Luke 4:1-13, First Sunday of Lent
Mang Rod, our gardener, told me a story about his former boss—a tremendously wealthy and single matron who went to daily mass and was active in the parish. “Pero wala pong nagtatagal na kasambahay o driver kay senyora,” Mang Rod said. “Walang kasing talim ang dila, Father.” He remembered one morning the matron came home. She blew the car-horn for the huge gates to be opened. The kasambahay came running. She opened one gate. But as she was going for the other, the first one came swinging back and almost hit the car; didn’t actually hit it. Whereupon the senyora alit from the car and gave the kasambahay the worst tongue-lashing of her life, right there on the driveway. Mang Rod finally said, “Father, nasa kanya na po ang lahat, ano pa gusto niya? Galing pa naman siyang misa no’n!”
Then we also hear about men who have good wives, good children, a good family, a decent life. But on the low-down, they’re flirting and trysting with a mistress. Some still belong to their high school barkada, and they’d go out every month to be…“bachelors again.” Related to this, we’ve also heard of clergy who live like bachelors again, but on the down-low, once in a while, when no one’s looking.
On a larger scale, we have magnates on a mall-building rampage, blithely killing small businesses everywhere. Alongside of that, they connive with equally wealthy mayors who profit from all sides of the deal, including that side where honest and hard-earned salaries of tax-payers are involved.
Don’t you find it interesting, sisters and brothers, that the first-ever temptation and the first-sin arose from a condition of abundance, from a condition of blessings? Remember how Adam and Eve were given everything, lavished with creation, given sovereignty over the creatures…but they wanted more, remember? That’s the classic temptation that made humanity fall once upon a time, and still makes us fall today: that despite being blessed already, despite having more than enough already, and enjoying privilege and power, influence and affluence already, we want more: more money for our bank accounts, more excitation for our senses, more attractiveness for our bodies, more hubris for our egos. So we berate a kasambahay. We toy with sex and infidelity. We steal, we lie, we rage and defy. (And if you’re an Atenean, we brag!) In other words, there is something “original” in our worst temptations and darkest sins: that despite the “much” that we already have and enjoy and are—like Adam and Eve—we want more. The tempting is the same ever.
So, we fall.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in the desert, a place of nothingness. He is hungry. He is alone. But as it was in the beginning and today, temptation remains the same in that desert. You could almost hear the devil say: “Hey, Son of God, you’ve multiplied bread. Turn these stones into bread!” More gratification for our appetites. “Hey, Son of God, I’ll give you all these if you do it my way.” More property, more security regardless of whom we worship. “Hey, Son of God, you could walk on water and calm storms. Throw yourself over the cliff; get your angels to come flying to you.” More hubris, bigger ego, more bragging rights.
But in the heart of the desert where Jesus had nothing and no one, he said, “No. I have enough. I have more than enough. I am blest with more than just bread alone. I have a Father whom I honor and who loves me, and he has never let me down. I am surrounded with enough angels in my life, my family, my friends. They keep me up and keep me going. So, thanks; but no, thanks.”
As we go through the season of Lent, sisters and brothers, let us be aware of the original temptation beneath all our serious sinning—our wanting to have more than we’ve already been lavished with. And knowing that, maybe we can accompany Jesus in his desert. In the midst of nothingness, and say a prayer of thanksgiving. Because we have been given so much, including a Son who would give everything if only to gain us. And you can almost hear the Lord say, “I need nothing more. I have you.”