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Homily for the first Sunday of Lent, Year C

05 Mar 2022, 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. Not closing the door is 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.

Moses spoke to the people according to our first reading this morning. He instructs them not only to bring their tithes and offerings before God but to look back into their history to see where God is bringing them from and to see marvels God worked for them as a people. As Christians, we look back not in fear but with hearts full of thanksgiving. We look back to see how terribly we derailed and how much God saved us, and that is what the Lenten season is all about; to pause for a moment and reflect on our lives.

St. Paul reminds us in our second reading that the word of God, that is, the word of faith, is not only close to us but is on our lips and in our hearts. The word reminds us of God’s faithfulness to his saving mission; anyone who calls on the Lord shall be saved. But the evil one comes to mess with our minds, to manipulate our emotions, our desires, and try to confuse our confidence in the mercy and love of God. The evil one is a thief who only comes to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10). He comes to Jesus in our gospel passage today to attempt to manipulate the hunger Jesus feels after forty-day fast and to confuse Jesus about his identity. The devil showed up when Jesus was hungry, a time the devil considered a weak and vulnerable moment for Jesus. 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 make him doubt the voice of the Father he heard at his baptism calling him a Son. The devil tempted him to confuse him three times, and three times, Jesus tells the devil that he knows what is written and what the scriptures say.

The devil shows Jesus the glory of the kingdoms of the earth to lure him into apostasy, to abandon the Father and his salvific mission to embrace the world and its glory. That’s what the devil does; he tempts and confuses with the treasures and glamour of this world, leading people away from the ways of God to eternal damnation. 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’ to convince us of his potency, but he is a liar. We do not need miracles to know who we are in Christ; Jesus did not need to turn stones into bread to prove his son-ship or divinity; 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 sow doubts in you; 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.  

Yes, we have sinned and fallen so many times, but we are still the people redeemed in Christ. In this time of Lent, the Church invites us all to look back into our lives to see where we are spiritually weak and then make amends. The season of lent is not only a time to fast and pray; it is equally a time of repentance and total surrender to the mercy and love of God.

As we celebrate this Sunday, let’s ask God for mercy and forgiveness of our sins as well as the grace to sin no more.