Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).
First Sunday of Lent Cycle C
A Perfect Body in an Imperfect World
Every night 300 million children go to bed hungry. That number is three times the population of a country like the Philippines. Around the world 842 million persons suffer chronic hunger. They are almost always hungry. These are the data from a report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2013, that is, three years ago. Most probably these numbers have increased by now. It is statistically correct to say that 1 in every ten persons around the world is perennially hungry, is constantly forced to fast.
We who are relatively well-fed simulate this hunger during this season of Lent by fasting. But our fasting is only a taste of this hunger because we still eat one full meal a day with the other two meals not equaling in quantity this one full meal. And we are only required by Church law to perform this kind of fast on two days during this season, namely Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Simply put, we only experience minimal hunger during this season.
But the person who is our reason for this Lenten season did not just taste hunger. He went on fully hungry after taking no food for forty days, as we read in our Gospel reading today. St. Luke says, "During that time (the forty days) he ate nothing and at the end of it he (Jesus) was hungry" (4:2).
This is the not the first time it is recorded that a human being did not eat anything for forty days. Earlier in the Bible it is recorded that Moses did not eat anything and did not drink water for forty days (Exodus 34:28). Luke was not explicit about Jesus not drinking water for forty days. He just wrote that Jesus ate nothing. The prophet Elijah also fasted for forty days and forty nights (1 Kings 19:8).
Why did Jesus fast for forty days and forty nights? Was it to imitate Moses and Elijah and thus have himself recognized as a prophet like them? This is very unlikely because Moses and Elijah were not models of Jesus. He did not look up to them as his models. Rather the opposite is true, Moses and Elijah looked forward to Jesus in faith as their model. So rather we can say that Moses and Elijah fasted for forty days to point to Jesus who would do the same. Their fasting pre-figured or prophesied the fasting of Jesus. In effect they were saying, Just as we fasted for forty days, a prophet greater than us would come who would also fast for forty days.
Did Jesus fast for therapeutic purposes as is done by many people around the world? An encyclopedia entry reads, ". . . extended fasting has been recommended as therapy for various conditions by health professionals of many cultures, throughout history, from ancient to modern." But Jesus had no diseases. In fact he could not be contaminated by any disease because his body was perfectly healthy. His body was perfectly healthy because it fully obeyed God's will in everything and it had to be perfect in order to be a presentable offering to God in sacrifice. So Jesus did not fast for therapeutic reasons, in order to cure a sickness in his body.
Did Jesus fast only for a symbolic reason, just to signal the start of his work for the next three years? In other words, was his fast only a religious ritual? But we know that Jesus disliked religious rituals. He condemned the rituals of the Pharisees. He was not fond of these rituals. Instead he produced new rituals, like the washing of the feet and the breaking of bread and wine. Fasting was not one of his rituals. He discouraged his disciples to fast for this reason. He told them not to fast while he was still with them physically.
Did Jesus fast in order to give Satan an occasion to test him because by the end of this fasting he would be hungry and weak? The ensuing passage of the Gospel tells us that Jesus was not weak. He overcame Satan's temptations.
The reason why Jesus fasted for forty days was to condition his perfect body for the work ahead of him.
When a car manufacturer produces the prototype of a car model he considers this as perfect according to the specifications set in the design of that car. This is the type of car that will be imitated by mass production in the assembly line. It is perfect as far as the design goes. But it has to be tested. It has to be conditioned so that it would function according to the specifications and go the many miles intended for it.
In a similar way Jesus had a perfect body. This was created according to his own design as creator of all. His ministry or work would be carried through this body. So it had to be tested and conditioned so that it would function according to the will of his Father. So fasting was required by his perfect body in order to start properly his public work.
Fasting made it clear to Jesus' body that he was not dependent on anything for his work of redeeming humanity. He was totally dependent only on God. His body was tried and tested to be perfect. His body was perfect already according to its design. But now it was tested to show to Jesus and to us that indeed it was a perfect body, just like a car is tested to determine whether it does indeed follow the specifications of the manufacturer. The temptations that followed were part of this test. The three evangelists have the word "tested".
The succeeding stories of the Gospel tell us that indeed the perfect body of Jesus performed very well. Instead of being contaminated by diseases it was instrumental in curing all the diseases of persons who had faith in him. The power of this body extended even to Jesus' clothing so that when a woman who had hemorrhage for 12 twelve years touched it she was instantly healed.
This perfect body of Jesus is what we receive in communion. If we receive this body with the proper disposition it works wonders in our body. St. Catherine of Siena was sustained by this body for many years as her only food. It heals us of our many ailments. That is why before communion we say that we will be healed by the word of Jesus. If we do not see the wonderful results of the perfect body of Jesus in our body it is because we do not have the proper disposition to receive it.
In today's Mass when the priest or minister says to us in communion "Body of Christ" let us be aware that this is a perfect body able to work wonders in our bodies. Then we can go on real fasting to test also the effect of Christ's perfect body in our bodies.
Let us bow down our heads to pray.
Lord, you have a perfect body. And this perfect body is your gift to us during holy communion. Thank you for giving us your perfect body. Teach us the proper dispositions to receive it with reverence and love so that it can work wonders in our life as you used it to work wonders in the lives of people in Israel when you still lived among them in physical form. Amen.