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Flee and pray

The story is told about a man who sought advice from a priest regarding 12 pairs of branded walking shoes that he had looted from a store after a recent fire. To return them is quite impossible already, so perhaps he should just give them away, the priest advised him. But just before they parted, unable to resist the temptation, the priest asked the man: “By the way, do you have a size 7?”

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In today’s Gospel (Mk. 1, 12-15), we hear of how Jesus was tempted in the desert for 40 days. “He was among wild beasts, and angels ministered to Him.” We all have “wild beasts” that attack and tempt us. That is a reality! But we are not alone in our struggles. God is present, too, in our darkest and weakest moments. That, too, is a reality! In every temptation we encounter, we can choose to succumb to the evil one, or we can seek refuge in our powerful, loving God.

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It’s not as if we have no choice or are helpless in the face of sin. Didn’t the Lord say that His Grace is sufficient for us? Didn’t He also assure us that He will not allow us to be tempted beyond our capacity? We fall because we choose to operate on our own, and refuse to cooperate with the grace of God.

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The key to a meaningful Lenten observance is humility. We turn back to God in humility, acknowledging our sinfulness and our need for Him. All our fasting, abstinence, prayers and devotions, if not done in humility, become empty practices done more out of self-gratification or manipulation. The bottom line is that we all are sinners, we need God, and we all need conversion. Period!

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Humility should move us to reach out and to serve our brothers and sisters. We go beyond our comfort zones and into the “peripheries,” and there humbly bring the reality of God’s love. We, who have been forgiven much, in turn love much, in gratitude and in humility.

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Last Ash Wednesday, I officiated at the Mass for the Association of Nutritionists and Dieticians of the Philippines. Quite timely, I should say, because Lent is all about dieting (i.e., doing away with or reducing our selfish inclinations) and nutrition (i.e., putting on and increasing our spirit of love and service).

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Speaking of nutrition, we highly recommend BEER especially during the Lenten season. B is for Bible—feast on God’s word; E is for Eucharist—indulge in Jesus’ real presence in our midst; E is for Expressions of love—splurge on prayer and good deeds; and R is for Rosary—savor Mama Mary’s presence in our midst. Mag-BEER muna tayo!

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Think about this:

“Walk away from arguments that lead you to anger and nowhere; walk away from people who deliberately put you down; walk away from any thought that reduces your worth; walk away from the failures and fears that stifle your dreams.”

And if we may add, just walk away from temptations that can deceive, entice and trap you. Amen! “Flee, and pray!” This is what our Novice Master taught us to do whenever we are tempted. He also told us not to tarry, for time is of the essence, and not to give an inch, for an inch can easily become a foot, then a meter, and before we know it, we have been conquered.

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Let us pray that the Lenten season will be a time for real soul-searching and renewal, especially among our leaders who affect so many of our people by their decisions, actions, or inactions. May the Holy Spirit enlighten their minds and hearts. “May the darkness of sin and the night of unbelief vanish before the light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace. And may the heart of Jesus live in the hearts of all” (St. Arnold Janssen).

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Sharing with you this “Prayer of a Public Servant” with the hope that our government officials and public servants will read it, pray it, and be inspired by it:

“Almighty and eternal God, I praise and thank You for calling me to serve Your people. Give me Your anointing and help me not to seek power or position but rather make me a vessel of Your grace to touch the life of our people and seek to be worthy of Your love. Lord, mold me to Your heart. Use me as a channel of Your compassion. Help me to be worthy of Your trust that I may be an instrument of peace and hope to everyone. Give me courage to be an agent of change, to achieve our dream of transformation.

Finally, we ask You to heal our land and to restore faith and righteousness in our nation. This I ask in the mighty Name of Jesus. Amen!”

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In our journey to God’s heart, let us remember that our prayers and promises can move God’s heart, but it is our sincere efforts that will really make Him smile!

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Whenever we go through a desert, let us not forget that God is with us in the loneliest and in the most arid deserts of our lives, and that, as He promised, He will never desert us.

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Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on “The Difference between Adult Care and Geriatric Care” at Tuklong Hall, Christ the King Seminary, E. Rodriguez Avenue, Quezon City, on Feb. 28, 9 a.m.-12 noon. For inquiries, please call 373-2262/998-2548 or 0917-416-7849.

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A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to flee and pray whenever temptations come my way. Amen!

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TAGS: Bantay Matanda, Humility, Lent, praying, Temptation
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