Fr. Jolly’s Homily for Sunday, March 10, 2017

1st Sunday of Lent- C

 

How seriously do you take temptation? Jesus took them very seriously. He not only overcame temptation but also asked us to pray every day to overcome them- “Lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from every evil”. Praying that prayer, let’s enter into this celebration.

 

A man was dying. And the devil came to give him a tour; a journey to heaven and hell so that he can decide where he wants to go. First the devil took him to heaven. It was a great place and he enjoyed the tour. Then the devil took him to hell. It was even a greater and awesome place and everything was pleasurable and verybody was happy there.  Then devil asked him, so you saw both the places and now tell me which place you want to go. Since hell was a far better place, naturally he chose hell. In few days, he died and went to hell. To his surprise, when he came to hell whatever fascinating things he saw in his tour was not found.  But instead it was the most disgusting and miserable place you can imagine. He ran to the devil and complained “what happened to all those great things that you showed me at my tour. The devil replied “it was just a commercial” That’s how we bring people in. Believe me it has been working!

 

Have you ever gone fishing? If you go for fishing what you need? A good fishing rod and reel; fishing line and at the end of the line you need a hook. If the hook is empty the fish wouldn’t bite. So what you need an appropriate bait or lure. That is the beauty of lure. When the fish see the lure, what does it see, it sees dinner. It doesn’t see the hook behind it. That’s the danger of temptation! We just see the lure- the beauty but we don’t see the hook behind it. Therefore we simply bite and go for it.  Think of any sin you ever committed! We don’t sin because we are bad people but we sin because of the apparent pleasure and good we see in it. Think of any addiction, drug, sex, alcohol, pornography. We just see the lure but we fail to see the hook behind it.

 

In the gospel story today, Jesus clearly sees the hook behind the temptations he faces. And that’s why he doesn’t bite them. There are three particular and specific temptations that Jesus faces. When you break them down thematically, they simply means three things. Satisfaction for hunger, power and the absence of pain! Those are three of the most innermost cravings any one can ever have. They go to the heart of who we are and our basic problems. Hunger can be more than just a craving for a hamburger; there is this hunger for love, or for sex, for attention or for approval. Power is about more than an ambition or world domination or being a celebrity; it is also about control—not being accountable to anyone, and being able to do whatever you want to do and whenever you want to do, however you want to do. And the absence of pain is about more than just being protected by angels. It is also about never feeling hardship, or sickness, or sorrow. Think of what the devil is offering: total satisfaction…absolute power…total protection and comfort and ease and wellbeing. That would be irresistible to many of us. But not to Jesus because Jesus sees the hook behind it!

 

Do you know why many people fall into temptation? Spiritually they are week. When you watch the animal kingdom, you have seen the big cats hunting or catching prey. They always will go after the weakest among the herds. 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us. “Be sober and vigilant! Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that your fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings.

Do you know the reason why Jesus was able to see the hook behind the temptation or the Lure? Bible says, Jesus was not alone and week. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus was not alone in the desert.  He was filled with the Holy Spirit!  Next, I read that Jesus didn’t eat for 40 days, he was hungry.  He was empty.  In fact, are we not also invited to empty ourselves, decrease our ego, and become hungry, so we can more fully be filled with the Holy Spirit?  If we can let go of our ego selves and let the Spirit fill us, then, when we are tempted we are better able to respond from a place of the divine, represented in the Gospel by Jesus responding with scripture. I believe this is the basic call of the Lenten Season; invitation to prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  It is an invitation to let go of ourselves, our egos, just a little bit more to make room for God.  It is an invitation to remember and reconnect with who and whose we really are at our core as children of God.

Couple of years ago, I met this man. He is now 57 years. When he was fifty years old, his life was very miserable and had all kinds of addictions and have broken all commandments. One day his wife invited him to go the church with her on a valentine’s day. The preaching was about temptation. It got his attention and he decided to talk to the priest after the mass. After hearing his story, the priests said; ‘now you have two choices. You can continue like this and feel sorry for yourself or do something about it’. He suggested him doing five things:

  1. Daily Mass
  2. Confession in 2 weeks
  3. Praying the Rosary daily
  4. Reading a chapter from the bible and reflect upon it
  5. Fasting once a week.

He started doing all that and He became a new man; a happy man. That was 7 years ago. Today he said that he has added one more thing: Praying a divine Mercy chaplet every day!

Recently I saw this post on Facebook. The title was EAGLE vs SNAKE: TAKE YOUR FIGHT INTO THE SPIRITUAL REALM.

The Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky. The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful wise and deadly.  Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles. Don’t fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle grounds like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You’ll be assured of clean victory. Have a Blessed Lenten journey!