Defy Satan’s Schemes

Homily by I.A. Kaigama on the First Sunday of Lent, 2021

Readings: Gen. 9:8-15; Ps. 24(25):4-6, 7b-9; 1 Pt. 3:18-22; Mk. 1:12-15

Last Wednesday, we started the holy season of Lent and we received ashes on our foreheads as a symbol of remorse for our sins, with the desire to turn over a new leaf. Job repented “in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6), Daniel turned to the Lord in “earnest prayer, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes” (Dan. 9:3); so we are called during the 40 days of Lent to prepare internally to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus at Easter.

The season is one of spiritual warfare against the devil or his agents who cause multidimensional evils in our world. We don’t need to go too far to find examples of evil: kidnapping, banditry, murderous activities of armed gunmen who kill people and rape women; immorality and corruption that are as devastating to our well-being as the coronavirus.

During Lent, we beg God to re-create us from within to bring out something new in us so that we can follow Him sincerely and be able to confront and defy Satan.

In the first reading from Genesis 9:8-15, the people of Noah’s days were described as corrupt and full of lawlessness, as against Genesis 1:31, where “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” The flood that resulted was allowed by God to wash away evil so that the world would be renewed and return to its former state of innocence.

As we read in the second reading, 1 Peter 3:18-22, the water of baptism purifies us like the flood water from sins and makes us a new creation and partakers of the divine nature.

Though we receive the Holy Spirit and cleansing at baptism it does not grant us immunity from temptation. The Gospel of Mark refers to Jesus being tempted by Satan, but it is in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke that we learn the details. The devil asked Jesus to turn stones into bread, to use his power to meet his personal needs, namely, to put on a sensational display of power, in a self-gratifying manner, to satisfy his human hunger. To do so would have been a dangerous distraction and diversion from Jesus’ path of obedience to God, so, Jesus disarmed the devil by saying, “Man does not live on bread alone” (Mt. 4:4).

The devil asked Jesus to display his power by throwing himself from a high cliff. Jesus resisted the suggestion. This is unlike a pastor who wanted to prove to his congregation that he was an anointed man of God and could enter where lions were being kept without being harmed. He did, but ended up as lunch for the lions! Similarly, a pastor claimed that the bullets in the gun would do him no harm. He pulled the trigger and was shot stone dead! Men of God should not be sensational but realistic.

The devil promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world, only if Jesus would bow down and worship him. Jesus did not. Unfortunately, some believers fall into the temptation to worship the devil in order to become rich or to acquire power to fight juju or evil spirits.

Like coronavirus, the devil is very real and prowling round in our decadent society like a roaring lion. He puts in the heart of political, religious and traditional leaders the greed for material riches and love for power. King Solomon as a leader asked God only for wisdom to lead his people in justice and fear of the Lord (cf. 1 Kgs. 3:9). Leaders today are only concerned about fraudulently perpetuating themselves in power and the acquisition of riches to the detriment of the people they lead.

We must emphatically resist the devil who continually tempts ethnic and religious groups to be selfish and myopic, husbands and wives to be morally deviant and unfaithful; youths to be recalcitrant and violent; kidnappers to dehumanize fellow human beings for money; militant herdsmen to destroy food crops, religious fundamentalists to kill for reasons they don’t even understand and bandits to unleash terror on innocent citizens.

While millions of Nigerians are unemployed, the devil and his agents have no problem with lack of work. They are very busy causing confusion in homes and offices. Only the “Jesus method” can check-mate them: prayer. The devil is afraid of prayers. Somehow, we give the devil far more credit than he deserves by rationalizing our crimes, attributing them to him instead of blaming ourselves for the misuse of our freedom. We even pronounce the devil’s name more often instead of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis’ message for Lent 2021, invites us to renew our faith, draw from the living waters of hope, and receive with open hearts the love of God. For a fruitful Lent, let us spend more time to pray, especially the rosary, read the Bible (so that we will be equipped with the right answers for the devil), and spend more time in meditation, adoration of the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and participation in Eucharistic celebration.

Do not shift your focus from Jesus. Peter did that and he began to sink (cf. Mt. 14:29-30).

Wear your mask against coronavirus, but don’t wear the mask of hypocrisy to disguise evil. Temptations are a fact of life but God says, “My grace is enough for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). May the Angels, who ministered to Jesus in the desert, also minister to us in our struggles against sin and temptation. Amen.

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