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Sunday Homily, 18 February 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Much rides on whether Christ withstands his temptations.  Indeed, everything for us – our contentment in this life and our happiness in the next – depends on whether Christ emerges victorious from his temptation by Satan.  This is because of what we are and what he is.  Together with him, we are human beings who experience temptation to wrongdoing.  Hardly a day passes without some idea coming into our minds about a possible bad action.  That is not the way we were created, but it is the way we are now.  So, temptations are things we contend with.  And so too Christ: he, man like us, contends with temptation – only, he is without sin.  If there is one who can withstand the temptations we face and not sin, if there is one of us who has remained free from guilt and ever does what is right, he is the Saviour of all.

In Christ, we have man who is God successfully resisting temptation, to show us that all-goodness is possible, and so have hope.  Our hope is not in ourselves, but in him.  Christ has founded a way for us to live again as God’s perfect human creation. He is using his divine power to help us live without sin: he helps us by the forgiveness of sins in baptism and afterwards in confession, and by other graces at various moments to strengthen, console, and inspire us.

And so, in the wilderness, tempted by Satan, the Lord enters the fray.  There, without help from any human being but just the holy angels, Christ resists the ideas of wrongdoing which are presented to him.  We can under-estimate ourselves, and over-estimate too.  We can think ourselves to be the plaything of the devil or quite estranged from him: the truth is somewhere in the middle.  But we are not alone; we have Christ; we call on him for help. We have in him the champion for our fight: our God has true grit.  He is credible, reliable, trustworthy; we ask his help.

We should let that enter into our devotion to Christ: the Son of God allowed ideas about how to commit wrongdoing to enter his human mind.  This is the good news for us: if the Son of God was tempted, then those ideas about possible wrongdoing such as we face are not all bad.  Temptations are just ideas; there is no sin in them.  But when we are tempted to sin, we know it now serves a purpose: God allows us to experience temptation not to make us weak, but to show us what we are capable of, and so to strive hard ourselves and then to rely on him when we can no longer only strive.  Simple, heartfelt prayer works when we are tempted: “Lord Jesus, this bad thought is really haunting me and I cannot deal with it alone; please get rid of it for me.  Thank you.  Amen.”

For the Lord is not just one of us; he is the best of us.  He was tempted in every way that we are, Scripture says, but he did not sin.  So, this Lent we allow him to make more of us.  We give him the chance to forgive our sins in confession, to build up our resistance to wrongdoing by self-denial and service, and hope for and even expect his help when we ask for it in prayer.

You’re going to be alright.  Nothing has been ruined forever.  You can do what’s right.  The Lord knows all about it.  We entrust ourselves to him who in the wilderness showed us he is trustworthy.

Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Parish Priest

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