February 26, 2023 – First Sunday of Lent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/022623.cfm)
“What would you do if your boss offers you big amount of money and promises you a high-paying and much better job position, if you only betray your innocent supervisor and bear false witness against him in court for money-laundering?”, a priest once asked his three friends.
The first friend answered, “No, I will not take the money and the tempting offer.” The priest said, “You are foolish stupid man.” The second friend retorted, “Well, Yes, I will take the offer. I will not waste such remarkable opportunity.” The priest said, “You are devious crook”. The third friend replied, “Well, I really don’t know what to do? Will I overcome my evil inclinations? OR, Will my evil inclinations overcome me to claim for myself 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 not accept the money and offer of my corrupted boss. The priest then said, “You are right, and you are a good wise man.”
Everytime we pray the Lord ’s Prayer “Our Father”, we specifically ask the Lord to lead us not into temptation. This is because in our experience, temptations are very real in life. Dealing with temptations that comes our way – always challenging and testing our faith, values, and principles in life, is part and parcel of our daily struggles. Nobody among us here can claim that we are never been tempted or burdened by temptations in life. Each one of us in one way or another, had dealt, has been dealing and still dealing with a few temptations in our day lives.
Perhaps we may somehow have three options in dealing with life-temptations: We may Get-rid, Get-into, or Get-through temptations in life.
First, we may Get rid of life-temptations. Whenever confronted with temptations, here we may resist, fight with, and fly from these temptations. In overcoming our evil inclinations and life-temptations, here we do it on our own. The priest called the first friend as stupid and foolish man because he chooses to deal with (get rid of) temptation on his own. He doesn’t know himself – believing that he is strong enough to resist and deal with temptation on his own. No one, maybe except Jesus, has ever overpowered 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. Getting rid of temptations is a stupid and foolish option.
Second, we may Get into the temptations. Whenever confronted, we just get into and allow ourselves to submit and be overcome by temptations itself. We do nothing ourselves but be corrupted by temptations – hurting not only others but also ourselves along the way. The priest called the second friend an opportunistic criminal because he opts to get into temptations – willingly claim what he is not due him, and 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 and glory. Getting into temptation is a crooked criminal approach to temptation.
Third, we may Get through of temptations in life. Here whenever we are confronted with temptations in life, we willingly face and struggle along with these temptations – aware that on our own we are weak and limited, but also we steadfastly believe in God’s power with us to overcome such temptations. 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 amid temptations, he will be strong enough to do what is right and his part. 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 in God’s help. Getting through temptations is a good and wise option.
Easy for us indeed to fall into temptations. The biggest problem in dealing 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 in 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 not only in our strength but in God’s help and power.
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 Jesus, if we are wise enough to be God-centered to acknowledge and ask for, and rely on God’s help and strength, we surely can overcome evils and temptations in others as well as within ourselves.
Notice Satan mainly tempts us in life in order to prove to God that we don’t care about God and others but only care about ourselves. Temptations usually happen then whenever we only selfishly care about ourselves, not about God and others. But through our faith and reliance in God’s help and power over temptations, we prove Satan wrong and proclaim our Love and Care for God and others.
In praying then to God not to lead us into temptations, we pray to God to guide us through not in getting rid or getting into but in getting through life-temptations because we care not about ourselves, but we care more about God and others in life.
Father, lead us then not into temptation.