Overcoming Satan during Lent like Jesus in the desert

Homily for the First Sunday of Year C

by Fr. Tommy Lane

Once when I was on retreat in a monastery in Ireland I greeted one of the monks, “How are you, Father?” He replied, “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” It sounds funny but it expresses a truth about all of us, “there is still a bit of the devil in us” because we have not yet fully overcome sin. Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the devil, and Lent is a time for us to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us by overcoming sin in our lives.

Whenever we sin we have forgotten who we are and what God has done for us. Remembering who we are and what God has done for us helps us to keep away from sin. The first reading today contains a creed in which the Old Testament Jews remembered who they were and what God had done for them by bringing them out of Egypt to Canaan:

My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt…there he became a nation great, strong and numerous…When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, we cried to the Lord…He brought us out of Egypt…bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26:5-9)

The Israelites sinned when they forgot what God had done for them. In fact, we could say that the great sin of the Old Testament was forgetting the greatest miracle of the Old Testament - the Exodus - and as a result falling into sin. Whenever we sin we forget the central belief of our creed, that Jesus died and rose for us. Lent is a time when we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus so that by remembering we may overcome sin, and when we celebrate the central belief of our creed – the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night- we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Just as Jesus overcame Satan during the forty days in the desert we want to overcome Satan in our lives.

We overcome Satan by putting God first in our lives in every way. The three quotations from Deuteronomy cited by Jesus when talking with Satan in the Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) remind us of putting God first in everything.

“Man does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”)

“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

When we put God first in everything and live by the word of the Lord instead of living from the bread of the world then we

Fast from fear; Feast on Faith
Fast from despair; Feed on hope.
Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience.
Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking.
Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness.
Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal.
Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.
(adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward)

When we live on the bread of the world by not putting God first we sin and can never hope to be happy because sin always leaves us guilty. In the words of the poem just quoted, sin brings us fear, despair, depressing news, discontent, anger and worry, negative thinking, bitterness, words that wound. But when we overcome sin, then in the words of the poem we live on faith, hope, prayer, gratitude, patience, positive thinking, love and forgiveness, words that heal, joy and humor.

The words of the monk to me when I was on retreat are true of all of us, there is still a bit of the devil in us. During Lent we remember Jesus in the desert overcoming Satan and we too want to overcome Satan in our lives so that when we celebrate the central belief of our creed - the resurrection of Jesus – during the Easter Vigil, we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Therefore during Lent we

Fast from fear; Feast on Faith
Fast from despair; Feed on hope.
Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer.
Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience.
Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking.
Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness.
Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal.
Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.
(adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward)

“Man does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”)

“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.”

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered in a parish in Maryland near where I have joined the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the First Sunday of Lent Year C

Jesus our Model for Lent - Prayer, Fasting, Almsgiving 2013

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Dying and Rising with Jesus during Lent

Decide to Overcome Sin

Reliving the temptations of Jesus

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