At the beginning of the season of Lent, we are introduced to the concept of temptation. In the first reading we see Adam and Eve who are tempted to eat from the forbidden fruit which promised them to ‘be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ Although we are created in the image and likeness of God, we never fully understand our potential to be children of God. Like Adam and Eve we too are tempted to put aside God and want to ‘be like gods, knowing good and evil.’
In contrast, in the gospel, we read about Jesus who is also tempted. He is invited to make use of his divine powers to satisfy himself. The Son of God has no need to defy the Father; instead in full obedience, submits to the Father’s will and ‘humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross!’ (Phil 2:8).
The season of Lent reminds us that our sinfulness is not the final answer. ‘Sin entered the world through one man,’ Adam, but in Jesus Christ we all receive the ‘free gift … of being made righteous.’ As we prepare to celebrate this free gift at Easter, we are invited, like Jesus, to submit in obedience to God the Father.
Joseph De Piro faced many challenges and temptations. Like his master, he was often tempted to follow other gods rather than the will of the Father. Like Jesus, De Piro remained strong because he was informed by the Word of God.
During Lent we are invited to spend more time reading, meditating and contemplating the Word of God. De Piro suggests that for the Word to be effective in us we have to possess certain dispositions.
1: Let us come to listen to the homily drawn with a strong desire to learn, and not attend simply because it is customary or mandatory for us to do so. Let us approach like one who goes to dinner with a great appetite; our hunger for God’s word is a sign of holiness and of our positive attitude. Hunger for God’s word benefits our soul. Moreover, while loss of appetite is a sign of sickness, one who is not willing to listen to God’s word, demonstrates that he is spiritually unhealthy. The person who loves God, desires God’s word; like the parents who love their children, and are pleased to hear about them. St John says: “Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.” (Jn 8:47)
2: Let us not attend simply out of curiosity, drawn by the preacher’s oratory; let us pay attention to the message of the homily. Let us not be like the sick person in need of surgery who, rather than submitting to the surgical operation, satisfies himself with admiring the excellence of the surgical instruments! People who do not listen carefully to the message are like a sieve that lets go of the wheat and the fine flour and retains straw and husk. The author of the book of Nehemiah, narrates that when Ezra the scribe was speaking to the people about God’s law, the listeners were so overcome with emotion and crying that the Levites had to carry him to the middle of the crowd and place him on a platform, so that they could hear him. (Cf Neh 8:1-12) We too need to listen attentively to the homily, evaluating our actions against the preacher’s message.
3: Let us go to listen to ordinary things, reflect on them with humility and understand them better; let us not go to listen to extraordinary and new things. St Paul wrote to the Philippians: “To write the same things to you is not troublesome to me, and for you it is a safeguard.” (Ph 3:1b) Paul, who had been caught up to the third heaven (cf 2Co 12:2) certainly knew and could talk about new and extraordinary things!
4: Let us apply to ourselves what we hear and not speak about others. Let us not look at the speck in our neighbour’s eye. (cf Mt 7:3-5) Let us be like friends happy to sit together at table, and not to gossip about our sisters and brothers. The book of Ecclesiasticus says that the prudent person applies to himself everything he hears, the evil person discards them over his shoulders. (cf Si 21:15)
5: “Before judgment comes, examine yourself;…” (Si 18:20a) The book of Ecclesiasticus teaches us that we need to work to shun our failings and not to ignore them.
6: Let us apply to ourselves what we hear being is spoken of in general. “… and obey it.” (Lk 11:28b) The person who cannot digest the food he eats, indicates that he is unhealthy.
St Augustine says that the word of God is like a hook. St James writes “But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.” (Jam 1:22)
Many people, even sinners, glory in heaven because they listened to God’s word with humility and treasured it.
Segneri writes about Moses, a murderer who lived in Egypt. Even though he did not believe in God, after listening attentively to a homily about hell, converted and became a holy monk.
In his youth, St John of God ran away from home and lived as a tramp. On two occasions he served as a soldier and was condemned to death for deserting. He by chance attended a homily and, having listened to the message with humility and compassion, was moved and enlightened. Throwing himself on the ground he publicly confessed his sins and decided to become a saint.