Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - Temptation
"To Try" or "to test" or "to be tried" or "to be tested", one way or the other, every man woman and child knows the experience! It is not coincidental that today's liturgy focuses our thoughts on the subject of temptation as we commence our Lenten observance.

Deuteronomy 26:4-10: ƒƒ‚ƒ‚‚‚ Following their deliverance from Egypt, the Hebrews had every reason to be grateful to God. However, the trials of life in the desert caused them to waver in their resolve to be loyal to the God who saves. On the eve of their entry to the Promised Land, Moses, who also had doubted and, in consequence, was not allowed to enter the Promised Land, gave thanks and offered sacrifice. The possession of the land was the fulfilment of the divine promise.

Romans 10:8-13: - Scripture scholars tell us that in this passage, St. Paul records a new testament of Faith made by the early Christians just before being baptised. Christ, now, is the visible presence of God amongst His people.

Luke 4: 1-13: The account of the temptations of Christ place heavy emphasis on the humanity of Christ. In dealing with these temptations, Christ drew on the Mosaic traditions of the Israelites from whom he was descended - the Exodus, the crossing of the desert, the disloyalty of the Israelites - to make the point that the ultimate motivation for living is to serve God.

Point 1: As I have grown older, the historical background to Christianity counts a great deal more than it used to. Christ did not establish a new religion; but, He did give the old religion a new profile. [Mat 5:17] "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil". I wonder - how often have you thought about those words from the Lord's Prayer that we utter so often -"Lead us not into temptation"? At first sight it appears a little contradictory, suggesting that God would lead us into temptation. But, if we read temptation as it was intended, namely, to test or to try, as is reflected in more recent translations, it fits into the historical picture of people's relationship with God.

Point 2: Throughout the history of the Old Testament, the Hebrew people were tested by God, or were testing God. "Still they put God to the test and defied Him; they refused to obey the Most High" (Psalm 77). Adam and Eve were tested; Abraham was tested; Moses was tested, David was tested; the people, collectively, were tested! The long periods of exile - the Egyptian followed later by the Babylonian Captivity - were times of immense trial. Today we focus on these trials; and the temptations of Christ encapsulate the types of trial that confronted people then, and today. In every instance, the same solution resolved the problem - discipline. The deliverance of the Israelites from their Egyptian captivity was the first stepping stone to a completely new life in the Promised Land. This goal would only be achieved after years of trial and hardship, matched by stern discipline, as they crossed the desert. A similar discipline is necessary for us as we deal with the daily temptations encountered in our pursuit of Christian living. The temptations presented to Christ recall the experiences of the Israelites - they wandered in the desert for forty years; Christ wandered for forty days! The Israelites experienced hunger and starvation as they survived on the meagre diet of manna and quail and thought longingly of the comparatively good life they had left behind in Egypt.

Conclusion: These temptations also mirror the most common temptations Christians experience today - materialism, pride, and, finally, power. The temptation to extreme materialism is a constant in every one's life; and so is Christ's warning -"man does not live on bread alone". And the second temptation to pride! - the "I will not serve" of the rebellious still merits the response given by Christ -"You must worship the Lord Your God and serve him alone". And, finally the third temptation to power, probably the most insidious temptation of all. As Lord Acton observed -"power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely". Hence Christ's advice - "Do not put the Lord your God to the test!" remains valid for those who would climb the ladder of ambition. Entering into this Lenten season, and reading the scriptures chosen for today, I have found in them a great deal of food for thought for a deeper understanding of Lent. The very name "Lent" is an old English word meaning Spring, a time of New life, a new life nurtured by prayer, fasting and discipline..

Scriptural reference: [Sira 6:18] My child, from your youth choose discipline, and when you have gray hair you will still find wisdom.