1st Sunday of Lent              

            It is said that sin gets its power by persuading me  to believe that I will be happier if I follow it. (John Piper) Lust, for example, is pressing me to believe that I will be happier if I give in to my sexual desire. Indeed, the power of temptation is the prospect that it will make me happier.

            Today’s gospel reading tells us that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Unlike in Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts, Mark’s version, today’s gospel, does not describe the nature of the temptation. But it clearly implies that Jesus passed the test and overcame the temptation.

            Satan never rests. Just as he tempted Jesus, Satan is tempting us too. The only difference between now and biblical times is that the devil has ‘updated’ his tactics. Now he uses popular ‘isms’ to tempt us – or to lure us away from God. In simple terms, ‘isms’ are those theories and doctrines the world wants us to believe and embrace as the source of our happiness. Individualism, secularism, relativism, materialism, and consumerism are the “updated tactics” of Satan. These are the modern ways used by the devil to lure us away from God.

            Individualism: Satan tells us that we must give utmost importance to ourselves and to what we want. Be self-centered. “Do whatever will make you happy. Do not think of others. Just enjoy yourself.” Individualism, according to Pope Francis, destroys relationships. It favors a lifestyle that weakens the development and stability of personal relationships and distorts family bonds.

            Secularism: Satan tells us that the worldly concerns are more important than spiritual concerns. “All you have is this earthly life. There is nothing beyond this. You might as well make the most out of it. Do not allow religious rules and teachings to dictate on you. Do not allow the gospel values to rule and dominate your life.” Secularism is making this world and the life we have here as the ultimate value – and the only thing worth living for. It denies that we are created in the image and likeness of God and that we are meant for God and his Kingdom. It conditions us to live life as if God did not exist.

            Relativism: Satan tells us that whatever makes us happy, whatever satisfies our wants and desires is good and must be pursued. “The only basis of good is what you want and need. Whatever is good to you and for you is true.” Relativism’s ultimate standard consists solely of one’s ego and desires. Pope Francis says, “Relativism sees everything as irrelevant unless it serves one’s own immediate interests.”

            Materialism: Satan tells us that our worth as a person depends on our material wealth and possessions – thus, we must have more of more. “You must have massive wealth and possessions for you to be important in the eyes of others.” Materialism makes us believe that happiness and security in life depends on having ‘more’ or accumulating more goods.

            Consumerism: Satan tells us that we must always have the latest, the newest, the best and the most of what money can buy. “The more you spend money and consume material things, the happier you will be and you will win the esteem of others.” “Shop ‘til you drop!” Consumerism makes us believe that life depends only on what we have – what we buy and consume. Consumerism is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart. It is the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, triggered by a blunted conscience.

            Sin, in its core, is disobedience to God – the refusal to listen to God. The season of Lent must be a time for us to listen more attentively to the Lord.

            Individualism says, “The most important is yourself.” But Jesus says, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

            Secularism says, “Seek your happiness in worldly things.” But Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you besides.”

            Relativism says, “The basis of truth is what is good for you.” But Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life.”

            Materialism says, “The more material things you have, the happier you will be.” But Jesus says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

            Consumerism says, “Shop and buy ‘til you drop and die!” But Jesus says, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.”

            Let us listen to the Lord Jesus more attentively to overcome temptations.

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