HOMILY FOR FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT: THE ANATOMY OF TEMPTATIONS

1ST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR A

By: Rev. Fr. AMEH Sylvanus

Readings: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Psalm 51; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1:11

Theme: The Anatomy of Temptations

Our Lenten journey has begun in earnest, beginning on Ash Wednesday, and today, the 1st Sunday of the season, the Church presents to us, the reality of our Christian struggles. The gospel reading, which shall be the focus of our reflection today, recount to us, the familiar story of the temptation of Jesus. From this reading, a number of things are revealed to us about temptations, which is a reality we all have to deal with. We shall attempt therefore, an anatomical study of temptation with a view of how to deal with it on our Christian journey. Anatomy is from the Greek word “anatomē”, which means “dissection.” It is the branch of biology that deals with the study of the structure of organisms and their parts. Hence, by reflecting on “The Anatomy of Temptations”, we shall be dissecting the whole thing about temptations to understand its structure/components parts.  

1. All temptations of the devil have one or more of three elements, which I call “The devil’s 3 Ps”.

These are Pleasure, Pride and Power. All of the devil’s temptations pull us in one or more of the direction of any of these three elements. We see these present in the temptation of Jesus too. Let’s look at them closely.

Pleasure: Jesus was tempted with bread, which gives the pleasure of eating.

Pride: Jesus was told to prove that he is really God’s son by jumping off a height, in other words, to show off his ‘class’.

Power: Jesus was offered authority over the kingdoms of the world (something which is beyond the devil to give anyway).

These three elements are also present in our own temptations.

Pleasure: We are tempted with food, drink, money, sex, fashion, etc

Pride: This is often shown when we move with an air of superiority over others; when we disrespect and disregard our subordinates; when we practice caste system and racism, etc.

Power: We see this when we always want to dominate others; when we crave authority at all cost; when we think we must tell others what to do at all times.

We must therefore watch out for all of these; when we notice the presence of any of them, we should know that the devil is around the corner.

2. Temptations do not begin with hostility.

The devil’s trick is usually to come to us as a helping friend; he comes subtly as though he is proffering a solution to a problem and he presents evil as though it were good. He knew Jesus was hungry, so he suggested to Jesus a way of dealing with his hunger problem. He knows that if he comes in a hostile manner, we will become defensive, so he comes gently. It is not every voice that sounds like a friendly voice that we should listen to; it is not every suggestion of a “solution” to a problem that we should heed. We must first test every spirit (I John 4:1).

3. Our biggest temptation will come from our greatest need.

We can say that Jesus’ biggest problem after his forty days fast was hunger (Matt 4:2), and consequently, his greatest need was food. That was exactly where his temptation began. At a time when we are in great need of anything, be it physical or emotional or psychological, we must be very vigilant, because at such times, the devil is never far off.

4. We must instantly resist temptations or risk falling.

The longer we ‘romance’ a temptation, the greater foothold we give to the devil, and the more likely we are to sin. Jesus knew this and he promptly told the devil off. Scripture says “resist the devil and he will flee from you (Jam 4:7). We must reject, rebuke and banish every tempting idea from our minds the very instant they come. If we don’t, we are offering the devil a chance to convince us of the need to sin.

5. The Word of God is a powerful weapon in the fight against temptation.

Jesus refuted all of the devil’s temptations with a reference to a passage of Scripture. This mighty weapon is still available to us to wield, but sadly, many who profess Christianity have very little knowledge of the Bible. Little wonder Scripture says “My people perish for lack of knowledge” (Hos 4:6). We must do well to spend time in reading and studying the word of God. Notice from the temptation story that even Satan quoted the Bible for Jesus, hence, we must be on top of this game, if we want to triumph.

In this Lenten season and beyond, we pray that the grace of God will continually grant us victory over the devil and his many tricks. Amen.

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