Homily – Sunday, the 26th February 2023 (First Sunday of Lent)
Reading: Matthew 4:1-11
We are already in a period of Lent.
It is a time where we spent more time with the Word of God, more time in prayer, more time in meditation, more time in meaningful engagement with the community, more time to spent with God
It is therefore also a time where we grapple with temptations more
And the greatest temptation is to yield to temptation and not bother about the consequences.
Martin Luther writes of an ink-mark in his wall. He was meditating and praying and the distraction of the tempter was so real that at one point Luther grabbed the ink pot next to him and threw. It splashed on the wall but told the world how real temptations can be at times.
What are temptations?
Temptation is an innate compulsion to do something that could have consequences beyond comprehension. It could be the lure for sensual satisfaction, an invitation to riches and glory or the beckoning of darkness into its ways.
The Lord’s prayer is clear- Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil.
Talking about temptation my Sunday School teacher always told us what Martin Luther said- You cannot stop the robin from flying over your head but you can surely stop it from building its nest on your head.
It is worth listening to Robert Browning who once said,
Why comes temptations but for man to meet
And master and make crouch beneath his foot
And so be pedestalled in triumph
It is like a teacher conducting a test with the intention to make the ward eligible to get on to the next progressive levels of growth. Temptation is the testing ground when the believer battle and grow.
The struggle of the ordinary person with temptation was best expressed by Shakespeare who said
Bell, book and candle shall not drive me back
When gold and silver becks me to come on
He also said
To be Tempted is one thing and To fall is another.
What are the temptations we face in this digital age today. Just to list a few we can think of
- Temptation to a Godless life
- Temptation of Anxiety and Worry
- Temptations around the Dark Web
- Temptation of unethical ways of profit seeking
- Temptation of Procastination
- Temptation of Incognito encounters with Cyber World
- Temptation of Impersonisiation and faking identities
- Temptation to break social norms and customs
- Temptation to parochialism- strengthening identity walls- caste, class, race, color, creed
- Temptation of Extremism
- Temptation to overuse social media- social media addiction
- Temptation to gossip
- Temptation to exploitation
- Temptation to neglect the well-being of the other and the future
- Temptation of lethargy or laziness
What are the temptations in each of our lives?
What are the temptations that we as a community face?
A Reading of Matthew 4:1-11
Led by the Spirit, into the Wilderness To be tested by the Tempter. It is the Holy Spirit that leads Jesus to the next phase. It is like a parent who accompanies the child to the exam hall and waiting outside assured that the child will do well and pass the test.
Wilderness is a reality you and I face in our spiritual journeys. In the parching heat we would be left alone and it is these moments of loneliness that the tempter finds most useful.
It is worth asking this question once in a while- Am I going through a wilderness experience? A strange sort of loneliness haunting me more than I can mask it with my smile.
Forget about the Others Who are Hungry
Context: Forty days of fasting and prayer and the tempter begins with the hunger of Jesus
Note this that tempter primarily touches our points of vulnerability.
He said, If You are the Son of God, command these stones to be loaves of bread.
Just do a miracle and feed yourselves.
Jesus was the one who later fed the five thousand with five loaves and this would have been perhaps possible.
BUT Jesus said
Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
We live in a context where the Encounters with the Word of God is becoming lesser and lesser. Every word is crucial. Jesus uses the Word of God as a shield to protect himself from the Evil ones.
This question is important- How is it going with our Time with the Word
Zoom Bible Studies- would that be another experience when the preacher and the pastor talk to each other and wind up
Why is it that resuming of our Bible Study Groups is still not our priority.
This temptation is about food. We should read this in the context of the discussion around us on food justice and food security which is defined as “the ability of all people to have access at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life and pertains to the availability and accessibility of nutritious, safe, and acceptable foods in a socially acceptable way.”
If we randomly think of some temptations around food in the digital age today they would among many others include
- Poverty and Hunger- Neglecting the Hunger of the Other- The Manna Mandate was to ensure that each has enough and no one takes more than that is required. Unequal distribution of food led to hunger and malnutrition.
- Food Hoarding and Commodification of Food- In the context of Patents and Rights the Right for Food of all fails to be the primary right above everything else
- Food Manipulation- Genetic farming and manipulating farming methods that would have far reaching impact on the health of the future generations
- Cash Crops replacing Food crops in several parts of the world is in fact cutting off the food supply chains on which future generations will depend for survival.
- Farmer Exploitation: Just wages are just a myth for several farmers across the world. Employer does not realise that being able to cope with the prices around is the entitlement of every worker.
- Food Wastage. From Production to Distribution and till storage, consumption and beyond can you imagine the amount of food that is wasted.
- Corporate Globalisation of Food Products and branding has made nutritious food inaccessible to many. I live by the sea but best of my fish is imported from the deep sea not even reaching my shore.
- Unethical Advertisement and Marketing Techniques have stripped the food justice campaign of all sanity
- Issues of culturally appropriate food accessible to the people in peripheries continue to haunt us
- The number of “food deserts” which are geographic areas that don’t have access to affordable food is increasing
And the temptation is- Forget about all that
You change these stones into loaves and eat and satisfy your hunger
But Man shall not live by bread alone. But by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Defining fasting Isaiah had said
“Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry
And bring the homeless poor into the house;
When you see the naked, to cover him;
And not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Interestingly the translation of this word into my language is interesting. We are not normal bread eaters and therefore it is translated Man shall not live by appam alone.
The challenge is to strengthen your defence mechanisms. Move closer to the Word of God.
The Second Temptation
Forget about the Preciousness of your Life
Took Him to the Holy City, to the Pinnacle of the Temple.
Many a times Temptations are centred around Holy Cities and Temple pinnacles.
People fight around the holy sanctuaries. In the name of religion there is much blood shed in the world around us today
If you are the Son of God, It is written (Devil uses Scriptures) He will command his angels concerning you. On their hands they will hold you up so that you will not hurt your feet on the stone.
And Jesus said- But it is written- Do not put your Lord your God to test.
At the outer layer it looks like testing the trust in God who is able to do miracles.
But if we closely read the text what is the tempter prompting him to do
Jump and commit suicide
Jump and play with your life
Jump and put your life at risk- that was the best way for the Tempter to deter Jesus from the cross.
The temptation to put our lives at risk happens in different ways today
We read this in the context of
E- Relationships and the “time alone together— physically together but each interacting with their mobile device — the concern is that young people are missing out on opportunities to develop key social and relationship skills. “
Digital fatigue due to over engagement with digital devises
Digital lure to risky life situations
We read this in the context of Artificial Intelligence where strangers are able to influence your behavioural patterns
Why do people commit suicide
They keep crying out for help but no body else sees them nor understand them., They reflect their inner agony through episodes of depression and anxiety but no one cares. The devil keeps telling Just Jump.
When existence become painful, when guilt becomes unbearable, when flirting with risky behaviour like oxygen deprivation, when prompted to
impulsive responses to drugs, alchohol and dire life situations the voice of the tempter is Jump
And the response
DO NOT PUT your CREATOR to Test.
Life is very precious and that cannot be played with
Any difficult situations we encounter God is able to help us travel through the same.
The Third Temptation
Forget about the Temporariness of Earthly Possessions
The Devil Took him to a very high mountain, showed him all the kingdoms and their splendour.
All this will be yours IF you fall down and worship me.
Jesus said- Away with you Satan for it is written- Worship the Lord your God and him only.
We hear this phrase quite often today in various different ways
ALL these shall be yours
When will the human being ever be satisfied?
We just want to keep getting and getting and getting
The desire to keep on grabbing- whatever be the cost
As long as I gain I do not bother about the means- the end justifies the means.
We forget the pilgrim nature of life and how we do not take with us anything beyond a certain point
There are several realities in life that possessions cannot give us, yet we want more.
Given a choice between possessions and people we sometimes chose possessions leaving relationships in jeopardy.
Will not God provide everything you need
Our life is a example. Everything we have here are gifts of people. Some might take it back when we leave and some might leave it to another needy person. God works through different ways and for that we need not compromise with the Tempter- asking for anything.
The temptation is to compromise with the Devil and the promise is- All this will be yours
Jesus later said- you cannot serve two masters- Mammon and God. If you try to do so you would be keen on one and desert the other.
Jesus was clear
Away from me Satan- I do not want to have anything with you
It is written
Worship the Lord your God alone
We should not be unfaithful to God
Yes we have good news
Then the Devil Left Him
The Devil tried but was unsuccessful and so for the time being left
That is what happens each time
The Devil leaves
And when that happens
Suddenly angels came and waited on him
Our guardian angels were not far away when we were going through the test
And they came by and attended to him
February 26, 2023
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