1st Sunday of Lent (C)

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VIRAL SNIPPETS (3:24) Thomas Edison, world’s renowned inventor lost his factory in fire incident. Talk by Gaur Gopal Das

We Can Begin Again

The conventional wisdom is that every homily should begin with a story to capture the congregation’s attention and to introduce the theme. Here is one example. Visit Fr. Tony’s website for a whole lot more. 

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!

SOURCE: James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit and They Are Life



Readings Summarized

Lent begins with a reflection on the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. The Church assigns temptation stories to the beginning of Lent because temptations come to everybody, not only to Jesus, and we seem almost genetically programmed to yield to them.

First Reading

The first reading describes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits and gifts to God during the harvest festival in order to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert.


Additional insights on the First Reading from Fr. Tony

The passage from Deuteronomydescribes the ancient Jewish ritual of presenting the first fruits to God during the harvest festival to thank Him for liberating His people from Egypt and for strengthening them during the years of their trials and temptations in the desert. After setting forth the first fruits in front of the altar of the Lord, the people were to bow down in God’s presence and hear the recital of the mighty acts of Yahweh in Jewish history which centered around three decisive events that shaped Israel’s evolution as a people: (1) the demographic shift from Mesopotamia to Canaan to Egypt motivated by God’s call of Abraham (Genesis); (2) the deliverance from Egypt of the enslaved Israelites, their passage to freedom, and their formation as a people covenanted to God (Exodus); (3) the promise of Canaan and Israel’s eventual possession of it. This ritual was performed annually as part of the Covenant renewal ceremony known as the Feast of Weeks [Pentecost, the fiftieth day after the Passover and the day after the Seventh Sabbath which ended the seventh week after Passover, thus giving it the name Feast of Weeks]. The people formally declared their loyalty to the Covenant with Yahweh. By this ritual of thanksgiving, they thanked God for the gift of the land, for the abundance they enjoyed due to God’s provident care, and for the gift of freedom. As Christians entering the Lenten season we thank God for (a) a new exodus, i.e., a new passage from slavery to freedom, from death to life; (b) a new and eternal Covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus on the cross; (c) a new manna in the gift of the Eucharist; (d) a new promised land over which God will reign: and (e) a new people of God, including o all the peoples of the earth.

Responsorial Psalm

The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 91), points to Satan’s third temptation of Jesus in the desert as recorded in Luke’s Gospel.

Second Reading

In the second reading, St. Paul warns the early Christians converted from Judaism not to yield to their constant temptation to return to the observances of the Mosaic Laws. He reminds them that they will be saved only by acknowledging the risen Jesus as Lord and Savior.


Additional insights on the Second Reading from Fr. Tony

Paul counsels the early Christian converts from Judaism not to yield to their temptation to go back to the practices of the Mosaic Law. Many of these early Jewish Christians insisted that the Gentile converts to Christ needed to become Jews first and to keep the whole Jewish law for their “justification.” But in today’s second reading, Paul teaches that one cannot achieve righteousness on one’s own. Hence, Paul argues, God offers us a share in Divine righteousness as grace — a free gift to which we contribute nothing except our co-operation with God’s grace, our Faith (also His gift) in Christ’s Resurrection, and our public acceptance of Jesus (also His Gift), as our Lord and Savior. Our Faith in Jesus Christ must be expressed fully in our words and actions, indeed, by our very lives. We live out that acceptance through our Baptism and by using His ongoing gifts of grace in our later virtuous words and deeds. Salvation, in the final analysis, is God’s gracious gift to undeserving sinners whose sole responsibility it is to call upon God for mercy and by Faith to appropriate that saving mercy as it is extended to us in Jesus. Thus, Paul answers those who are tempted to dismiss the Resurrection and take from the Gospels only what seems most reasonable. “Christianity is belief plus confession; it involves witness before men. Not only God, but also our fellow men, must know what side we are on.” (William Barclay).


Bible scholars think that the graphic temptations of Jesus described by Matthew and Luke in their Gospels are the pictorial and dramatic representations of the inner struggle against a temptation that Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was trying to prevent Jesus from accomplishing his mission of saving mankind from the bondage of sin, mainly through a temptation to become the political Messiah of Jewish expectations, and to use his Divine power first for his own convenience and then to avoid suffering and death.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

Forty days of fasting and prayer. The phrase “forty days” was the Hebrew way of expressing a long period of time. We find it used in the recounting of various incidents in Jewish history: a) forty days of rain in Noah’s time (Gn 7:1-23); b) forty days which Moses spent on the mountain with God (Ex 34:28); c) forty days during which the prophet Elijah traveled in the wilderness (II Kgs 19:8). The wilderness was probably a desert in Judea, perhaps the great deserts of Horeb or Sinai, where the children of Israel were tried for forty years, and where Moses, and later Elijah fasted forty days.

The temptations. The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the huge fifteen-by-thirty-five-mile desert between the mountain of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea so that Jesus could prepare by prayer, fasting and penance for the public ministry which he was about to commence. Bible scholars interpret the graphic temptations of Jesus described by Matthew and Luke as a pictorial and dramatic representation of the inner struggle against a temptation that Jesus experienced throughout his public life. The devil was not trying to lure Jesus into some particular sin — rather, he was trying to entice Jesus away from the accomplishment of his Messianic mission, mainly through a temptation to become the political Messiah of Jewish expectations, to use his Divine power first for his own convenience, and then to avoid suffering and death. The opposition, hostility, and rejection which Jesus experienced were constant temptations for him to use His power as God’s Son to overcome evil. The temptation story depicts Jesus as obedient to his Father’s will, refusing to be seduced into using his Divine power or authority wrongly. Each of the three temptations, according to the Fathers of the Church, represents an area in which humans regularly fail: the lust of the flesh (stones to bread), the lust of the eye and the heart (ruling over all kingdoms), and the pride of life (a spectacular leap from the Temple, testing the power of God and His promise to save Him). (In other words, the three temptations of Jesus are the three essential weapons that the devil has in his arsenal to destroy humanity: The first is of appetite (pleasure/materialism) – to change stones into bread; the second is of arrogance (pride/boasting) – to worship the devil who can give power and wealth; and the third is of ambition (power/fame) – to jump from the top of the Temple). Note: Jesus overcame these temptations through the knowledge of his identity, his purpose, and God’s plan for human salvation. Satan will tempt each of us to doubt God’s love, providence, and power. Here we are taught to follow Jesus’ example and respond to temptation as he did (CCC #2119). Let us also remember that we are not tempted because we are evil; we are tempted because we are human.

The offensive and the defensive techniques employed: The temptations to turn stones into bread, to worship Satan and to leap from the pinnacle of the Temple demonstrate three aspects of self-control: material, civil, and spiritual. Likewise, they correspond with three levels of human blessings: 1) material goods, 2) political power, and 3) spiritual powers. These, in turn, correspond to three human seductions: 1) If you worship me, I will make you rich; 2) If you will worship me, I will give you political power; 3) If you will worship me, I will endow you with magical power. Jesus dismisses the temptations by references to Deuteronomy. “One does not live by bread alone” (8:3); “Worship the Lord your God (6:13), and “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (6:16). Jesus used two powerful weapons against the temptations: the Holy Spirit and Holy Scripture. First, Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit,” and the Spirit helped him to survive his temptations (Lk 4:1, 4:14, 4:18). Second, Jesus quoted Holy Scripture in response to all three temptationsHe quotes from Deuteronomy three times, showing us his total dependence on his Father’s word—the word of Holy Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is his guide.

The first temptation: The first temptation was well-timed. Jesus had been fasting for forty days and nights. Since the people of Israel in the Old Testament had been miraculously fed by manna, why not the Son of God? Giving in to the temptation to make bread from a stone (vv. 2b-4), would, therefore, be analogous to Israel’s failure to trust God for sustenance in the wilderness (Ex 16:3, Ex 16:4-5, Ex 16:20). Quoting from Deuteronomy (8:3), Jesus recalled Israel’s longing for the foods they had left behind in Egypt (bread, onions, meat) and their dissatisfaction with the sustenance (manna, quail, water from the rock) which God provided. Unlike the grumbling Israelites, Jesus was pleased to be nourished by the food that God provided for him, viz., every word that comes forth from the mouth of God (Dt 8:3) and doing the will of the Father (Jn 4:24). Besides, the first temptation was not merely aimed at the urge to use the miraculous power given him for his Messianic mission to satisfy his own physical hunger. It was also a temptation to ignore His real mission as Messiah and to respond to others’ physical needs alone, without, at the same time, showing them that the Kingdom of God is more than mere food and drink. Let us ask ourselves the same question: do we use the powers God has given us – physical, financial, mental, or spiritual – for our own satisfaction, comfort or enrichment alone, or chiefly for the well-being, spiritual as well as physical, of others in the community?

The second temptation: In the second test, Satan offers Jesus an easy way to establish the Kingdom of God on earth: enter the world of political power. The temptation to gain the kingdoms of the world by worshiping the devil (vv. 5-8) is analogous to Israel’s temptation to worship other gods (Dt 6:13-15, Ex 32:4; Dt 9:16). The temptation for Jesus was whether he would opt for political power and success or choose the path that would lead to suffering, humiliation and death. Satan said: ““Worship me and it will all be yours.” But this was really an invitation to accomplish His mission by dishonorable means: “If you are going to get along in this world, you need to compromise now and then.” This temptation points to our subtle attraction to doing the right thing by using the wrong means. Jesus answered Satan: “It is written, ‘Thou shall worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.’” (Dt 6:13).

The third temptation: Luke ironically presents Jesus’ third temptation as taking place on the pinnacle of the Temple in the Holy City of Jerusalem, the center of Jewish religious life. This is analogous to Israel’s testing of God at Massah and Meribah (Ex 17:3, 17:7, Dt 6:16). Perhaps the devil was also alluding to the popular expectation that, at his coming, the Messiah would appear suddenly on the pinnacle of the Temple. In this final temptation, Jesus was urged to doubt God. Satan suggested that Jesus should put God to the test: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down,” trusting in Divine protection as promised in Psalm 91:11-12. Jesus responded by quoting another text from Deuteronomy: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Dt 6:16), which refers to an incident in which “the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’” (Ex 17:7). Jesus’ reply, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (v. 13) silenced the devil and actually affirmed his identity as both Lord and God without declaring it. Sometimes we become angry with God when He fails to respond to tests we set up for Him. The test may be something like this: “If my husband is healed of cancer, then I’ll know God loves me.” “If my boy comes back safely from Iraq, I’ll know God is on my side.” “If I get the job that I’ve been praying for, I’ll know that God cares about me.” The devil tries repeatedly to tempt us to do something reckless and make us expect God to rescue us from it every time. Jesus teaches us that the Spirit-filled life requires unconditional surrender to God’s will.

Temptations of Christ representing those of Israel in the desert and the present-day Christians: The temptations presented to Jesus recall the experiences of the Israelite people – they wandered in the desert for forty years; Christ wandered for forty days! The Israelite people grumbled about not having enough food, but Jesus says ,It is not on bread alone that we live but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Israel constantly tended to chase after false gods (e.g. the golden calf), but Jesus recognizes only one God. “You must worship the Lord your God and serve Him alone.” Israel tested God at Massah and Meribah to provide them with water, but Jesus refuses to manipulate God. “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” These temptations also mirror the most common temptations Christians experience today – the three P‘s viz. Pleasure, Pride & Power OR the three A‘s viz. Appetite, Arrogance & Ambition. The temptation to extreme pleasure (appetite/materialism) is a constant attraction in every one’s life; and so is Christ’s warning –“man does not live on bread alone”. And the second temptation to pride (arrogance/boasting) — the “I will not serve” of the rebellious — still merits the response given by Christ: “You must worship the Lord Your God and serve Him alone.” And, finally the third temptation to power (ambition/fame), probably the most insidious temptation of all, — as English Catholic Historian, Lord Acton (John Dalberg-Acton, 10 January, 1834–19 June 1902) has observed – “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Hence Christ’s advice – “Do not put the Lord your God to the test!” remains valid for those who would climb the ladder of ambition.

The devil’s departure for the time being: The devil departed from him for a time. He left Jesus but would wait for another opportunity. That is why St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, wrote, “In order to be able to stand against the wiles of the devil, put on the whole armor of God.” Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving help us to do just that, because they help us to “put on Christ” (Rom 13:14). The Holy Spirit, Who brought Jesus safely through the temptation and empowered him for his ministry, would later fill the disciples and empower the Church (Acts 2:4)., However, the temptation story ends with the ominous statement that the devil departed from him until a more opportune time. That “time” came at the synagogue in his hometown of Nazareth. It came again whenever people demanded signs from him to prove who he was (Lk 11:16, 29-32; 22:3, 54-62; 23:35-39). Ultimately, it came in Gethsemane with Jesus agony (struggle to affirm the Father’s will for him) and on Calvary when Jesus was crucified.


Life messages


1) We need to confront and conquer temptations as Jesus did, using the means he employed: Like Jesus, every one of us is tempted to seek sinful pleasures, easy wealth, and positions of authority, and is drawn to the use of unjust or sinful means to attain good ends. Jesus serves as a model for conquering temptations through prayer, penance, and the effective use of the ‘‘word of God.” Temptations make us true warriors of God by strengthening our minds and hearts. We are never tempted beyond the strength God gives us. In his first letter, St. John assures us: “The One Who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Hence during Lent, let us confront our evil tendencies with prayer (especially by participating in the Holy Mass), penance, and the meditative reading of the Bible. Knowledge of the Bible prepares us for the moment of temptation by enabling us “to know Jesus more clearly, to love him more dearly and to follow him more nearly, day by day,”as William Barclay puts it.

2) We need to grow in holiness during Lent by prayer, reconciliation and sharing. We become resistant and even immune to temptations as we grow healthier in soul by following the traditional Lenten practices: a) by finding time to be with God every day of Lent, speaking to Him and listening to Him; b) by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives, uniting ourselves with God both by the Sacrament of Reconciliation and by forgiving those who have hurt us, while asking forgiveness of those whom we have hurt; and c) by sharing our love with others through our selfless and humble service, our almsgiving, and our helping of those in need.


Additional insights on the Gospel from Fr. Tony

3) We need to be on guard against veiled temptations: Let us remember that even Spirit-filled, sanctified and vibrant Christians are still subject to the Original Temptation of Eve: “You will be like gods, knowing what is good and what is evil” (Gn 3:5). We are tempted to give ourselves godlike status and treat others as our subordinates. Consequently, we resent every limitation of our freedom and vigorously deny the fact that we are dependent on God and on others. We don’t want to be responsible for the consequences of our choices. We are also tempted to accomplish honorable goals by less-than-honorable means such as the use of lotteries to help schools, or casinos to provide jobs for Native Americans, thus setting traps for the most vulnerable members of our society. These are veiled temptations to accomplish good ends by bad means. We are also tempted to fraternize with people of questionable character. Our temptation to adopt pop culture in liturgical services can ultimately lead to trivialization of the worship service.

End of homily

Jokes of the Week

At the end of Mass, some priests like to offer a joke to their parishioners. Please be sensitive though to particular circumstances or concerns. Some Jokes may not be suitable for particular times, placeS, OR CONGREGATIONS. 


1) 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.”

2) “Get behind me, Satan!” (A) 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.”

3) “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.”

4) 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!”

5) 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!”

6) 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)

7) “Well, make that eighty-five.” A young novice was learning to become a holy hermit. Struggling over lustful thoughts and desire, he came to his old spiritual hermit-director and asked, “At what age do you think all these go?” The eighty-year-old guru confidently replied, “Eighty, son, at age eighty.” “Eighty?” the young aspirant gasped desperately and started to leave. Suddenly, a young voluptuous lady crossed the hut of the old hermit picking dry twigs, and the old man’s eyes were glued to the crossing beauty. Still gazing at the lady, he called back the aspirant and said, “Son, did I say eighty? Well, make that eighty-five.”

Fr. Tony started his homily ministry (Scriptural Homilies) in 2003 while he was the chaplain at Sacred Heart residence, applying his scientific methodology to the homily ministry. By word of mouth, it spread to hundreds of priests and Deacons, finally reaching Vatican Radio website (http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html). Fr. Tony’s homilies reach nearly 3000 priests and Deacons by direct email every week.

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