The Temptations of Jesus

5 March 2006: First Sunday of Lent
Mark 1, 12-15: The Temptations of Jesus

Note: I made this homily years ago.

The Gospel about the temptations of Christ marks the greatest milestones in the life of Jesus. Let us first look at each of the temptations.

First, the lure of riches. The scene of the temptation is what is called Jeshimmon, which means “the Devastation”. The hills were like barren rocks, bare and jagged, and heat was like a vast furnaces. The Devastation was filled with limestone rocks that look like bread loaves. Give them material things and they will follow you!

Second, is the lure of power. In one instant, the devil should to him all the kingdoms of the world and promised that these kingdoms will be Jesus if he worships him.

Third, is the lure of popularity. The scene is the pinnacle of the Temple where Solomon’s Porch and the Royal Porch met. There was a sheer drop of 450 feet down the Kedron Valley below. If Jesus would jump off the cliff and would be rescued by God’s angels, he would be an instant popular star!

The importance then is that Jesus was choosing his method of teaching: the values that he is going to promote, the characteristics that distinguishes a follower from those who are not, and the way that leads to God. Here we see the background of his teaching: an emphasis on being poor in spirit, of servant leadership, and of authentic sincere prayer.

The temptations of Jesus are still the most seductive temptation we have until today. Who among us do not want to be rich? You see thousands of people for Game ka na ba? The One Million Challenge, Laban o Bawi, and Spin a Million. Who among us do not want to be powerful? Many a not-so-worthy or a not-so-qualified or a not-so-credible joined the electoral race. Who among us do not want to be popular? Many have dreamed of becoming actors.

But the point today is this: that we should not look at the temptation of Jesus as if it happened only once in his life, and everything that followed was easy. I believe the temptations of Jesus happened to him every day. And in his daily struggle against becoming rich (he could have asked payment for all those who were healed), in his daily struggle against becoming powerful (he could have asked all his thousands of powerful to make him king), and in his daily struggle against being obsessed with his popularity (because he was popular), Jesus chooses to rely on God’s word alone, to serve people than let them serve him, and to remain humble of heart.

For us, the struggle with these temptations is daily, every minute of our lives, requiring the whole of our hearts and the whole of our souls. And we should not be discouraged.

In this season of Lent, let us first ask ourselves what is our greatest temptation? It differs from one individual to another: some are obsessed with becoming rich, others with becoming powerful, others with becoming popular. There are other temptations. Some are obsessed and dependent on relationships, some are obsessed with alcohol, sex and drugs, some are obsessed with their work, some are obsessed with their clothes and some are obsessed with food. Some are simply obsessed with themselves, some are obsessed with their past. All of these things suggest that we are not yet free from what imprisons us. So, what seduces you? What is difficult for you to resist? What obsesses you. Perhaps, when we pray we bring to the Lord our inordinate attachments and obsessions and ask the Lord to free us from them.

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