More! – Arnel Aquino, SJ

Matthew 4:1-11, First Sunday of Lent

If we still believe that Genesis 3 is a literal story of moment number one of sin number one, how do we account for the following difficulties, like – did snakes really talk in the beginning of time? Why was the snake malicious if God created everything good? If Adam and Eve were really our first ever biological parents, how did their children populate the earth? By inbreeding? And was the guy who wrote the story privy to an eye witness of moment-one of sin-one back in a place called Eden?

Sisters and brothers, maybe Genesis 3 was not meant to be historical. Maybe it was meant to be confessional. It admits how our sin often begins not so much from a state of dearth, but from a state of abundance, largesse, blessings! Adam and Eve were given the entire creation to not only survive but also thrive. Pero ‘di pa sila nasiyahan. ‘Di pa nakontento. They capitulated to their inner snake that tempted them to want more, and get more, and be more…now. Never mind the Law. “You will be like gods…” now! And this, in spite of having and enjoying pretty much everything.

This is familiar to us, sisters and brothers. Despite being blessed with so much already, whether financially, professionally, relationally, spiritually, even physically—something trips in our wiring and makes us want more; more stuff, more sensual gratification, more excitement and novelty, more money, more power and control and sense of superiority. We want it so bad, we reach a point where we couldn’t care less what we violate, or worse, whom we victimize.

No, it’s not a sin to want more out of life. In things like emotional maturity, intra-/interpersonal integration, spiritual depth, a decent living, we should be driven towards the more. Ignatius even had a word for it, ‘di ba? Magis. We all have a God-given drive towards the better, the higher, the greater (which is really the reflection of our Creator in us). We really are walking and breathing “trees of life” that bear abundant fruit! Strangely and sadly, up that tree slithers the temptation to shortcut to the better, higher, and greater; to expedite the process, regardless of violating the law and violating people. Already powerful leader of a huge nation, invade pa, more! Already owners of wealthy industries, cartel and smuggling pa,more! Already in the judiciary with two million annually, pasuhol pa, more! Already blessed with a good wife, happy kids, a good job, sumasakabilang-bahay pa, more! Already a respected and feared administrator, teacher, priest, naninigaw, nanghihiya, nanunumbat pa, more! So, Genesis 3 may be an old and simple story. But the fact which it mirrors is still ever-present and very complex story: that our deepest, darkest, most damaging sins do not grow out of humble beginnings. No, we breed them from the rich soil of blessings from God. But for some strange reason, takot na tako tayo na baka maubusan, maungusan, malaos, mamulubi. So, we become ravenous, greedy, self-indulgent, and through all this, victimizing, invalidating, and cruel.

The devil knew that Jesus had everything: (a) he was Son of God, (b) he wielded miraculous powers, (c) he was authoritative in word and deed, which scared the dickens out of the hierarchs. So, the devil slithered up this “tree of life” and tempted him: to gratify more (pakabusog ka!), to prove himself more (invincible ka? Talon!), and to control more (exploit people’s needs and become their king!) “Now na! Ano pang hinihintay mo?Now na!”

And Jesus said, “No na. When I get home, my mom will have warm bread for me to end my fast. I have enough friends in my life who I know will catch me when I fall. I’m happy to show and tell people that it’s God who reigns, not priests or kings. So, no, thanks.”

Kelan nga ba tayo naubusan ng biyaya, ‘di ba? Kahit nga ‘yung mga nanay sa Navotas, Payatas, Bagong Silangan, kahit walang-wala na, lagi pa ring sabi: “Naku, sa kabila ng aming kahirapan, hindi pa rin kami pinababayaan ng Nasa Itaas.” Kaya imbis na maging sakim tayo at mapagsamantala sa takot nating maubusan ng biyaya, tulong na lang kaya tayo sa mga talagang nauubusan, kasi nga, inuubusan sila ng mga nananamantala at sakim? In the desert of nothingness, Jesus fasted for 40 days and nights. He was hungry, alone, defenseless to nature’s forces. Still, feeling richly blessed and believing he had more than enough, he gave of what he had. So, people got a better shot at life, those who had next to nothing and no one to turn to but him.

I share with you the three-fold penance that Fr. Munching gave me last Ash Wednesday. I realize now it can be an effective way of tempering the serpent of our covetousness. “Chip, first of all, be grateful to God for all the blessings you enjoy. Then, pray for healing—for yourself and for people you might have hurt along the way. Lastly, pray for strength. Without God’s grace, we’re vulnerable.” Pray with gratitude. Ask for healing. Beg for strength.

“Then, the devil left Jesus, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.”

*image from the Internet

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