Sunday Sermon for March 9, 2014, the First Sunday of Lent, Year A
Readings: Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11
Many times in these sermons I have mentioned the necessity of embracing the truth. The point is often made that God is truth and that the truth will set us free. We also know that the Word of God is all true, as are the teachings of the Church. We also know that Satan is a liar and the Father of Lies. However, it has often been mentioned that the best lie is nine parts truth to one part falsehood.
I bring this up because the last thing we would expect out of the Enemy of our Souls is to be quoting from the Sacred Scriptures. But that is exactly what we see him doing in the Gospel reading today. Everything he quoted was truth, but it was taken out of context or applied in a manner in which it was not intended by the Lord.
Even outside of quoting Scripture, we see his deceptive ability in his conversation with Eve in the first reading. He begins by asking about the command God had given Adam and Eve regarding the eating of the fruit in the Garden. By asking the question in a way that he knew was false, the evil one tried to bring confusion by misquoting the facts. When Eve responds with something that was an exaggeration of what God had commanded, the vile creature had our first parent on the run.
Again he speaks a truth about the fact that Adam and Eve would not die on the spot but, as we see in the second reading, St. Paul says that through one man’s transgression sin came into the world and death came to all as a consequence of that one sin. So, it was not merely Adam and Eve who would now have to die, but all of humanity born, ultimately, from them, would die as well.
When Satan tries to twist the truth in tempting our Lord, he failed because he was trying to tempt God. His quotations from Scripture are rebutted by other Scripture passages. It is, however, instructive to look closely at our Lord’s responses. These are all simple and true points that are true for each of us as well. The difference being that when our Lord speaks these words from Scripture He is actually speaking of His own self.
Consider for a moment His responses. The first is that man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes froth from the mouth of God. God, according the St. John of the Cross, spoke only one word in the silence of eternity: Jesus. He is the Word that came forth from God and the Word through Whim we have life.
Secondly, He tells Satan he is not to put the Lord God to the test. Because Jesus is God, Satan was literally putting God to the test. Finally, He says that you shall worship the Lord God and Him alone shall you serve. He is the Lord Whom we are to worship and serve. This is another way of saying that we are to love the Lord with our whole heart and soul and strength.
We each need to consider how these lessons apply to our own lives. Satan lies to us in partial truths ofreven in full trusts applied wrongly. He wants us to test God and he wants us to worship himself. Most of us will not bow down to Satan or worship him directly, but there are many ways we give ourselves over to him that pull us away from the love and worship of God. We also all know that we have accepted his lies countless times along with his rationalizations.
The grace necessary for the forgiveness of our weaknesses and sins is fully available to us due to the one righteous act of Jesus on the Cross. Along with this grace of forgiveness comes the grace to avoid sin in the future. We do not have to argue with the evil one; to do so would be total and absolute foolishness. We do not have to be suave. He may be the most subtle of all of the creatures God made, but he cannot withstand simplicity and humility.
If we would simply keep our focus on God, then we do not have to worry about being led astray. If we are truly loving God with our whole heart, then we will not care about the devil’s subtlety because the truth is purely simple and stands on its own. He tries to convince us that God is withholding something from us, but God is all in all. Since we cannot defeat Satan on our own, why try? Be simple, be humble, embrace the truth in love, keep your heart focused on Jesus and the devil is already defeated.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.