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Homily for the first Sunday of Lent, year A

28 Feb 2020, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Some time ago, I had the privilege of directing a retreat in one of the female religious institutes in Nigeria, and in one of the sections, we reflected on the topic, “Do not close the door.” The retreatants were all encouraged never to close the door to the past. This was certainly not the case of letting the past hunt us but looking back to learn and be encouraged. The retreatants were made to understand that if we religious must continue to live and enjoy religious life, then the need to constantly look back into those who devoutly lived the same religious life we may be struggling with becomes imperative. We must look back to find inspiration and encouragement; else, we get tired of life or even miss the road.  Life is beautiful; we live it forward, but we must also learn to understand it backward.

In this first Sunday of Lent, the Church invites us to look back.  Our first reading this morning leads us along that path of reflection, taking us back to the very beginning of creation. God planted a garden in Eden, and there he put the man he had created; he forbade him to eat the fruit of a particular tree. But the man was tempted; the devil came in the form of a serpent to deceive man into doubting God’s love for him. The devil planted doubts into man’s heart; Adam and Eve were convinced by the unholy being that God was hiding the gift of sight and knowledge from them, and so were deceived to eat the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened, and they realized their nakedness. By tempting man to fall, the devil stripped him of his coverage; he stripped him of the glory God had given him and led him out of the Garden of Eden into the garden of pains and shame.

Through Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. And that same deceptive voice that spoke in the Garden of Eden still speaks today, leading many into a life of nakedness and separation from God. He even tempted Jesus; he tried to make Jesus doubt God’s word and lose his identity.

At baptism, the Father called Jesus his Son, and here comes the devil asking Jesus if he is truly the Son of God. He says, If you are the Son of God, tell this stones to turn into loaves. He wanted Jesus to doubt his own identity, to doubt the word of God and wonder if he is actually the Son of God. But Jesus knows who he is, he heard the voice of the Father clearly calling him his Son, and he knows what the scripture says. Jesus held on to the word of God and defeated the devil. Three times he was tempted, and three times he reminded the devil what is written. When he was tempted to turn stones into loaves, he reminded the devil that it is written; Man does not leave on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. When he was tempted to throw himself down from the parapet of the Temple to prove his Son-ship, he replied; Scripture says: You must not put the Lord your God to the test. Finally, when he was tempted to worship the devil, He replied; Be off Satan! For scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.

That same deceptive and satanic voice that spoke in the Garden of Eden and that tempted Jesus is still powerful in our world today and has made us fall and fall again. But the Church calls us in this season of grace to approach God with contrite hearts and ask for mercy. Let us learn from our Lord to hold on to what is ‘written.’

Our second reading this morning reminds us that it is written that sin entered the world through one man, Adam. It is also written that through one man, Jesus Christ, we gain grace and mercy. It is through him we conquer the power of sin and are made righteous. Therefore, the season of Lent is the time specially set aside by the Church for all her children to be sober, to reflect on the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ and the salvation we have in him.

As we celebrate this first Sunday of Lent, let us look back in faith and not in fear. Let us look back to see how far we have gone from God and then look forward with faith in God’s mercy and love. His grace and mercy are stronger than our sins; let us, therefore, hear the Church’s call to silence that ancient voice of evil in our lives and repent of our sins.

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