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.
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 sinJanet 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'
Temptations 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'
From Father Tony Kadavil:
1: From Eve to Buddha. Muhammad & 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. The founder of Islam, prophet Muhammad says in the Quran that he takes refuge in Allah from evil witches who may cast spells on him (Sura 113:4). 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 (Published: Part One, 1808, Part 2, 1833). In the early version of the legend, Faust had turned his back on God, and decided not to be called a Doctor of Theology, but rather a Doctor of Medicine. He turns to black magic to call the Devil, and the demon Mephistopheles answers his call. Using Mephistopheles as a messenger, Faustus strikes a with Lucifer: he is to be allotted 24 years of life on Earth, during which time he will have Mephistopheles as his personal servant and the ability to use magic; however, at the end he will give his body and soul over to Lucifer as payment and spend the rest of time as one damned to Hell. This deal is to be sealed in the form of a contract written in Faustus’ own blood. Mephistopheles, of course, uses his tricks and lies to keep Faust from accomplishing much of anything during this time, and Faust tries to revoke his pact, which Satan of course refuses. Eventually, Faust loses his soul to eternal damnation. Today’s Gospel passage describes Jesus’ temptations. C. S. Lewis says in the preface of his book Screwtape Letters that readers should avoid two extremes in the matter of dark powers. On the one hand, skeptics may believe that all of this talk about the devil is myth or rubbish. They have succumbed to modern rationalistic philosophy or scientific materialism. Satan is delighted that these skeptics no longer believe in him. Now he can ruin their lives without their knowing it. But on the other hand, the religiously inclined may let their curiosity about the dark world run away with them, dabbling in things that are dangerous and forbidden. These extremists have given up too much of their reason. Both positions are wrong.
2: The Exorcist: Because of the book and movie, The Exorcist (1973), there was probably more talk about the Devil than ever. The movie earned even more than The Godfather – $180 million in the 1970s. For blocks, people lined up, waiting to enter the theaters. The movie was so frightening that 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 tithe-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! ()
3. 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.”
4. “Get behind me, Satan!” (A) little boy always went next door to play even though his mom had warned him against doing so. This worried his mom so badly that she asked him why he was so disobedient. He replied that Satan tempted him so bad and he did not know what to do. His mom then advised him to say ‘Get behind me Satan’ whenever he was tempted. She then built a fence around the house. This worked for a week, then one sunny afternoon his mom looked out the window and there was her son playing on the neighbor’s lawn having cut a hole in the fence. “Jeremy”, she yelled, “come here!” She then said, “Did I not tell you to say ‘Get behind me Satan’ whenever he tempted you?” “Yes”, the boy replied, “I said, ‘Get behind me Satan’, then he went behind me and pushed me through the hole in the fence.”
5. “Get behind me, Satan!”: (B) 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. Smarter than Einstein: At the conclusion of the Church service, the worshipers filed out of the sanctuary to greet the minister. As one of them left, he shook the minister’s hand, thanked him for the sermon and said, “Thanks for the message, Reverend. You know, you must be smarter than Einstein.” Beaming with pride, the minister said, “Thank you, brother, but why do you think so? The man replied, “Well, Reverend, they say that Einstein was so smart that only ten people in the entire world could understand him. But Reverend, no one can understand you!”
7. Priestly temptations: Once four priests were spending a couple of days at a cabin. In the evening they decided to tell each other their biggest temptation. The first priest said, “Well, it’s kind of embarrassing, but my big temptation is gluttony.” “My temptation is worse,” said the second priest. “It’s gambling. “Mine is worse still,” said the third priest. “I sometimes can’t control the urge to drink. The fourth priest was quiet. “Brothers, I hate to say this,” he said, “but my temptation is worst of all. I love to gossip – and if you guys will excuse me, I’d like to make a few phone calls!”
8. Picking Forbidden Fruit: It is hard to pick forbidden fruit if you are a hundred yards away, but it is easy if you are at an arm’s length. When you flee temptation, be sure you don’t leave a forwarding address. (Rev. Kent Crockett)
22 Additional anecdotes: (“Stories have power. They delight, enchant, touch, teach, recall, inspire, motivate, challenge. They help us understand. They imprint a picture on our minds. Consequently, stories often pack more punch than sermons. Want to make a point or raise an issue? Tell a story. Jesus did it. He called his stories ‘parables.'”(Janet Litherland, Storytelling from the Bible). In fact Mark 4:34 says, “he [Jesus] did not speak to them without a parable…”Visit the article: Picturing the Kingdom of God by Fr. Brian Cavanaugh, TOR: ).
1) The blow you never see coming is the one that can be the most dangerous: Harry Houdini (1874-1926) was an expert at sleight of hand and a skeptic when it came to the spiritualists and other psychic phonies of his day, but he was best known for his ability to escape from what seemed to be impossible situations. Straitjackets, chains, ropes, jail cells, strange devices such as a milk pail filled with water — he managed to escape from one situation after another in full view of his audience. What did him in, however, was the blow he never saw coming. While reclining on a couch backstage after a performance he was asked by a couple of college students if he could withstand a punch to the stomach. When he answered that he could, one of the students surprised him by actually punching him several times. These blows caught him off guard, and seem to have ruptured an already aggravated appendix. Houdini died a week later. The blow you never see coming is the one that can be the most dangerous. The temptation of Jesus might have been the blow Jesus never saw coming. Harry Houdini, after he had been hit by the college student, insisted that if he’d known the punch was coming he would have strengthened his abdominal muscles and received the blow without damage. You know a blow is coming. You know that only rarely are our temptations presented as obviously evil. More often we’re tempted to imagine we might do good if we take a moral shortcut. Don’t kid yourself. ()
2) “Always look up to the Master’s face.” Leslie Dunkin once told about a dog he had when he was a boy. This was an unusually obedient dog. Periodically his father would test the dog’s obedience. He would place a tempting piece of meat on the floor. Then he would turn toward the dog and give the command, “No!” The dog, which must have had a strong urge to go for the meat, was placed in a most difficult situation to obey or disobey his master’s command. Dunkin said, “The dog never looked at the meat. He seemed to feel that if he did, the temptation to disobey would be too great. So he looked steadily at my father’s face.” Dunkin then made this spiritual application: “There is a lesson for us all. Always look up to the Master’s face.” (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, ) As the hymn puts it, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, / look full in his wonderful face; / then the things of earth will grow / strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.” ( )
3) “Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo?” A mother camel and her baby are talking one day and the baby camel asks, “Mom, why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “To enable us trek across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the boy replies, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo in freezing Canada?” Modern life sometimes makes one feel like a camel in a zoo. And like camels in a zoo, we need sometimes to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are and how we are expected to live our lives as true followers of a crucified and Risen God. Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience of prayer and penance. ()
4) Temptations as ice cream & cake: I recently read a story about a little boy named Bobby who desperately wanted a new bicycle. His plan was to save his nickels, dimes and quarters until he finally had enough to buy a new 10-speed. Each night he asked God to help him save his money. Kneeling beside his bed, he prayed, “Dear Lord, please help me save my money for a new bike, and please, Lord, don’t let the ice cream man come down the street again tomorrow.” Jim Grant in Reader’s Digest a few months back told about an overweight businessman who decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favorite bakery. One morning, however, he showed up at work with a gigantic coffee cake. Everyone in the office scolded him, but his smile remained nonetheless. “This is a special coffee cake,” he explained. “I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning and there in the window was a host of goodies. I felt it was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let there be a parking spot open right in front.’ And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was!”(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
5) “You put on a uniform. You get yourself a rifle and you fight.” During the Revolutionary War, a young man came to George Washington and said, “General Washington, I want you to know that I believe in you and your cause. I fully support you.” General Washington graciously thanked him and asked, “What regiment are you in? Under whose command do you serve? What uniform do you wear?” “Oh,” said the young man, “I’m not in the army, I’m just a civilian.” The General replied, “Young man, if you believe in me and my cause, then you join the army. You put on a uniform. You get yourself a rifle and you fight.” Jesus issues the same challenge to us today. He’s not interested in sympathizers, but in soldiers. For this is the kind of commitment that leads to a worthwhile and satisfying life. The civilian wanted to be an admirer. The civilian wanted to join SOME DAY. George Washington said: TODAY! On this first Sunday of Lent Jesus challenges us to join his army today itself and fight the tempter and his temptations using his power and using the means he used.(http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
6) Tempter snake in The Passion of the Christ: In Mel Gibson’s controversial film, The Passion of the Christ, we see the nature of the Tempter quite vividly. This isn’t a scene from the Bible. It is a fictional account, but it is quite powerful. Jesus is shown at Gethsemane, in agony over his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. A shadowy figure appears and says to him, “No one was meant to save so many. No one can. It is too much. You cannot.” The presence whispers these words over and over, trying to split Jesus from his relationship with God. Finally, Jesus gets up, steps on the head of a snake the tempter has dropped near him, and goes off. The Tempter is unable to turn Jesus from his destiny and calling. There would be other temptations later. But for now the Tempter had been defeated. But even Jesus was tempted, tempted without sinning. (). ( )
7) “Wake up! Save yourself!” The Greek philosopher Plato once told a story of a carriage drawn by a pair of young and spirited steeds. In the vehicle, the driver held the reins and guided the horses on the straight and smooth road. One day a heavy drowsiness came upon the driver and he fell fast asleep. The horses, not feeling the restraint of the reins, went off the right path, and soon they were bouncing over bush and brush, to the edge of a deep pit, a bottomless abyss. A man standing nearby, seeing the threatened danger, called out to the driver in a loud and mighty voice: “Wake up! Save yourself!” With a start, the driver suddenly awakened. In a moment he realized his peril. Pale and trembling, he hastily grasped the reins, and, exerting almost superhuman effort, he succeeded in turning the horses to one side, thus saving his own life and those of his animals. Plato says the moral of the story is this: the fiery steeds are the appetites, desires, lusts, and passions to which the heart of the human inclines from youth. The driver is the wisdom, understanding, and intelligence with which God has endowed human beings that we might rule over our appetites and desires and have dominion over our self-destructive impulses. http://frtonyshomilies.com/)). Woe to us if we never hear the voice of conscience, the voice of God, telling us to wake up before we destroy our lives! Temptation is universal and potentially deadly.(
8) Six Swans and their determined sister: There is an Irish tale called Six Swans. In this tale, the young heroine’s six older brothers were turned into swans by their evil stepmother. The only way the spell could be broken was for the girl to make each of her brothers a sweater out of starwort, a pesky nettle that buries its spines in one’s skin. She was told that the way to redeem her brothers would be long and hard. Furthermore, she had to gather this plant herself and spin it into thread by hand. She herself was not allowed to speak out loud until she could redeem her brothers. She was abducted from her land and carried to a new place that was strange to her and where she had few friends. The girl could not speak aloud until she had finished her task. But she kept on with the task even as her hands became disfigured and gnarled. Out of this experience she became a stronger person. (http://www.wpcdurham.org/Sermons/02132005paul.htm) Jesus was driven out into the wilderness. There he was tested, as you and I are tested in our daily lives. There seems no other way to do it. No pain, no gain. ()
9) Wrong Reasons: The Becket controversy or Becket dispute was the quarrel between , the , and King , from 1163 to 1170. The controversy culminated with Becket’s murder in 1170, and was followed by Becket’s canonization in 1173 and Henry’s public penance at Canterbury in July 1174. In his play Murder in the Cathedral, playwright T.S. Eliot describes how St. Thomas Becket struggled with the threat of martyrdom. He was not afraid to die because of the sufferings of martyrdom, but because he might not be acting from the proper motives. As he defended the Church of England against King Henry II, Thomas wondered whether or not he was doing this out of pride. “Nothing would be more tragic,” He says, “than to do the right thing for the wrong reason; to do what is noble for reasons of vanity.” The temptations that faced Thomas Becket are similar to those that confronted Jesus in today’s Gospel. ( )
10) “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 and 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 from Luke 4 it is Jesus’ first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations centering on the key question: why can’t you take the crown without the cross? () ( )
11) “I had not given up my habit of eating sugar.” A woman once came to Gandhi and asked him to please tell her son to give up his addiction to sugar. Gandhi asked the woman to bring the boy back in a week. Exactly one week later the woman returned, and Gandhi said to the boy, “Please give up eating sugar.” The woman thanked the Mahatma, and, as she turned to go, asked him why he had not said those words a week ago.” Gandhi replied, “Because a week ago, I had not given up my habit of eating sugar.” ()
12) One-half of a pizza for Charles Barkley: Many of you basketball fans are familiar with former all-pro basketball player Charles Barkley. Barkley is now a popular sports commentator, but at one time he played for the Philadelphia 76ers where he was known as “The Round Mound of Rebound.” When Pat Croce became the physical therapist for the Philadelphia 76ers he instituted a new diet and exercise program for the team. At 6’ 5” and 300 pounds, Charles Barkley resisted. He had no desire to pay the price to lose weight and get in shape. After all, he was a phenomenal player, even with the extra flab. Croce is famous as a motivator; it didn’t take him too long to coax Barkley into an exercise program. But Charles’ eating habits were another story! He had been known to eat a one-pound bag of M&Ms in one sitting. He had a serious love affair with pizza. So Pat Croce decided to take some drastic steps to get Charles in shape. He waited outside Charles’ mansion one night and ambushed the pizza delivery man. The delivery man had two pizzas for Charles. Pat took one and one-half of the pizzas away. He also threatened to do serious bodily harm to the delivery man if he ever delivered more than one-half of a pizza to that address in the future. Charles got the message. That season, he lost fifty pounds. [Pat Croce, with Bill Lyon. I Feel Great, and You Will Too! (Philadelphia: Running Press, 2000), pp. 97-98.] Wouldn’t it be great if all of us had a Pat Croce in our lives, someone who would be there for us each time we are tempted? ()
13) M&M’S Chocolate Candy temptation: There was a 20/20 episode sometime back in which some children of about four years of age were forced to deal with the ancient scourge of temptation. They were left alone in a room. Sitting in front of each of them were two or three M&Ms. They were told they could have a whole package of M&Ms if they would wait five minutes for a bell to ring before devouring the two or three M&Ms in front of them. The struggle of temptation was recorded through a two-way mirror. The result was hilarious, says Jewell, as these poor kids twitched, fidgeted, wiggled and twisted their faces up in knots trying not to grab those M&Ms. About half made it, and half said in effect, “To heck with it, I want what I want when I want it!” (). ( )
14) We can begin again: It is reported that Thomas Edison’s laboratory was virtually destroyed by fire in December 1914. Although the damage exceeded $2 million, the buildings were only insured for $ 238,000 because they were made of concrete and were thought to be fireproof. Much of Edison’s work literally went up in smoke on that fateful December night. At the height of the fire, Edison’s 24year-old son, Charles frantically searched for his father among the smoke and debris. He finally found him, calmly watching the scene, his face glowing in the reflection, and his white hair blowing in the wind. Said the sympathetic son, “My heart ached for him. He was 67 –no longer a young man – and everything was going up in flames. When he saw me he shouted, “Charles, where is your mother?” When I told him I didn’t know, he said, “Find her. Bring her here. She will never see anything like this as long as she lives.” The next morning, Edison looked at the ruins and said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” Three weeks after the fire, Edison managed to deliver his first phonograph! (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life.)
15) Molting by shrimp: Shrimp wear their skeletons on the outside of their bodies, and have been known to discard their shells as many as twenty-six times during their short life span. They shed their shells to accommodate their growing bodies. It is known as molting. Perhaps, we human beings can take a lesson from the shrimp. Do we have some shells that need discarding? It may be a good idea to examine our lives and shed a few shells occasionally to grow further in the right direction. Perhaps, Lent, is a time to shed our shells of envy, pride, anger, hatred, and so on. Perhaps it’s time to shed our shells of selfishness and of narrow, confining self-interest if any. We need to refresh our Faith-living, with active prayer life, reading of the Scriptures, practicing love and charity in a more intensive way. (Fr. Joseph Chirackal C.M.I) ()
16) Leading to temptation: 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 his father asked him where he had been. The boy calmly stated that he had been swimming in the canal. The father was 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 he had disobeyed him. The boy said, “Well, Dad, I had my swimming suit with me, and I couldn’t resist the temptation.” Furious the father asked the boy why the boy 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.” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ()
17) Open for a Left Hook: On May 21, 2005, Andrew Golota fought Lamon Brewster for the WBO heavyweight boxing title. Golota, a strong fighter with a powerful punch, had 38 wins, 5 losses, and 31 knockouts. In preparation for the fight, Brewster had studied tape of Golota’s boxing, looking for an opening. He noticed that the way Golota held his hands left him open for a left hook. Within seconds after the first round began, Brewster found the opening and threw a left hook. Golota went down to the mat and got up. Brewster threw another left hook and Golota went down again. He stood up and the fight resumed. Brewster threw another left hook to the same opening, and Golota went down for the 3rd time, which counted as a knockout. Lamon Brewster won the fight in the first round because he was the smarter fighter. All he had to do pound on his opponent’s weakness. In a similar way, Satan is looking to pound on our weakest areas. When we leave an opening by yielding to temptation, he’ll take advantage and throw a left hook. But if we’ll not yield to temptation, we’ll close off the area and cut off his opportunity. The Apostle Paul said it this way: “Do not give the devil an opportunity” (Eph 4:27 NAS). –Kent Crockett (). ( )
18) The temptation of the Sundew trap: In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the “sundew” (Drosera). It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. The devil uses the same technique in tempting us. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992). ()
19) “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, “Are you trying to break this bridge?” “No,” the builder replied, “I’m trying to prove that the bridge won’t break.” In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren’t designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn’t. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991). ()
20) Catching ring-tailed monkey with a melon: Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it’s simple. They’ve been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the hard-skinned melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. Satan tempts us with similar traps. ()
21) When you flee temptations, don’t leave a forwarding address: Martin Luther King Jr. was a civil rights champion in the United States. He was a pastor who fought for the equality and freedom of the Afro-Americans in the U.S. He was shot dead on the 4th 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 anybody, I would like to live a long life… But I’m 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ()
22) Desert Experience: When winter comes to the South Pole, the so-called Polar night begins. The sun disappears below the horizon and doesn’t show its face again for four and a half months. Every day is the same: 24 hours darkness. Years ago, explorer Richard Byrd spent the winter alone at the South Pole. For four and one-half months he lived in total darkness, buried beneath the snow in a tiny room. The temperature in that room often dipped to 50 degrees below zero. Three times a day, Byrd climbed the stairs to the roof of his room, opened a trapdoor, pushed away the snow, and went out into the cold and darkness to record weather information. Why did Byrd choose to live by himself during these months of total darkness? He answers that question in his book Alone. He says he is it because he wanted to get away from everything. He wanted to do some serious thinking. He writes: “And so it occurred to me … that here was the opportunity…I should be able to live exactly as I choose, obedient to no necessities but those imposed by the wind and night and cold, and to no man’s law but my own.” After the first month of solitude, Byrd discovered something “good” happening. He discovered that you can live much more deeply and profoundly if you keep life simple and don’t clutter it with a lot of material things. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ desert experiences after his baptism. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
From The Sermons.com
1. 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...
2. 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.
3. 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
4. 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.
5. 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."
6. 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."
7. 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?"
8. 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
9. 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?...