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The Word, The Truth

Remaining Faithful to God’s Word, Jesus Christ

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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Lent-1, 05 March 2017
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7//Romans 5:12-19//Matthew 4:1-11

Our Filipino translation of this Sunday’s Gospel used a very precise word in referring to the devil as “diyablo” in St. Matthew’s account of the Temptation of Jesus Christ. Our word “diyablo” is from the Spanish “diablo” which is originally from the Greek “diabolos” that literally means “slanderous”. The Greek prefix “dia” indicates division like “diameter”; hence, gossiping, whether orally or digitally like trolls, is literally diabolic in nature because it “slanders” or divides people with untruthful claims and stories. Likewise, every temptation is also diabolic in the truest sense because that is when the devil splits our minds to confuse us on what is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad. Every temptation by the devil is always an issue against the primacy of God in our lives. And the more we strive to get closer to God, the more we try to be good and holy persons, the more the devil works hard for us to abandon God. Every year the first Sunday of Lent is always the story of the temptation of Jesus Christ to help us remain faithful to our baptismal vows of rejecting the devil, his deceptions and works of evil.
The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply, “It is written: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt.4:3-4)

The first temptation of the devil is for us to always doubt God, His presence and His power in the world so that we would always take “short cuts” in life. Every day, the temptation to “command these stones become loaves of bread” echoes loudly or subtly not only in the halls of many civil and private organizations but right in our minds and hearts when we prefer to go on our own ways than God’s ways because He is “nowhere” or too slow in responding. We want things to get done right away as in “now na!” as the young people would demand. We choose the easiest and shortest route in coming up with solutions to many problems, whether national or personal like poverty, crime, and marital infidelity. Too often, we feel God so far from us, even indifferent to our needs because He does not manifest Himself to us clearly like material things that are tangible and most of all, easily available like bread. But history and data from all over the world show that “turning stones into loaves of bread” can only offer temporary solutions that in the long run have spawned more complex and serious problems and side effects. Wars, depopulation, economic disasters, medical debacles, AIDS, pollution, climate change and a host of other issues the world is facing today are examples of how man have disregarded God and His word. On the personal level, look back at those times we have insisted on our ideas and convictions, on our own ways and methods that have instead made life miserable for us, from our love life to our professional life.

Today Jesus is reminding us that indeed, there are so many things in life that need not be tangible like bread. He is inviting us to always trust God and His words, to be enveloped by His mystery of hiddenness and obscurity because as we search for Him, something more profound happens inside us wherein we mature and become better persons, more loving and merciful that are the qualities needed to address the problems of the world. Having more things would not erase hunger and crimes, correct economic imbalances, or address other social problems. It is human with natural heart full of love and concern for others who would really solve any problem in the world because he/she becomes the presence of God.

“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “Again it is written, You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” (Mt.4:6-7)

After doubting God and His power and presence, the devil then tempts us to challenge or even dare God with His own words. Here, the temptation is not to have instant answers or solutions to problems but to twist God’s word for our own convenience. Worst, we dare to put God on trial by using His very words against Himself! Again, that diabolic line “for it is written” echoes aloud or subtly in so many places when we try to justify our own beliefs and points of view. What is scandalous here is in how in the name of religion the word of God is used to justify all the inanities and absurdities of some people, from justification of death penalty as well as of wars and protection of nations. God’s word is meant to bring us all together and not apart, to foster life and not death. How sad and unfortunate that there are religious leaders including clergymen who bend the very words of God just to advance their own thinking and agenda, even political ideas that clearly indicate their deviation from God in the first place.

Then the devil took Jesus up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate and worship me.” At this Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Mt.4:8-10)

After tempting us to doubt God and His words, then challenging, even daring God by using His very words, the devil’s final temptation is for us to “play God.” This was the devil’s ploy that led to the Fall when the serpent cast doubts on God’s words to the woman with the following lines from our first reading: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden? You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” (Gen. 3:1,4-5) Perhaps, that temptation that “you will be like gods” is the devil’s “top rated” strategy in misleading so many people into sins and miseries because it feeds on man’s vanity. Remember Al Pacino at the ending of the movie “Devil’s Advocate”, saying, “vanity is my favorite sin”? It must be true because each of these temptations is just a hairline from each other that most of the time, falling into one is ultimately when we play and pretend as god.
The story of the temptation of Jesus Christ reminds us about the reality of the presence of evil in the world especially in our own time where the devil is really working so hard. But the good news is that in Christ’s coming and through His pasch, God has become more present in our world that St. Paul could boldly proclaim “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” (Rom.5:20) May the Lord “lencten” your fidelity in His words this week!

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

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Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

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