The First and Last Temptations of Christ Homily for 1 Lent A

Thursday, I was in the Back Bay area of Boston and passed the Colonnade Hotel. It reminded me of an event in my history. This was back when I was a college student and was doing some early radio journalism in the late 1970’s. When one is in the early stages of journalism, one often gets the stories off the beaten track and I was no exception. Among the stories I covered was Betty Hill speaking to UMass Boston. Betty Hill you may remember is the woman, who with her husband, Barney claimed to have been abducted by a UFO in New Hampshire and had no recollection of the event until many years later when she and her husband told the story under hypnosis.

Yet, another story I covered took place at the presidential suite of the Colonade Hotel. I interviewed an x- rated movie director. Just so you know that I never saw the movie and I never had any intention to do so. I remember sitting next to another reporter for one of, what was then called underground newspapers, and of course the director. One thing that really struck me about that meeting was and I would like the mothers in the audience to think of your reaction to this. He called home to his mother boasting that he was in this VIP room at the Colonade indicating that indeed he had made it. I’m looking at his boasting at this thinking, but you are an X rated movie director. I find it interesting that as I said, I never saw the movie, but I am was more conservative then in my agnostic ex-catholic way than I am now, and if I would not watch the movie now, which I would not, I would clearly not watch the movie then. Yet, I was struck by his calling this moment a sign that he had made it. I think the same way with man who interviewed him along with me. He was enamored to be in the presence of this director and I am sitting there, kind of feeling like I am the only one who notices that this scene is at best surrealistic. It was a twisting of the terms success in light of what I considered success.

devil.jpgI bring that up in light of today’s gospel, because that story highlights a key element of who we are as Catholics. When we think of the Devil, we often think of things like the Exorcist and other Horror movies. Maybe we remember Rosemary’s Baby or even the Omen series, all of which talk about the birth of the anti-Christ. Yet, in today’s gospel we see the most prevalent tactic of the Devil: The skewed argument. This is where the Devil makes most of his successes in giving good reasons for certain actions. The problem is that the reasons are good in the short run and they are bad in the long run. Further, they are not the best reasons to do something and there are better reasons than the Devil gives for not doing something. Our role is to use the wisdom found in our relationship with Christ to discern the proper plan of action, even if a proposed idea sounds good at first. God’s wisdom says that making it on the backs of the porn industry is not making it at all. It is the devil who says making it no matter how you do it is still making it.

Let’s look at these three arguments. First, notice the first two temptations are for Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God. We see this same temptation when he hangs on the cross.

“If you are the Son of God take yourself off that cross.”

It is that whole message of I will believe in you when I see some tangible proof. Prove to me you are the Son of God, do what I say. This essentially turns Jesus into a puppet of our own making. Jesus is much smarter than this. Yet, we have to be aware of these arguments when people confront us on our faith. ”

I will not believe in the Catholic Church, until the Catholic Church is perfect.” ”

I will not believe in the Catholic Church until they ordain women.”

“Prove to me you are who you say you are. Do what I tell you to do.”

Yet, if God is God and the Devil is the Devil, wouldn’t it make more sense that we say I believe therefore I will act on my belief. In other words, the burden of action lies not in Jesus acting on what I do, it is in my acting on his words. Indeed, does not Jesus say that the proof that we are his disciples is that we do the will of the Father, not that the Father does our will? Therefore always be aware of those who put conditions on their discipleship. Indeed, if we recognize that God is God and we are not, then we have to understand that not being God we will make errors and even at times commit grave evils. Therefore, we do not have the ability to tell God what to do, we instead must listen to what he tells us what to do. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds of this and talks about the serious consequences of not doing this. “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social and morals.”

We, therefore, do not conform God’s will to ours, but our will to God’s. When we tell Godexaltsun.jpg that we will believe in him, when he acts as we command, we can expect that he will do nothing. We do what he says, he does not do what we say, because we do not have the mind of God. He responds to our requests, but remains silent in the face of our demands. As he does to those who make similar demands while he is on the cross.

Today’s gospel reminds us to be in touch with whom we are and in touch with Jesus that we may discern the real tool of the Devil, false and skewed wisdom that sounds good in the short run, but is totally destructive in the long run.


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