The Devil’s Lies and God’s Truth Lent 1 Fr. Roberto
Homily for First Sunday of Lent – Year A
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic’s Church, Los Angeles, CA
February 21, 2021
Title: The Devil’s Lies and God’s Truth
Theme: God’s truth sets us free from the devil’s lies so that we can live our identity and destiny as God’s beloved children.
Readings: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Once upon a time, there was a Catholic priest who did not believe in the devil. One Sunday he was preaching at Mass when, lo and behold, the devil himself suddenly appeared right there in the sanctuary. The devil was the ugliest and most ferocious looking creature you can imagine. He looked at the congregation on one side of the church and growled “RRAAAARGH!!!” Everyone on that side of the church ran screaming for their lives. Then the devil turned to the congregation on the other side of the church and growled “RRAAAARGH!!!” All those people ran out screaming as well. Finally, the devil turned toward the priest and said: “Do you still not believe in me? RRAAAARGH!!!” Sure enough, the priest too fled screaming. Well, the devil was pretty happy with himself after emptying out the church until he noticed a little old lady sitting in the front pew with her arms crossed, staring at the devil and not moving. The devil couldn’t believe it, so he jumped down to where the lady was sitting and said to her: “Don’t you know who I am? And the woman answered “I sure do.” The devil was puzzled and asked the woman, “Do you not fear me?” To which the woman answered, “Why should I be afraid of you? I’ve been married to your brother for 55 years!”
As you know, there are thousands of jokes about the devil, and I hope you enjoyed this one. It is certainly fine to laugh at these kinds of jokes; however, the first thing I want to say today is that the devil is no joke; he is very real. Unfortunately, many people in the world do not believe in the devil, and, apart from that, in society and especially in movies people very often incorrectly portray who the devil is and how he works. On the other hand, the Bible, in many places, including in today’s Gospel, gives us good insights about the devil and how to deal with him. The Bible tells us that he is a fallen angel who turned against God, and that we need to be cautious in our dealings with him because he is very cunning. Our Catholic Church has confirmed and expanded upon these biblical insights over the course of our 2,000 year history. While we need to be aware of the devil’s existence and cautious in dealing with him, both the Bible and the Church teach us that we do not have to be afraid of him because our God is much more powerful than the he is, given that he is only a creature. As St. Augustine put it, the devil is like a barking dog on a chain; he can bark at us but he will remain chained unless we let him loose by our sinful choices. So, as long as we follow Jesus and try do God’s will in our lives, the devil cannot harm us. However, what the devil can do to us is what he did to Jesus in today’s Gospel: he can tempt us and try to lure us away from our relationship with God who is Love and Truth.
The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent is always about Jesus being tempted by the devil in the desert. While I believe that this event actually took place, I think this Gospel is also meant to teach us how Satan tempts all of us human beings, and that is by lying to us. As Jesus says in another gospel, the devil is the father of lies; therefore, in today’s Gospel, and throughout our lives, he will tempt us by lying to us primarily about three things: (1) he will lie about who God is and what God is really like; (2) he will lie about who we are as God’s beloved sons and daughters; and, (3) he will lie about God’s will and purpose for us in our lives. All these lies are meant to separate us from God.
But I think that the most important teaching of today’s Gospel is the way Jesus models for us how we too are called to battle continually against Satan’s temptations and lies in our lives. And that is what I want to talk to you about during the next five weeks in this preaching series I am starting today entitled, “Unbound – Freedom in Christ.” During these weeks I will talk to you about this fallen angel we call Satan or the devil and how to recognize the ways that we sometimes, knowingly or unknowingly, allow him to influence our lives. All of us, including myself, at times believe the devil’s lies and, therefore, can become bound and burdened by pride, fear, guilt, by an unwillingness or inability to forgive, by a painful experience from the past, by our addictions, by our sinful behavior and other things. These can all be ways that the devil traps and binds us.
The good news is that Jesus wants us to be free of all these burdens, and his plan is to set us free by teaching us God’s truth so we can combat Satan’s lies. As Jesus says I another gospel: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” So, in this preaching series, we are going to look at five truths called the Five Keys that are part of a ministry called “Unbound.” Unbound is a ministry founded by a Catholic couple, Neal and Janet Lozano, over 30 years ago, and they have traveled all over the United States and throughout the world with great success. If we apply these five truths or five keys to our lives, the Lord will use them to help us live in the freedom, power and peace that God wants us to have as his beloved children.
The Five Keys are: (1) Repentance and Faith in Jesus; (2) Forgiveness of ourselves and others; (3) Renunciation of any evil influence in our lives; (4) taking the Authority we have in Jesus to break in a definitive way the power of evil in our lives. This will lead us to (5) receiving the Father’s Blessing which is the love and affirmation God wants to give each one of us as his beloved children. These are all biblical and traditional Catholic truths that teach us how to live our Christian faith. Because very one of us here is tempted every day to think, say or do things that are unhealthy, unchristian and sinful. As disciples of Jesus, it is part of our daily life of faith to battle these temptations and lies of the devil and fight against the evil in our world just as Jesus did in today’s Gospel and throughout his life.
So, I invite you to participate in this Lenten preaching series, first of all, by joining us for Mass each week, either here in person or on the Internet. Second, I encourage you to look at the Scriptures and information in these Homily Reflection Guides which you can find outside as you leave church today or, for those of you watching online, you can find at the end of your Mass packets, and on our website. Third, I also encourage you to read Neal Lozano’s book on his Unbound ministry. It will be for sale outside after Mass today and in the parish office during the week. Finally, you can also find outside, a brochure that is an introduction to Unbound Ministry and the Five Keys I mentioned.
I would like to end my homily today by leading you through a prayer from Neal Lozano’s book. Please stand if you can and repeat after me:
I love You, Lord. //Come bring your light //and expel the darkness. // Bring your truth and expose the lies. // There are many things in me // that keep me from giving and receiving love.// Cleanse me by your blood. //Set me free from those lies // that keep me from knowing your love.// I want to walk in the light //on the path you have chosen for me.”// Amen.
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