Homily for first Sunday of Lent, A

Sometime 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.” I encouraged them never to close the door to the past. This must not been seen from the negative angle, it is not the case of letting your past hunt you but looking back to learn from it. I made them understand that if we must continue to live and enjoy the religious life, then we must constantly look back into the life of those who devoutly lived the same religious life before us, to find inspiration and encouragement, else we get tired of the life or even miss the road.  Life is beautiful, we live it forward but must understand it backward.

In this first Sunday of Lent, the Church wants us to look back like the religious. Our first reading takes us back to the very beginning, to remind us of how God created us out of dust and breathed life into us. God planted a garden in Eden and there he put the man he had created, and ordered him not to eat the fruit of a particular tree. But man was tempted; the devil came in the form of a serpent to deceive man to doubt God’s love for him. The devil made man doubt the good intentions of God, he made Adam and Eve believe that God was hiding the gift of sight and knowledge from them and so they ate the forbidden fruit. Their eyes were opened and discovered that they were naked. The devil striped man 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, still leading many into a life of nakedness and separation from God. He even tempted Jesus, he tried to make Jesus doubt the word of God and to make him loose 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 begin to doubt his own identity, to begin 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 he Garden of Eden and that tempted Jesus is still very strong 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 to 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. The season of Lent therefor 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 is stronger than our sins; let us therefore hear the call of the Church to silence that ancient voice of evil in our lives and repent of our sins.

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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