Lent Sunday 1 - Temptations

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

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.  

From the

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..

It happened just a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday as I remember. But it's happened so many times, it's hard to separate one occasion from another. Kris and I were in a nice restaurant..alone, for a change. Most of the meal behind us.  Coffee and the check in front of us. When the waiter appeared before us and said: "Kindly allow me to tempt you with a little dessert." Well, the desserts weren't little. And, goodness knows, they weren't cheap. As for the waiter, he was a nice chap in a nice tux with a haircut that completely hid his horns, and no sign of a red suitor pitch fork anywhere.
As to whether he could "tempt us," I didn't know.  But after he'd been so nice to us..and worked so hard for us..not to listen seemed somehow rude. And I work very hard to avoid being rude. So even though we were as satisfied as we were satiated, we indicated a willingness to listen politely, before refusing outright.
There was, of course, the carrot cake which he described as "sinful." Next, he highlighted the crème caramel which he labeled "irresistible." Which was followed by the Bavarian torte (layered with mousse) which he offered under the heading of "obscene." And he concluded with the ever-obligatory brown thing known, in this restaurant, as "death by chocolate," which (he told us) was "surely to die for."
Uncertain as to when we had last updated our wills, we skipped the chocolate thing. But we did choose a little little something.. accompanied by two forks..with each of us convinced that we would (out of kindness, of course) take one bite and then shove the  remainder in the direction of our spouse. Seven dollars and several seconds later, the dessert was gone.. the waiter was gone..and we were gone..still wearing a silly grin, as if to say: "We didn't really need that. But it was good."
I can tell that story because, where desserts are concerned, I have a high level of resistance. That's because desserts are sweet and I am not into "sweet." My teeth are set for salt. Were that same dessert menu to include a parfait of potato chips, I'd be suckered in every time.
All of us have our weaknesses, don't we? All of us have points of vulnerability where our armor of willpower is both attackable and indefensible. So much so that we joke about tempting places like the dessert table and the shopping mall. Is that what the Bible means by temptation? Not really. Well, maybe sort of. Although one hates to belittle such a serious subject with such trivial examples.
Following a discussion of chocolate cake, if you were to say, "Is this what happened to Jesus in the wilderness?" I would want to say: "No, you've missed it. Go back to square one. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Do not expect a gold star from your Sunday school teacher. And do not tell Alex Trebek that you're ready to try 'Spiritual Categories' for a thousand."
No, this isn't what happened to Jesus in the wilderness..

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The readings of this Sunday contrast the power of good with the power of evil. God is all goodness and God's power is at work for all and in all who believe in him. The reading reminded the Israelites to rejoice and to celebrate God's blessings through the joyful participation of their rituals. The Preface of the mass during the Lenten season calls Lent the joyful season! Lent is not a time to look at ourselves and examine our weaknesses but a time when we look up to the Lord and see all that He has done for us. The turning away from our sinfulness becomes meaningful only when we have turned towards the Lord.

Turning to God
The 'Will-Power Problem' is a book by John Sherril, in which he describes his struggle against a certain temptation. He always opposed it, but always failed. He sought the help of a psychiatrist, but after a while this too proved useless. Eventually he fell on his knees and cried out to God. He acknowledged his own powerlessness, and his inability to do what he knew he should do. Immediately God came to his aid, and the temptation was removed from his life. He realized then that he should have turned to God in the first place, and not when all other means had failed.

During His desert experience Jesus fasted. Firstly, He is tempted by the devil to change stones into loaves. After all He has the power, why can he not use it for himself? The temptation for Jesus and us it to place our security in material things. To use the material possessions that we have only for satisfying our own needs, and not for sharing them with others. The temptation is to believe that "I can manage my life by myself, I don't really need God!" The temptation is also to satisfy our every human need, to pander to urges of the body. The second temptation is the promise of power, and glory of the kingdom. We experience this temptation constantly in our daily lives. We want to be in charge, we want to control, we want to have an influence on people. No matter how much power we exercise there is a desire for more and more power that cannot be satiated. Jesus reminds Satan and us that we do not worship Satan, but God alone. In fact in his life Jesus surrendered all power. The final temptation is the one for recognition and fame. This temptation rings a bell in modern times when creating an image is everything.  The buzzwords are: 'Make an impression, Attract attention, Get into the headlines, Be noticed! PR is the thing!' Jesus rejects the way of the sensational, the spectacular, and the short cut to fame and fortune. During his lifetime he was hardly known, he never sought popularity and in fact when the crowds did follow after him, He often left them for the solitude of the desert. Temptations and Satan are a reality in our lives. The scriptures give the Devil three names and functions: the one who divides and separates (dia-bolos); the one who accuses (Satan) and the one whom Jesus calls the father of lies. The devil can enter our lives in these three ways: splitting us into warring parts, filling us with negative and accusatory voices, and telling us lies about who we are and who God is. May the Spirit that led Jesus into the desert lead us in our constant battle with evil in us and around us.

Three priests were on a retreat together. They were sharing their struggles and difficulties with each other. The atmosphere seemed right, and it seemed safe to share at a depth that was much deeper than usual. One priest confessed to being a secret drinker, and he gave much detail of how he managed to conceal and cover up that fact. The second priest confessed to having a gambling addiction, even to using money from the parish account to feed his addiction. He spoke of his dread of the inevitable when he could no longer cover up, and his scam would be uncovered. The third priest was reluctant to share and it was only after persuasion that he confessed his secret weakness: he was an incurable gossip. He had never been able to keep a secret!


Reform and Believe
Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called 'the thin kid.' So he waited. After he thought 'the thin kid' was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: "I told God what was in my heart. I talked to him plain. I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments. I felt like I could even cry." After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said "Amen." It was 'the thin kid.’ The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. "Good night, Chico," he said. "I'm thinking that God is always with us -it's just that we aren't with him." -This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, "Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!"
Mark Link in 'Sunday Homilies' 

Like us in all things but sin
Janet Frame is a New Zealand novelist. During her early years she suffered from mental illness and just escaped being forced to have a lobotomy.  Eventually she went to a hospital in England for treatment. There she was fortunate to meet a very understanding doctor who helped her to recover. In what way was this doctor different from the many other doctors she had met? She says: I was grateful that my doctor was someone who was not afraid to acknowledge and voice the awful thought that he belonged, after all, to the human race, and that there was nothing he could do about it, Pretending to be a god could never change it. In that hospital the management had wisely included doctors who were themselves handicapped by disabilities. These doctors were more easily able to communicate with their patients.
Flor McCarthy in 'Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

A store keeper, seeing a boy hanging about outside where there was a tempting display of various fruits, went out to him and said, "What are you trying to do young man, steal my apples?" "No, sir," said the boy, "I am trying not to."-A young boy was forbidden by his father to swim in the canal near their home. One day the boy came home carrying a wet bathing suit and the father asked him where he had been. The boy calmly stated that he had been swimming in the canal. The father was very angry and said, "Didn't I tell you not to swim there?" The boy assured him that he had. The father wanted to know why the son had disobeyed him. The boy said, Well dad, I had my bathing suit with me, and I couldn't resist the temptation." Furious, the father asked the boy why he had his bathing suit with him. The boy answered with total honesty, "So I would be prepared to swim, just in case I was tempted."
Lead us not into temptation
Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights champion in the Unites States. He was a pastor who fought for equality and freedom of the negroes in the U.S. He was shot dead on the 4th of April 1968. The day before his death he spoke thus: "We've got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountain top. Like everybody I would like to live a long life. But I am not concerned about that now, I just want to do God's will. And, He's allowed me to go to the mountain. And I've looked over and I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we as a people will get to the Promised Land." Confronted with the prospect of his own death, he was unconcerned. All he wanted to do was-to do the will of God.
John Rose in "John's Sunday Homilies'

Letting go and letting God
Living our Christian Commitment today is indeed a complex challenge especially with the conflicting and confusing forces around us. And it demands extraordinary courage and resolute determination to cherish our Christian values and to stand up for what we believe is both true and right. The accountant of John D. Rockefeller, the wealthiest man that lived in the U.S.A was once asked how much money the world famous billionaire left behind. And without batting an eyelid, the accountant honestly answered, "Everything." Indeed, money is a good servant, but a bad master. It is for this precise reason that Jesus urges us to be thoughtful and generous in sharing God-given wealth with the needy and the deserving, for in this will lie our ultimate and eternal reward. Remember the wise words of Martin Luther, "God divided the hands into fingers, so that money could slip through."
Valladares J. in 'Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit and they are Life'