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Bishop's Homily for the First Sunday of Lent

Jesus, who also was tempted, kept his eyes fixed closely on his destiny.

By Bishop Larry Silva
March 01, 2020

[Carmelite Convent, Kaneohe; Co-Cathedral of St. Theresa, Honolulu (Rite of Election)]

If you want to successfully complete a journey, you must know what your final destination is and how to get there.

This may seem like a no-brainer statement, but we can often ignore this basic rule, are waylaid, and end up completely lost.  If this is true with a geographic journey, it is certainly true for our spiritual journey.

As Adam and Eve strolled through the beautiful garden God had created for them, they could have eaten of the fruit of the tree of life, and then they would have lived forever.  But they ignored the directions God gave them and were waylaid by a serpent who instead tempted them to eat of a tree God had forbidden them to eat, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  But what the serpent said to them was appealing.  “God knows that on the day you eat of the fruit of this tree, you will be like gods.”  Since they already knew how good God was, they thought that was an appealing proposition.  But it was a trick and a lie.  The fact was that they already were like God, since God had made them in his own image and likeness and breathed his own life into them.  God made them out of the earth, just as he had made the trees and the other creatures, but only in them did he breathe his own breath.  Now they were being told that you will only be like God if you eat this fruit.  So they fell for it, and were so lost that death came to the human race through them.  The original sin was not so much disobeying God – though it would not have happened if they had obeyed him – but rather thinking that they lacked something to be like God.  And so they were banned from access to the tree of life, because God could not bear the thought of their living forever without their realizing who they truly were, creatures of a God so loving that he shared his own life-breath with them.

Isn’t this what happens to us?  We think we lack something, we have a hunger for something that we think we do not yet possess, so we try to grasp at it.  This usually is destructive to ourselves and to the life of a community.  I want good friendships, or a good marriage, or good relationships with others.  And rather than approach the matter from an attitude of gratefulness for the love and companionship we already have, we want more and more, and then look at the glass as half empty when the relationship is not perfect.  This, in fact, destroys relationships.  Or we are blessed with the incredible gift of our sexuality, and we think that fulfilling our every desire is what will satisfy our hunger; yet it can leave us, in the end, thrilled for a moment but ultimately very empty and lonely.  We can believe that the more we acquire of wealth and material goods the happier we will be, but we fail to realize that we often thus deprive others of the basic necessities of life.  We can hunger for power and popularity, yet in the end, these in themselves will leave us empty.  How often we hear of great celebrities who are very powerful and popular, but who turn to drugs, alcohol, or even suicide to escape the unbearable hungers they really experience.

All of this, because Satan blocked the way to the tree of life by his cunning and lying ways.

Jesus came to complete the journey to the tree of life for us, and that was his destiny.  He knew the way would be paved with temptations to divert him, and sure enough, that is what we hear about today.  That ancient serpent who successfully diverted Adam and Eve from their journey, tried again, and again to divert Jesus from his journey to the tree of life.  His methodology is predictable, because he will propose something that has a grain of truth in it, then twist it for his own purposes.  It was true that Jesus was hungry, and that he was capable of changing stones into bread.  (After all, he changed water into wine.)  So the devil takes that truth to try to divert him from the path, but Jesus saw through it and reminded Satan that only God’s Word could truly satisfy.  He tried to have Jesus do some spectacular act by throwing himself off the Temple, saying that angels would save him.  There was truth to that, since we see that angels did indeed come to minister to Jesus.  But Jesus was not fooled by this partial truth, and gave due glory to God his Father.  Jesus knew where he was going – straight to the tree of life – and he knew the only sure way there was to listen to the voice of God alone.  So he made it to the tree of life -- which is the cross -- climbed up on it, died there, then rose again to become the fruit of the tree of life so that he could give himself to us as food and allow us finally to live forever.

As our catechumens, who are to become the elect today, journey toward the tree of life, remember our first parents and how they were waylaid by deception and ended up in a place of death; and remember Jesus, who also was tempted, but who kept his eyes fixed closely on his destiny.  As you journey to cross the river of life in Baptism, to be anointed with the perfume of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation, and to eat the fruit of the Tree of Life in the Eucharist, we, who are so susceptible to be tempted by the appealing lies of Satan, join with you in renouncing Satan, and in deepening our faith in the living God.  Because once we realize who we really are – not gods ourselves, but creatures who are filled with the breath of God himself, immersed in the very name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit  – then God will gladly give us access to the cross, so that there we may taste and see how good is the fruit of that Tree, the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.