First Sunday of Lent Year C
February 14, 2016


Today is one of those days, like Christmas Day and Fiesta days in the Philippines, when it is so hard to preach. It is Valentine’s Day, and the highly commercialized and media-crazed world has managed to catapult Valentine’s Day to the equivalent of a “solemnity” in the Roman Catholic Church. Woe to me if I do not preach! Woe to me if I at least don’t make mention of the day of hearts.

And I am not talking yet about the monstrous traffic that will take place all over the cities all day and a good part of the night.

But I need to preach in season, and out of season. But whilst being fashionable and in season is a requirement for us worldly men and women, God’s love knows no times and seasons. God’s mercy knows no bounds, and God’s call is eternal. The first readings from Deuteronomy tells us this much …  God called Abraham. God called Moses and the Chosen People. When God loves, He does not withdraw such love. “When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed [them] [they] cried to the Lord, and He heard [their] cry.”

Such love and compassion, Scripture further tells us, were never limited to those whom He originally called. “No one who believes in Him will be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him.”

We are, for all intents and purposes, a pampered people. And pampered people do have a sense of entitlement. We expect much. We expect highly. And we make demands, too, on God.

I believe that this, too, is among the side stories of the Gospel account of the three temptations of Christ. The story must be so important and so indicative of our nature as human beings that we hear the same story every year, on the first Sunday of Lent.

It is all too easy for us to treat it as the story of Christ being tempted by the devil, and our tendency is to see ourselves apart from it, like as if our lives did not have anything to do with the story of Christ’s temptation.

But Scripture, for it to be meaningful for us, is meant to be a message of God for each and everyone of us, here and now, and for all women and men, of all times and places.

Simply put, the story of the three temptations of Christ, is also the story of our own temptations right where we are, in these present times. They tell us about our own unrealistic, mistaken, and much too high expectations from God, in exactly the same way the devil expected wrongly from Christ.

We do have not only unrealistic, but downright mistaken expectations from God. Richard Viladesau speaks about three “misunderstandings” of Jesus’ mission that involve some kind of “ultrasupernaturalism,” which he defines as a desire for God to intervene in history in a “miraculous” way all the time.

Students do not do their scholastic duties, but at the end of the term, they expect God to help them pass the course …

Men drink themselves sick, and when sickness worsens, they expect God to “cure” them of their rotting livers and kidneys …

People vote for nincompoops, incompetent and corrupt leaders, but highly expect God to help them make their country a livable place to live in – with justice and equity for all …

We all contribute to the destruction of our only home – the earth – but when disaster strikes as they inevitably would due to wanton and careless use and abuse of the earth’s  resources, we beg the Lord for “good weather” and deliverance from calamities.

We beg the Lord to “deliver us from temptation,” but we bring ourselves literally lead ourselves to the occasions of sin …

We complain about  drug lords, but look who’s supplying jueteng lords with all the cash? One of them has boasted recently that his earnings total a minimum of 25 million a day!

Yes, dear friend. We expect bread and more – in exchange for stones! We expect highly and wrongly to wield power, in exchange of worshipping and kowtowing to whatever the leader of the cult says, or in exchange of favors and juicy positions in government or government controlled organizations and companies. (Did you ever ask why on earth SSS has so many Vice Presidents and Board Directors earning millions of pesos in emoluments and additional sums for attending meetings?)

And let me go on … we expect miracles! We expect God to do for us what we ought to be doing for ourselves. We avoid self-responsibility and demand that God does for us what we claim we cannot do. And so, we throw ourselves down from the parapet of self-responsibility and right choices, and then expect God to come to our rescue.

But I have good news for you today!

God does come to our rescue. He does give us bread – and more! He gives bread that leads to eternal life. He gives us power – the power of choice. He gives us the possibility, not simply to expect highly, but also to choose rightly. He gives us mercy and compassion – such that when we throw all caution to the winds and throw ourselves to sinfulness and selfishness, God comes down to forgive us, to heal us of the worst form of woundedness.

He is mercy. He is justice. He is compassion. He is love – beyond what the world can imagine!

Expect highly, yes … but aim rightly! Aim for God, not any other that is less than Him … stale bread … useless power … limited wealth.