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Homily for first Sunday of Lent C

07 Mar 2019, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

We celebrate today the first Sunday of Lent, a season we are invited to journey into ourselves to ask some fundamental questions about our relationship with God.

season-of-lentA Journey into ourselves helps in our true identity’s rediscovery, who we truly are in Christ. To confuse our identity is a terrible thing; when a lawyer confuses his identity and begins to act as a medical doctor, he is certainly bound to hit the rock. That was what Moses tried to avoid in our first reading this morning from Deuteronomy.

The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt for years; they cried for help, and the Lord came down to their rescue, to lead them out of the land of slavery to the land of freedom. In the book of Exodus 12, God promised to strike the land of Egypt to force the Egyptians to let the people of Israel go, and true to his promise, he struck on Passover night, killing every firstborn of the Egyptians, but the Israelites were spared. The Israelites were then commanded never to forget that day, never to fail to tell their children and their children’s children what the Lord had done for them. So, in every opportunity they get, they recount their history in thanksgiving to God.

In our first reading this morning, Moses made the people recount their history, to recount how their fathers wondered Aramaeans. They recounted how they suffered in Egypt, how they cried to God, and how God saved them. They remembered their history, where they are coming from, their identity. They did not forget that they are people chosen specially by God.

We, by faith, have become part of this great people, the people of God. St. Paul tells us in our second reading that if your lips confess that Jesus is Lord, and if you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. By believing from the heart you are made righteous; by confessing with your lips you are save. Therefore, like the Israelites, we must continually remind ourselves of who we are in Christ Jesus, to be conscious of our identity; Sons and daughters of God.

Jesus himself was very sure of his identity; he knows where he came from and where he is going. He heard the Father’s voice clearly at the river Jordan where he was baptized; he heard the voice call him “beloved Son,” but the devil tried to deceive him, to make him doubt his identity. Three times the devil tempted him to confuse him, and three times, Jesus tells the devil that he knows who he is in God.

The devil says to Jesus If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to turn into a loaf. In other words, are you sure you are the Son of God? The devil wanted Jesus to doubt his own identity, to doubt the voice of the Father. But Jesus insists that he knows who he is and does not need to prove anything; Scripture says: man does not live on bread alone.

The temptationThe devil led Jesus to a high mountain and showed him the world’s kingdoms, and tempted him with temporal powers and glories. Again Jesus answered him saying; Scripture says: You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.

For the third time, the devil tempted Jesus; he led him to stand on the temple’s parapet in Jerusalem to put God to the test. The devil asked Jesus to throw himself down from there to prove his Son-ship, but Jesus again answered, saying: It has been said: You must not put the Lord your God to the test. The devil left him after he has exhausted all his strategies and failed.

That is exactly what the devil does to us; he tries to make us doubt our identity as Christians, as Sons and daughters of God. He tempts us with miracles, he turns ‘stones into bread’ before us to convince us of his potency, but he is a liar. We do not need miracles to know who we are in Christ, Jesus. Jesus did not need to turn stones into bread to prove that he is the Son of God; he knows what the scripture says about him. So too, we all must know what the scripture says about us. We are Sons and daughters of God; we are brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ; we are the redeemed in Christ Jesus. Therefore, let no situation lead you into an identity crisis, to begin to question your faith in God. Do not let the devil put doubts into your mind; that was what he tried to do to Jesus, to make him doubt his identity. No matter what you face in life, do not give up on who you are, do not give up on your God.

The devil has shown so many Christians the kingdoms and glories of this world, and some have fallen for them; they have bowed down in worship of false gods for material things that fade away. Many may have forgotten where they are coming from and where they are going, but we must learn to recount our history like ancient Israel. They constantly reminded themselves of how they were liberated from the power of the Egyptians; they reminded themselves of the powerful hands of God in their history. And that is what we are called to do as Christians, to constantly remind ourselves that we have been bought and paid for by Christ Jesus. We no longer belong to ourselves but to God, who watches over his people. We belong to the God of Israel, the mighty man in battle, the God who hears the cries of his people and come down to save them with mighty power.

In so many ways, we have failed this God and man, confused our identity. We doubted our prayers and even what God says we are. But we thank God for this year of mercy; let us hold onto the mercy of God and ask for forgiveness and the strength to move on to the promised land. The season of Lent is an opportunity for us to make amends for our damaged identity, to remind ourselves of who we are, and to renew ourselves in God through Christ, our Lord.