First Sunday of Lent Year C
February 17, 2013


No less than the Lord Himself was tempted … not once, not twice, but thrice! This is a story we hear each year, always on the first Sunday of Lent, such as today. If you went to Mass last Ash Wednesday, you would remember the reminder: “Remember man, that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return!” That reminder, of course, is but one of several, including: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

Reminders! … This is what and who we are as believers. We are a people of the reminder, a people of the memorial! This Eucharistic celebration, as you know, is an anamnesis – a memorial that, at one and the same time, looks back and looks towards the future.

What do we look back to? Let the first reading remind us … Like the Jews of old, we were once aliens living in a foreign land. We were (and still are!) sinners, who were once enslaved by sin, exiled … far from home. Don’t we all remember a time when we are under the clutches of selfishness, of greed, of pride and of envy? Don’t we all remember the many occasions we felt enslaved by our passions, by our lust, and by our self-seeking desires? The first reading calls us to remembrance and admission: Having set the gifts before the Lord, “you shall bow down in his presence.”

What do we look forward to? What do we acclaim? What do we proclaim? St. Paul, too, offers us a clue: “For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

I am old enough to realize that there is a connection between admitting and acclaiming. It is hard to acclaim or proclaim something that one has not fully admitted, let alone, accepted. We saw it in our recent history. Otherwise good clergymen and respectable lay people, who are capable preachers and teachers, remained conspicuously silent on certain raging issues. They were nowhere to be found when the going went tough. Their voices were not heard. They were absent from the arena of battle. Could it be that they have not fully admitted and accepted the unalloyed and full teaching of the Church? Could they be because they have really been cherry picking what they wanted to subscribe to, and believe? Or could it be that they have compromised themselves with those who espouse contrary views, for whatever reason, best known to themselves?

But there is something more that we are now called to admit and acclaim … We are all sinners. We are all prone to temptation. And we are all surrounded now by a multiplicity of temptations that we may not even consider as such.

The Good News that now awaits acknowledgment needs to be proclaimed by us, as the liturgy actually does, today. Even Jesus was tempted. And he was tempted in exactly the same ways we are tempted right now.

We are tempted to put material goods first before everything else … to turn stones into bread … to ignore or reject totally the world of the intangibles, the world of spiritual values, the world of virtues, and other spiritual goods, and replace them with all that is measurable, countable, and stockable. People buy votes and people allow their votes to be bought. People pay bribes and people allow themselves to be enslaved by bribes. Pera-pera lang yan, (It’s all about money!) as we say in this sinful country and people, the Philippines!

We are tempted, too, by power and prestige. Who does not want to be promoted, we often think to ourselves! Nothing wrong in it, per se, but just look at all the jockeying and the positioning, and all the wheeling and dealing in backroom corridors – discrete or out in the open … Everybody wants to “serve the people.” But I wonder … if there is no pork barrel, would people be falling all over themselves rushing to “serve the people?” Or it power and prestige and position that we really want?

But we are tempted, too, in a different way. We are tempted to shun personal responsibility. We are pulled by the desire to “let others do the worrying,” and not be bothered by things that have nothing to do with me. We throw all caution to the winds, eat what is not healthy, engage in risky behavior and somehow believe – or fool ourselves into believing, that “God will not allow bad things to happen to me.”

Yes, my dear friends. This is the hurting “good news” that we are faced with today. We live in a world full of temptations. That we should admit. That we should accept.

But we also live in a world of promises. We live in a world redeemed by God’s mercy. We are called to salvation. That we should acclaim. That we should proclaim. But before there can be any acclamation and proclamation, there first, ought to be an acknowledgment … 1). Confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord; 2) Bow down in his presence; 3) Man does not live by bread alone; 4) You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve; and 5) You shall not put the Lord your God, to the test.

Fair enough? Yes, “The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart!” Admit. Acclaim. Acknowledge!