Summary: First Sunday of Lent (C). Temptations are simply empty promises
Seeds for Sowing, Vol. V, Issue 2, No. 15
First Sunday in Lent - Year C
March 4, 2001
* Deut. 26:4-10
* Rom 10:8-13
* Lk. 4:1-13
Renewal of Vows
There is a beautiful custom that many married couples practice on their wedding anniversaries, especially on those anniversaries which they may celebrate with a little more ceremony. Sometime during the anniversary day, whether in private or in public, they renew the wedding vows they made on the day they were actually married. This is a wonderful sign they make by which they tell each other that, even though they may have failed each other in some small or large ways in the past, they are now pledging to make a new effort to live those important words they call their wedding vows. Anyone who has ever witnessed this renewal of wedding vows knows how touching it can be.
Each year on the feast of Easter, you and I also renew our vows. Except the vows we renew are not from the marriage ceremony, but rather from the Baptismal ceremony. During the Easter liturgy the presider will turn to you and ask you if you reject Satan, and all his works and all his empty promises. And to each of these questions we solemnly answer, "I do". Now when we arrive at that moment on Easter Sunday it is important that we be prepared to answer honestly. If we don’t pronounce those words with conviction, it would be better to remain silent. Imagine a husband or wife repeating their wedding vows on their anniversary, and yet not meaning what they were saying. We would be shocked and saddened that anyone could be so insensitive and deceitful.
We Prepare for our Easter Vows
Lent is the special time of preparation for that moment on Easter Sunday when we will publicly declare our intentions to put away all evil from our lives. That is why today we are asked to reflect on the temptations of Christ, and on the role of temptation in our own lives. If we don’t deal with temptations in the right way, then we are on the road to becoming unfaithful friends of Jesus Christ. When Easter arrives we will be totally unprepared to say, "I do".
What exactly is temptation? If we were to summarize it in two words, we could use the words of the Baptismal vows. Temptation is an empty promise. Before you make a promise to someone, you had better be sure of your ability to carry out that promise. If you promise your son or daughter that you will take them out to the show or on a great holiday, you have to know that you have the time and resources to carry out that pledge. If you don’t, then you will cause a lot of pain and disappointment. Temptations are promises that are placed before us, but there is no substance in the promise.
The devil promised Jesus all the kingdoms of the world, but this was just an empty promise. The devil did not have the power to carry out such an extravagant promise. So many times something or someone comes into our path and we think how wonderful it would be to have that thing or that person. Our imagination runs wild. We think that we would be so happy, or have so much pleasure, if we could only get what we wanted. And yet, if we paused to really reflect on what was going on, we would soon discover that this promise of pleasure or happiness is only an empty one. That person or thing doesn’t possess the power to give us what we know we really need or want.
Choosing to Forget
But why do we give into temptation? Because we choose to forget. We forget that we have committed ourselves to loving God and our neighbour. We forget that we have made life choices that exclude other life choices. We forget that Jesus told us that we must lose our lives in order to gain them. There are so many things we simply put out of our mind because we are focussed on getting what we want. And yet, in the end, all we get are empty promises. Promises that are only hollow and lacking in any real substance.
We have to improve our memories. We must remember the last time we gave into an empty promise. What was the result of that surrender? Did that extra drink or two really give us the deep satisfaction we were longing for? If we told one too many tales about our neighbour, did we end up feeling better about ourselves or worse? What happened when we decided to watch those movies or videos which we knew contained scenes where sex was not honoured, but only used for passing pleasure? Did we end up with a deep feeling of real happiness or were we just afflicted with more shame and guilt? Empty promises lead to empty hearts.