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Man Does Not Live On Bread Alone

First Sunday in Lent (A)

My dear encountered couples:

Satan’s greatest triumph is that he has caused many people to no longer believe that God really exists. Jesus tells us who he is when he said: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10: 18). Satan is real and his actions in the world are very real.

As the holy season of Lent begins, this Sunday’s liturgy reminds us that we are engaged in a daily and dramatic battle between Christ and Satan, between good and evil. What is at stake in this battle is our eternal salvation. Satan will do all that he can do separate us from Christ. Jesus described him as the father of lies. “He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8: 14).

Today’s gospel relates that in the desert, Satan tempted Jesus three times. Satan launched three attacks against our Lord. Now that we are beginning our Lenten practices, we might consider taking a closer look at the nature of the first temptation. What human failing does it address?

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread”. But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4: 3-4).

We all know that one of the toughest problems that we must face as a nation is materialism. It is difficult to live as true disciples of Jesus in a materialistic society. Every day we are bombarded with materialism. Our market driven society urges us to possess more and more things. Given this all- pervasive temptation we must always remember that “man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.

Let’s take a practical look at how we can fight against the temptation of materialism. How can we use the things of this world correctly and keep our focus on the things of eternity?

The first practical step is to live within our means. Most people probably receive three or four invitations a week to sign up for another credit card. This is the trap. Advertisements from credit card companies give us the impression that we can spend without any financial consequences at all. We need to discipline ourselves by living debt free. Excessive use of credit cards only foments greed and irresponsibility. One credit card for emergencies or a frequent flyer miles’ program is enough.

The second practical step we must take to avoid materialism is to understand that work is only a means to provide what is necessary for our families and ourselves.

Many feels that their work is the most important aspect of their lives. When people put too much emphasis on their career, family life suffers and marriages flounder. In conversations with my friends from Spain or Mexico, inevitably we wind up discussing the differences between our respective countries and cultures. My friends have often told me that the difference between their countries and ours is that in their countries they work in order to live while here we live only to work. Simple words, but they express a lot of truth.

The third practical step we must take is to work at being content with what we have. Is new furniture really necessary? Is it necessary to move into a nicer neighborhood? Is it necessary to build a new house? Is it really necessary to re-decorate, re-do the kitchen once more, or install new carpeting or tile? When does it stop? Why do we hunger for novelty? Why do we rationalize that we are improving the quality of family life? Why are we spending all that money when we already have nice homes with everything that is necessary for a comfortable life?

Spending money, particularly spending money painlessly, using the magic of plastic, the credit or debit card can easily become an addictive behavior. Buying, spending, possessing all provide that rush of adrenaline, the feeling of power. We need to be very cautious about all of this.

Satan will do everything that he can do to confuse and distract us. Materialism pulls us away from God and the spiritual care of our souls. The constant temptation to buy and possess more and more things pulls us away from the essential things of life. If we were to care for our souls the way we care for our material things, many of us would soon be saints.

Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”.

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