Lent 1 Sunday C - Temptations

Thomas O’Loughlin

Introduction to the Celebration

In every area of our lives there are periods of mending, renewing, and refocusing. We talk about ‘spring cleaning’, ‘annual reviews, and ‘in-service training’. Now we enter a period to renew our discipleship prior to celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter. So now can we spend some moments considering how God our creator made us and has provided for us. Let us recall that God our saviour has called us to live in a new way and to build a world of justice and peace. Let us remember how God our inspiration offers us strength for our discipleship.
Gospel Notes

The Lukan temptation account is very similar in content and language to that in Matthew (4:1-11), but differs from it in two respects. First, in Matthew, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness in order to be tested by the devil. In Luke the Spirit leads him as a preparation for his ministry, and then while there the devil sees his opportunity and seizes it. Second, in Matthew the devil leaves and Jesus is looked after by angels; here the note of angelic consolation is absent, and the devil is presented as only going away for a while: the devil will hover on the edges seeking another opportunity to strike.

The presence of these temptation stories at the beginning of Matthew and Luke reflects communities where — as we see in the Didache — at the outset of any important act (e.g. baptism) a period of preparation by fasting and prayer was essential. Jesus embarking on the ministry must, therefore, prepare in a similar way by fasting for what is the biblically ideal period of forty days. In Luke’s world the devil is hovering quite low down and close to humanity, just off the edges of everyday existence waiting for a chance to pounce in any moment of weakness, so it seems natural to him that any period of fasting is a time when he might strike; and even when rejected he still hangs around watching for a weak moment.

Michel de Verteuil
General comments

The story of Jesus’ temptation reveals to us the deepest thing about him: he had total trust in his heavenly Father. This is why the incident is placed at the very beginning of his public life. The evangelists are telling us that he chose this path and he would remain faithful to it through all the ups and downs of his ministry.

Telling the story in the form of ‘temptations’ does two things:
• Jesus’ attitude is highlighted since it is set in contrast with other possible attitudes;
• we are reminded that for Jesus trust was a free and deliberate choice, as it is for every human being: he chose to trust.

In meditating on the temptations, feel free to focus on the one that appeals to you and remain with it until you find yourself identifying deeply with it. Eventually you will find that all three are really variations on the one temptation not to be totally trusting.

The story has an introduction in verses 1 and 2 and a conclusion in verse 13. You might like to spend some time on these verses as they are very significant.

Homily Notes 

1. Lent has three themes intertwined within it as we celebrate it.

(1) It is a time of preparation for Easter, especially for those who are to be baptised.
(2) It is a time of repentance and reparation for wrongs done to others around us, the larger community, and the creation.

(3) It is a time of stocktaking and renewal in discipleship, the skills needed to be a disciple, and in the commitment to the work and activities of being a Christian.

2. The homily today could take the form of a ‘checklist’ or ex­amination of conscience on these aspects. 

3. Preparing for Easter.

• What plans has the community to make Easter the central moment of the year? We should recall that today in many places this is the time when many people think of going for a , spring break’ and a time when many who are involved in the liturgy during the school-term times are going to be away.
• If people are going away for Easter, how do they view it as their community’s central celebration: will they miss the community, will they be missed?
• What opportunities are going to be provided, and by whom, for preparation and reflection; and do people see this as important?
• Are there candidates preparing for baptism; how is the community involved in this; are there people designated to pray for the candidates?
• Can particular talents be harnessed for all this lenten preparation? 1£ so, what are they and who has them?

4. Repentance and reparation. 

• How does the community plan to celebrate reconciliation with God in Christ this Lent?
How will people be helped to experience this reconciliation?

What help do members of the community want to help them overcome bad memories of the confessional?
• Will the community want to celebrate healing during this time?

• What plans have the community to make reparation to poorer peoples across the globe this Lent?
• How will my Lenten preparation take concrete forms in work­ing for justice, peace, and reconciliation in our world? 

5. Stock-taking of discipleship.

What plans have the community to renew itself in prayer?
What plans are there for fasting to give physical form to prayer?
What plans have the community for generosity that will enhance the world, aid the poor, and provide resources for building the kingdom of justice, love, and peace?
How will the community support these plans with special liturgies, groups, or inputs form other Christians?

• How can the community’s liturgy be enhanced during this time?
6. Many clergy think that these are only questions for them, but it is the whole community that needs the time of renewal; and if any Lenten activity is to have more support than just ‘the usual suspects,’ then the whole Lenten agenda has to be owned by the community. The community can only own it if it has been offered to them as an option.

John Littleton
Gospel Reflection

As the annual season of Lent begins, we are invited to renew our faith through prayer, acts of penance and charitable works. The greatest threat to our faith is surrendering to temptation, especially when, as Christians, we are obliged to avoid sin and choose what is good.

When confronted with persistent temptation in our lives, there are three possible approaches to dealing with it. 

The first is simply to yield to the temptation, as happened with Adam and Eve, often with sinful and tragic consequences.

Today we live in a very individualistic, consumerist society where immediate gratification is the norm. Therefore, many of us yield almost unthinkingly to the temptations that are presented so appealingly to us. For example, we ‘flick’ through various television channels trying to watch several programmes simultaneously. Such channel-hopping ensures that we do not satisfactorily see any of the programmes.

Partly as a result of being bombarded with sophisticated advertising and marketing strategies, we have developed a mentality that is governed primarily by the pleasure principle: everything must be convenient, pain-free and instant. Sunday trading, twenty-four hour services and on-line booking facilities have become features of contemporary society. Thus, when confronted by temptations that have sinful outcomes, we have limited experience of — and few skills in — dealing with them adequately. For instance, it is easier to be abrupt with people than patient, because we do not want to listen to them. Similarly, it is more convenient to tell a lie than speak the truth, to save embarrassment.

The second approach is to pray to God, asking him to remove the temptation. Asking God to remove temptation without acknowledging our own role in the situation is naïve because it is merely transferring complete responsibility to him. Surely, it is unfair when out drinking to ‘have one more for the road’ and then pray that we drive home safely. Many of us tend to leave it all to God hoping that, like a magician, he will take care of everything. But God does not work in this manner. 

The third approach is best summarised by the cliché ‘God helps those who help themselves’. This approach combines praying to God for help with taking responsibility through our own efforts. An example of this is the description of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus maximises his chances of fighting off temptation by fasting for forty days and, in doing so, turning completely towards God the Father and the influence of the Father’s guidance and power.

Jesus’ coping with temptation offers us not only hope but also a practical lesson in dealing successfully with temptation. If we are frequently in conflict with a colleague at work, it is not sufficient for us to pray that such conflict will stop. Rather, we are challenged to examine how, by modifying our behaviour, we can help to resolve the problem.

So, then, the message of the Good News is challenging and encouraging. It is challenging because resisting temptation requires effort and discipline, and sometimes pain. It is encouraging because such efforts, when combined with God’s help and grace, which derive from prayer, bring about positive outcomes for us. Indeed, the Church recommends regular confession of our sins because celebrating the sacrament of reconciliation helps us to defeat temptation.

There are no shortcuts, no easy options, when dealing with temptation. God expects us to work with him instead of simply relying completely on him.

Scripture reflection 

 ”What use are victories on the battlefields if we are defeated in our innermost personal selves?”  Maximillian Kolbe
Lord, we like to remain on the banks of the river Jordan
where we busy ourselves with external activities,
organizing communities, entering into relationships, academic discussions.
We pray that during these forty days of Lent
we may allow ourselves to be led by the Holy Spirit into the depths of ourselves,
into the wilderness, away from the world of achievements,
where we can face up to the evil tendencies that are active within us:
- our feeling that as children of God we have the right to dominate the world as we will;
- our yearning for the power and the glory of earthly kingdoms;
- the subtle ways in which we try to manipulate you.
We need not be afraid of this wilderness experience, Lord,
because even if we have to face evil in ourselves,
we will also discover, like Jesus,
that trust in your love is a law written deep within us,
and when the devil has exhausted all these ways of tempting us he will leave.
But, Lord, do not let us become complacent,
because he will return at some time you have appointed,
and we must be ready to start the struggle all over again.

 Lord, as a Church, we are inclined to remain on the banks of the Jordan,
content to baptise and preach and look after our Church affairs.
But if, like Jesus, we are filled with your Holy Spirit,
we too will leave the Jordan and let the Spirit lead us through the wilderness,
through the worlds of politics, business, industrial relations and international trade,
being tempted there by the devil as all our contemporaries are,
so that we can find even within those wildernesses
that the words of scripture are still true.

Lord, we remember today a difficult period in our lives:
• our financial situation was very precarious;
• we had a succession of failures in our work;
• our children were causing us problems.
You led us through the wilderness for those forty days;
we felt as if we had nothing to nourish ourselves and we were hungry.
We were resentful too: were we not the children of God?
Why could we not take up a stone and tell it to turn into a loaf of bread?
Then one day it suddenly came home to us
that there is much more to life than having our needs satisfied.
We had discovered that we had loyal friends, good health,
and most of all trust in you.
Jesus had reminded us how scripture says that man does not live on bread alone.

“The hope that rests on calculation has lost its innocence.”     Thomas Merton
Lord, in the world today, people like to plan things rationally
and we would like to plan our lives that way too.
We would like to go up on a height
and see in a moment of time all the kingdoms of this world,
and then find out to whom the power and the glory of these kingdoms have been   committed
so that they can be given to us.
But that, Lord, is the way of calculation,
whereas to become whole persons we must take the way of Jesus,
which is to have as our only security that we worship you,
our Lord and God, and that we serve you alone.

Lord, we thank you for great people who have touched our lives,
not world figures or those who make the headlines,
but ordinary people who have done their duty without fuss:
• parents who brought up handicapped children;
• dedicated teachers;
• business people who remained honest.
We thank you that they knew how to remain in the wilderness,
not threatening to throw themselves from the parapet of the temple
and calling on you to send angels who would guard them and hold them on their hands
so that they would not hurt their feet against a stone.
Like Jesus, they knew that you were their Lord and God,
and they did not have to put your love to the test.

Lord, Lent is a time when we have deep prayer experiences,
and we might think that in those experiences we are free from the evil one.
Remind us, Lord, that there is a temptation
special to those who stand at the parapet of your temple,
and that is to become arrogant towards you,
to insist that your angels must hold us up in case we hurt our feet against a stone.
Help us, Lord, in our prayers, to remain perfectly still and trusting,
remembering, like Jesus, how it is said
that we must not put you, our Lord and God, to the test.


1: The Exorcist:

Because of the book and movie, The Exorcist, there is probably more talk about the Devil than ever. The movie earned even more than The Godfather - $180 million. For blocks, people lined up waiting to enter the theaters. One theater operator reported that, at each showing, there were four blackouts, six vomiting spells, and many spontaneous departures during the show. Today, we are pre-occupied with the Devil. In New Jersey, a twenty-year old lad persuaded his two best friends to drown him because he believed that upon death he would be reborn as a leader of forty legions of devils. In San Francisco, there are 10,000 dues-paying members of a church of Satan. In The Exorcist, we see how terrible it is to be possessed by the Devil and how hard it is to get the Devil out of a person. The film tells the story of how a twelve-year old girl was possessed by the Devil, how unsuccessful every attempt was to cure her, and how two priests were brought in to perform an exorcism in the Name of Jesus and with His power. So horrible is it to be possessed by the Devil that the movie was considered a horror movie, leaving viewers with psychological trauma. Our real concern today should not be how to get the Devil out of us, but how to keep the Devil out. Even if we get the Devil out of us, we may not be permanently free of the Devil. Recently, someone asked me what would happen if one did not pay one's Exorcist. I did not know. He told me, "You will be repossessed!" In today's Gospel, Jesus' challenge was to keep Satan from entering Him. We see Jesus confronted by the Devil and watch Jesus refuse to allow the Devil to come into his life and thinking. Today, we need to study the methods of Jesus that we, too, may keep the Devil out!
2: The Satan Seller:  

Mike Warnke, known as "America’s Number One Christian Comedian," has sold three million copies of the story of his life, The Satan Seller, where he explains how he escaped from Satan's trap. He has appeared on The 700 Club, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Larry King Live, Focus on the Family, and ABC’s 20/20. Warnke’s gospel ministry is based on the story he tells of his involvement with Satanism. The Satan Seller narrates the story of a young orphan boy raised in foster homes, who joined a secret, satanic cult with fifteen hundred followers in three major cities. First, he descended into the hell of drug addiction, and then he ascended in the satanic ranks to the position of the high priest. He had unlimited wealth and power at his disposal, provided by members of Satanism’s highest echelon, the Illuminati. Then, after his conversion to Christ, he described the basic concepts of Satanism, warning readers about the real danger of satanic temptations. Mike's story is a good commentary on today’s gospel, which describes Jesus' confrontation with Satan.
3: From Eve to Buddha & Dr. Faustus: 

In the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to eat the fruit of the forbidden tree to become like God. The devil (Mara) came to the Buddha as he sat in contemplation under the Boddhi tree, tempting him to renounce the spiritual enrichment he sought by bombarding his mind with sensual pleasures of this world. Literature and films abound with stories of people who have sold their souls to Satan for temporary earthly pleasures. The classical example is Faustus, treated by Christopher Marlowe in The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (1588) and Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe in Faust. Today’s gospel passage describes Jesus’ temptations. 
4. Satan or God?   

A priest was ministering to a man on his deathbed. "Renounce Satan!" said the priest.” No," said the dying man.  "I say, renounce the devil and his works!" "No," the man repeats.  “And why not, I ask you in the name of all that is holy?"  "Because," said the dying man, "I want to wait until I see where I'm heading, before I start annoying anybody."
5. "Get behind me, Satan!": 

I saw a cartoon on this notion recently. "A woman had bought a new dress which was very expensive. Her husband asked why she had been so extravagant. She replied, "The Devil made me do it." "Well," the husband asked, "Why didn't you say 'Get thee behind me Satan!'" "I did," explained the wife, "But he said it looked as good in back as it did in front.”  So I bought it."
6. I'm already working on a murder case:  

The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants - who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. "Okay," began the sheriff, "What is 1 and 1?" "Eleven," came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's right."

Then the sheriff asked, "What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?" "Today & tomorrow." Replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself.

"Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?", asked the sheriff. The job seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?" The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, "The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I'm already working on a murder case!"
In our Gospel reading this morning in Luke 4 it is Jesus' first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross?

These are the most basic temptations in life and they form the foundation for all other temptations...

7. Two Types of Movies:

Sometimes it seems like there are only two types of films being made today in Hollywood. There are "chick flicks" and there are "man movies." Coming off Valentine's date weekend, the cinema hormone level is heavy with estrogen. But don't worry, gentlemen. With the approach of "March Madness" and the full court press of basketball, the testosterone level will climb steadily over the next month.  

These movie "types" are actually less about male vs. female, Mars vs. Venus than they are about the different ways human beings act and react to the world. We think about things. We feel things. We take action on things. Our interior convictions and emotions inform our exterior actions. Our mind, marrow and muscles, our heart, head and hands, can never be disconnected. We are bodies. We are spirits. We are souls.

Did everyone have pancakes on Tuesday? "Shrove Tuesday" traditionally is the day all the grease and fat in the home is used up (frying pancakes) so that there will be no more rich, greasy, goodness consumed during the forty days of Lent. Reflecting the forty days of temptation that Jesus spent in the wilderness, the forty days of Lent are supposed to be marked by some sort of personal sacrifice. Giving up great, greasy fried foods. Giving up meat. Giving up carbs. Giving up sweets. Giving up drinking, smoking, swearing, or some other "vice." Lent is about giving up things.  

"Giving up" something for Lent may strike us as a rather old-fashioned notion. But it is exactly half of what Paul was preaching about in today's epistle text...

8. The Power of Temptation 

We laugh when Professor Harold Hill in the musical Music Man warns that the boy who buckles his knickers below the knees is "on the road to degradation," but despite the laughter there is a truth here. There's no harm, directly, in most of life's little misdemeanors, but they grow. An ancient rabbi said, "Sin begins as a spider's web and becomes a ship's rope." You and I add those strands that change the spider's web into a rope; but because we add just one strand at a time, and because each one is usually so small, we don't realize what we're constructing. Sometimes, on the other hand, the growth seems to happen almost of its own accord. It is as if we planted a seed in the soil of the soul by some small act of sin and, without our seeming to attend it or care for it, it develops into a full-grown tree. Sometimes, verily, a forest! 

J. Ellesworth Kalas, If Experience Is Such A Good Teacher Why Do I Keep Repeating The Course?, p. 80.
9. A Collapse of Concentration 

We have all gone through times of testing - times which tried our patience and tested our faith. Christians are not immune from troubles. I played in nationally-rated chess tournaments for years. The one thing all tournament chess players had to guard against was making a mistake when your position was under attack. The pressure of defending a difficult position would often cause careless errors. I'll never forget a game I was playing against a much-higher ranked player than myself who was from Fresno. Even though the position was relatively even, I was applying a lot of pressure. Every time he parried one threat I seemed to find another way to continue the attack. Finally, he made a blunder and lost a knight and the game. Afterwards I was analyzing the game with some other Fresno chess players. Their attitude was: you only won because our player made a mistake. They didn't realize that fatal mistake was preceded by a series of pressure-creating moves that finally resulted in a collapse of concentration. All tournament chess players face that - they have to try to not emotionally respond to a tense situation on the chessboard and allow their game to fall apart. 

This is why God allows testing to come our way. He wants us to learn how to not respond to the pressure, and learn how to go through the difficulty without being crushed emotionally. 

David Humpal, Overcoming Times of Testing

10. Raised In The 16th and Kicked Out In The 21st

The complaint is sometimes made about clergy or parochial school children that they don't live in the "real" world. Often there is the attempt to protect people from the "real" world -- the world of evil and temptation, gangs and death, alcoholics and addicts. I had a 20-something lady tell me, "My mother raised me in the sixteenth century and then kicked me out in the 20th -- and I wasn't ready for it." Jesus knows this "real" world of temptations, and undeserved suffering and death.

Brian Stoffregen
11. Knowing Temptation 

"A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is . . . A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means - the only complete realist."

C.S. Lewis

12. We Haven't Been Up To Bat Yet

Temptation tries to blind us to other possibilities. A business man driving home from work one day, saw a little league baseball game in progress. He decided to stop and watch. He sat down in the bleachers and asked a kid what the score was. "We're behind 14 to nothing," he answered with a smile. 

"Really," he responded. "I have to say you don't look very discouraged."

"Discouraged?" the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. "Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet."

Brett Blair
13. Humor - Too Tempting

The story is told of four high school boys who couldn't resist the temptation to skip morning classes. Each had been smitten with a bad case of spring fever. After lunch they showed up at school and reported to the teacher that their car had a flat tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, "Well, you missed a quiz this morning, so take your seats and get out a pencil and paper." Still smiling, she waited as they settled down and got ready for her questions. Then she said, "First question--which tire was flat?"

14. Lent: Spring Training For Christians

When I was a boy, I was told, "Baptists don't do Lent." No one knew why. I suspect that it was an anti-Catholic thing which I pray we are over. It was the old argument, "whatever they do, we don't!" - a curiously convoluted, twisted and unhealthy way to decide on religious practices.

Whatever the reason for "not doing Lent," I think it is a great loss for any Christian not to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Every spring the baseball players prepare for the season with spring training; every spring ordinary people prepare for summer by doing "spring cleaning." So why shouldn't Christians prepare for the most important events in Jesus' ministry - what he did for us on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what he did for us on Golgotha's cross and at the empty tomb? 

If it helps you, think of Lent as a kind of Christian spring training and spring cleaning.

John Ewing Roberts, Remembering and Forgetting
15. Who Is the King? 

Have you heard the story about the lion who was stalking through the jungle? He thought he was really something. The king of the jungle. The greatest beast of the wild. And he wanted to make sure everyone else thought that as well.

He grabbed a tiger who was passing by. The lion put a strangle-hold on the tiger. The lion growled ferociously and said, "Who's the king of the jungle?" And the tiger, trembling and shaking, said, "You are, o lion. You are the king of the jungle!" Then there was a bear that passed by. And again the lion grabbed him, and put a strangle hold on him and growled ferociously, and said, "Who's the king of the jungle?" And the bear too, trembling like the tiger, said, "You are, o lion. No question about it. You are the king of the jungle!"  

And then the lion came upon a mighty elephant, huge, massive, towering many feet above the lion! And once more he asked with a ferocious growl, "Who's the king of the jungle? Who's the greatest beast of the wild?...
The lion repeated this to each animal in the jungle and got the same response until he came across a herd of elephants. The little lion roared and asked, "WHO IS THE KING OF THE JUNGLE?" The big bull elephant walked closer to the lion, swooped him up in his trunk, swung him around and around and threw him in the river. Battered and wet, the little lion replied, "Just because you didn't know the answer to the question didn't mean you had to get nasty about it!"
Most of us roar through life without God in the same way - as if we are kings of the jungle - until life throws us in a tail spin and shows us that we are not.