Browsing Reflections

Fr. Jo's Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent, Yr A, February 26, 2023

The season of grace is here once again, and we thank God for His special grace of redeeming love, which is made manifest in the seasons of the Church. Lent comes as an opportunity to awaken our spiritual senses and unite ourselves to the redeeming suffering and death of Christ,  so that we may embrace fully God’s gift of salvation.

       As is usual on every first Sunday of Lent, salvation’s two archrivals, namely, Jesus and the devil, are presented to us sparring in the interlude to the stupendous combat that would be finally cast at a place called Calvary. Their positions are clear—one is interested in stalling every effort to make us better and the other wants to offer everything, including his life, to ensure that we reap the priceless fruit of salvation. Their tactic, however, would dazzle some of us. While the devil presents us some of what our world would regard as common sense approach to solving problems, Jesus wants us to take a deep breath and look at the totality of the picture and even make difficult choices to avoid getting stuck along the way. The ‘common sense’ approach of the devil invites us to take on popular and desired affectations like providing food for the hungry, improving our PR status, and taking advantage of opportunities at our laps to amass wealth and popularity for ourselves and our progeny. Jesus’ approach is to tread carefully and subdue these desires so we may focus on the greater good of the kingdom. How we respond to the temptations that come our way reveals which of the two archrivals we have made the choice to camp with.

The first reading of today presents the prologue to this rivalry. In actuality, it is a rivalry that every minute of everyday happens in our senses, intellect and will. The story of creation of our first parents, their temptation and fall from grace is more a theological treatise than a historical oeuvre or presentation. It says that an All-knowing and All-powerful God created our first parents and placed them in a comfortable place, giving them everything needed to be happy forever. Then came this stranger who tells them that God deceived them by limiting the array of possibilities for their enjoyment. He proposed that they take on the very project which their maker made clear would ruin them. And you know what…? They believed the stranger. That is the problem of evil, a problem which St. Paul tries to explain in his letter to the Romans, which is today’s second reading. In summary, these passages tell us that evil is rooted in our decision to: 1, listen to the stranger who wants to ruin us; 2, make our own rules; and 3, stand in opposition to an all good God. If God limited our free will and left us like the plants and animals that do not have to worry about choosing between right and wrong, would that have served us better?

The story of the temptation of Jesus by the devil is cast to show us how the devil plots our downfall and how we can side with Christ to get him off our neck. Almost every temptation takes the same format in which Christ was tempted and uses similar materials: Bread, Glory and Possessions. Bread: Related to the need to satisfy bodily comforts with food and drink, sex and leisure. When ordered right, it produces good results. When ordered according to the devil’s script, it has calamitous effects: overindulgence, addiction, infidelity, divorce, abortion, etc. Glory: Related to the desire for attention, excitement, esteem, honor, etc. When ordered right, it shines divine light on our lives. When ordered wrongly, it leads to selfish ambitions, vanity, depression, suicide, etc. Possessions: Related to the desire to have and use stuff. When ordered right, it leads to real satisfaction. When ordered according to the devil’s script, it can be a major source of unhappiness. We should be as smart as Jesus who knows that to God, not the devil, belongs all things; hence, he could neither give them to Jesus, nor to us. We’re to boldly tell our adversary, as Jesus did, to get lost.  

Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo


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