lies” (Jn 8:44). Satan does not just hide the truth, but replaces it with falsehood. He is a master manipulator, a cunning coaxer, an efficient enticer. The moment we journey in the path of holiness; he makes every effort to drag us back to sinfulness.
Adam and Eve were tempted by the devil and chose to listen to him. As a result, they lost the grace of God, inadvertently erecting a wall between God and humanity. The Gospel however, presents us with another personality, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, who broke down that wall with the weapon of the cross. He too was tempted by the devil. But he did not yield to his vile promptings, “he was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin” (Heb 4:15).
In facing the challenges of Satan and being victorious over them, Jesus proclaims to all that God is far greater in power and majesty than Satan. He tried to tempt Jesus many times during his life but failed miserably. And, with every temptation that he conquered, Jesus gained greater power of him. The temptations strengthened Jesus. Similarly, God permits temptations in our life to strengthen our minds and hearts, and our desire for him in choosing to be obedient to his word no matter how convincing or attractive be the alternative.
Temptations are not meant for our ruin. In the face of temptation, there are always two voices, not one. Though the suggestions of the Evil One may be louder and more pronounced, there is always the calm, steady voice of God in the depths of our conscience. We see this in the life of Jesus as well. On the one hand, there was the voice of Satan ringing in his ears at every moment in different ways and through different people – “Use your power to silence the hypocrites and obliterate your enemies; win over the affection, admiration and praise of the people by giving them what they want; conquer the world with force.” But there was also the voice of his beloved Abba, constantly reminding him of his mission: “Take my love to men, love them till you die for them, conquer them with mercy, compassion and self-sacrifice.”
Satan relentlessly pushed him to set up a dictatorship of force, while God desired that he set up a reign of love. Jesus always listened to that calm, steady voice of God. This is how he conquered the Evil One at every step. He did not allow himself to be seduced into sin. Jesus came among us here on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the garden of Eden. He came to reclaim God’s Kingdom that reigned in the heart of man before it was stolen by Satan through sin.
We face temptations. And God permits them so that we may prove the extent of our love for him, by choosing to be obedient to his will, and not our own passions and desires; by choosing to walk by faith, live by hope and be moved by selfless love in every thought, word and action. “Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” (Jas 1:14) And we have the same tools that Jesus had with him, to conquer the Evil One – prayer and the word of God. Let us hold on to them firmly, that every temptation may be an occasion for us to take a step on the path of holiness.
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25: 4-9 All your paths, O Lord, are mercy and faithfulness, for those who keep your covenant.
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