Temptation & Redemption

By Karina Barillas 
February 21, 2021

In other parts of the world, today is known as the day of temptations. There are religious and cultural myths and beliefs that warn people about the devil being “loose” and warn you about his power to make us sin or to create catastrophes, either personal or within our families. 

For some people and religious leaders, Lent is a very effective time to build fear, control and uncertainty. I have heard something like “you are a sinner, and you cannot control your temptations”. 

“Look at Jesus, He was tempted as well, but He is God, and He was stronger than the devil. … By the way, you are not stronger than the devil, so repent, and humble yourself, or you will go to hell.” 

Today I come with an invitation, an invitation to another idea of Lent and what temptations mean. Maybe St. Mark is inviting us to look at what is around us and the ways that we get tempted to be indifferent, cruel, judgmental, envious and self-righteous … and yes, to forget, to forget that there is another reality besides our own, for a lot of people not only around the world, but in our country and our city. 

Maybe the readings of today are reminding us to reflect on our relationship with God/the Universe, the people around us, and our environment. And maybe, in that reflection we are able to find the real meaning of redemption. 

Redemption, my siblings, from sin and temptations doesn’t come magically. It is a journey of realizing that we are paying too much attention to concepts used to control us. You see, as I see it in my mind, you get tempted, you sin, then you ask for forgiveness and you are forgiven and then redeemed. 

How about if we look at this chain of controlling our being with a different light — the light of Jesus, the rainbow given by God to Noah and his family, the promise of Resurrection. 

As a very devout Catholic coming to the United States, I was very worried about the temptations of the flesh. The teachings of the Church back home considered eating red meat, deeply wanting to eat that ice cream or that chocolate that I had offered to sacrifice during lent, feeling lazy and not wanting to go to church on Sunday, were at the time, the top 3 in my list. 

A very wise priest once told me that what I believed was temptation or a sin, were ideas instilled in my mind so I would forget what really matters, the real sins, the greatest of temptations. The greatest of temptations is to forget the hundreds of children being in cages and still separated from their parents. The greatest of temptations is to pretend homeless people in the streets of Louisville do not exist. The greatest of temptations is to give a blind eye to the suffering of martyrs like Diana Ortiz and Oscar Romero. 

The greatest of temptations is to care less about the lives of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other martyrs to the Black Lives Matter Movement. 

The greatest of temptations is to forget that we are in a global pandemic and be indifferent to the risk that immigrant families face to go out to work BECAUSE being at home is not an option IT IS a privilege, because the choice includes to stay home and die and go out to work and die. 

The greatest of temptations is to forget to see the face of Jesus, his sacrifice, and his love in those ones around us, even that family member that we don’t like or the relative who supports hate and discrimination. 

So, I wonder, would we be able to see the rainbow of Noah, and the promise of God, as the dream of a new world? A new world where there is no more hunger, a new world where there is no more racism, a new world where all of us see each other lovingly and compassionately. 

Maybe that’s what Lent is all about — dreaming such a new world. Like Pope Francis has said, “Let us dream together.” May it be so. 

In 35 days we will be celebrating the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wonder, would we be able to look at each other … and say: 

“We are here Lord, we haven’t forgotten our siblings, we refuse to be tempted by Capitalism and Indifference. We are here Lord, working and dreaming of that new world with You, Pope Francis and all the saints and martyrs in our lifetime.”

May we love the unlovable. May our faith community dream on! For this I pray.

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