March 6, 2022 – First Sunday of Lent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/030622.cfm)
Three men and an elderly priest had once a discussion. The priest asked: “supposing a corrupt politician approaches you, gives you lots of money and promises to grant you more favors if you vote and support him in the coming election, what would you do?” Replied by the first man, “I will return him the bribe-money”. The priest told him, “You, stupid fool”. Then the second replied, “I will take the bribe-money. I will keep it in my pocket. Surely, I will not waste such fortune”. But the priest replied, “You, shrewd crook”. And the last man said, “I really don’t know what to do? Will I overcome my evil inclinations? Or will my evil inclinations overpower me to claim what is not mine and to do what should not be done? I really don’t know. But if God will bless me and strengthen me to go against all my evil inclinations, I will return the bribe-money back to the corrupt politician.” The priest then said, “You are right, and you are a wise man.”
Why? The priest called the first man stupid fool because he doesn’t know himself. He believes that he is too strong to resist temptations in life. No men, by himself, have ever overcome temptations in life. Usually, temptations overcome us not because we are weak but because we are too proud to think that we are strong enough to overcome temptations. The second man was a shrewd crook because he is willing to claim what he does not own, and to do wrongdoing, without any qualms whatsoever. For such kind of men, temptations are opportunities for them to take advantage of others for their own benefits. The priest praised the third as good and wise man because he knows that like all of us, we are basically weak people. He hopes that in the midst of temptations, he will be strong enough to do what is right. But he also knows that he can only do this with God’s help and strength, and he is most willing to ask and pray for it. He knows that in dealing with life-temptations, there is always a struggle within as well as reliance and faith in God’s help.
We can say the temptations Jesus experienced in our gospel are still very much present and true in own lives today. To live in humanistic and materialistic life, to strive for our own self-glorification and not for God’s glory, and to worship not God, but worldly power and honor are still very present and true in our lives today anywhere, both at home and abroad.
Surely the migrant workers and their family today can attest to the reality and experience of temptations, struggles and reliance on God within themselves and their own family. They know the better and the worst realities and effects of how to live within the context of a Christian migrant family. Yes, our ability today to live and work abroad either as migrant or worker presents us great opportunities to make and build up our lives. But it also presents us great temptations to break and destroy our lives. Wherever we are, whether we are at home or abroad, we confront the same temptations and struggles as well as we need to rely and trust on God’s strength and power.
And how do we act in respond into our experiences of temptations in life? Like the stupid fool, we could resist & reject. Or like the shrewd crook, we could give in to it. Or like the wise man, we could struggle in faith with temptations & evils in life.
It is easy for us indeed to fall into temptations. The biggest problem in struggling with temptations is our lack of self-knowledge, our lack of recognizing and overcoming the evil within ourselves. We struggle with the evils of others and in our society but the toughest struggle is to acknowledge and overcome the evil within our own selves – the evil within our own hearts. We were born with conflicting goodness and evil within. That is why we can be good and can do good… but not easily, since there are always tensions and struggles within ourselves. Moreover, we can only withstand these difficulties, if we are wise enough to rely and have faith not only in our own strength but in God’s help and power.
Like the stupid fool, if we think we can overcome these life-temptations and evils only by and through own strength and power, we are surely wrong and are doomed to failure for we don’t have the power and capacity to resist temptations. But like the wise man & Jesus, if we are wise enough to acknowledge and ask for, and have faith on God’s help and strength, we surely can overcome evils and temptations in others as well as within ourselves; – hoping not to be a shrewd crook falling into temptations.
With our Lord in our struggle with life-temptations & trials, we pray most especially during these trying times of pandemic, threats of war & political division: “Lead us not into temptations”
So be it. Hinaut pa unta. Kabay pa. Siya Nawa. Amen.
(P.S. Fr. Mario Masangcay, CSsR is a Filipino Redemptorist Missionary who worked with & for our Filipino Migrant Families and Workers in Gwangju Archdiocese in South Korea.)