Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
The disciples had forgotten to bring bread,
and they had only one loaf with them in the boat.
Jesus enjoined them, “Watch out,
guard against the leaven of the Pharisees
and the leaven of Herod.”
They concluded among themselves that
it was because they had no bread.
When he became aware of this he said to them,
“Why do you conclude that it is because you have no bread?
Do you not yet understand or comprehend?
Are your hearts hardened?
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear?
And do you not remember,
when I broke the five loaves for the five thousand,
how many wicker baskets full of fragments you picked up?”
They answered him, “Twelve.”
“When I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand,
how many full baskets of fragments did you pick up?”
They answered him, “Seven.”
He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”
I. THEME: We need to live our faith in life.
Faith isn’t only about knowledge of God but also application of these knowledge in life. If we don’t live what we believe, faith is merely knowledge and doesn’t have any benefit for us (Jam 2:14). For examples, if we believe what God said about His providence, we shouldn’t be worried so much about food, drink and clothes. Or if we believe that the most important task to do in life is to work for the salvation of souls, we should spend much time for learning and proclaiming of the Gospel.
Today readings emphasize the connection between knowledge and application of faith. In the first reading, the author of the Letter of James ascertained that temptation isn’t come from God and is necessary to test human faith. In the Gospel, Jesus warned his disciples: “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Even though they witnessed two miracles of multiplication of the loaves by Jesus to feed people in the desert, one for five thousand and one for four thousand, they still talked about they forgot to bring enough bread.
1/ Reading I: “Blessed is the man who endures trial.”
1.1/ God let temptations happen to people.
A. The origin of temptation: People have a tendency to attribute their sins to others or environment. For example, in the first fall of human beings, Adam attributed his sin to Eve, the woman God had created and gave to him as a companion. Eve attributed her sin to the serpent who had deceived and tempted her. The question is put out, “who is the main cause of temptation?” There are at least four different opinions.
(1) God: He created everything in the universe: angels, devils, human beings with all passion in their body. The author of the Letter of James opposed this opinion by saying: “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one.” Moreover, the author of Genesis also certified: “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31).
(2) The devil: He was the serpent that tempted Eve in the Garden, and his companions are still tempting people today. Jesus himself warned his disciples, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you” (Lk 10:18-19).
(3) The world: Those who live with us in our family and society have a great influence on our sins. For example, poverty is the cause of crimes, such as: theft, burglary, robbery and prostitution.
(4) The human flesh: People commit sins because they can’t control passion in their body. The author of James thought this was the reason of human temptation: “but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”
B. Human responsibility: God is only indirectly responsible because He creates and controls all things; but human being is a direct cause of his sinful act. God doesn’t create evil things because they are privation of good things. He can’t be the cause of sin because He is the most holy. He let evil things happen but He equipped people with wisdom to recognize dangers and freedom to choose the good from many bad ones. Temptation is necessary because it is an opportunity for human beings to show their faith and love for God. The author recognized the benefits of temptation when he wrote: “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.”
But if people don’t use wisdom to recognize dangers of temptation and fall, they are responsible for their sin and must endure corresponding punishments, as the author said: “but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”
1.2/ God is the One who bestows all good things: The author believed everythings that God creates are good, as he wrote: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of His own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.” The author emphasized God’s immovability: He never changes; the sun, the moon and the stars can be light or dark, but there is all light in God.
Human responsibility is to use all things which God created for a good purpose which God desired. In His providence, God doesn’t let people walk in darkness and fall in the traps of the three enemies (the devil, the world and their own flesh); but He gives them a source of light which is the Scripture. People must come to this source in order to recognize their temptation and to use its described way to overcome temptation. The author advised us: “Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.”
2/ Gospel: Basic temptation of human life: eating and drinking
2.1/ Disciples’ worriness: “Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed! Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.” Leaven is a piece of old flour, its purpose is to raise a new dough before baking it. A small piece of leaven can raise a big amount of flour. The Jews sometimes identify devils’ works with leaven.
(1) Pharisees’ leaven: They want to have a powerful Messiah who can work miracles and bring material gains. In yesterday reading, they came to Jesus and asked him to work miracles before they can believe in him.
(2) Herode’s leaven: He paid attention to power, fame and enjoyment. Because of these, he denied the truth and beheaded John Baptist.
When Jesus warned his disciples to guard against “the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” he wanted to say to them, “Don’t pay too much attention to material dimension as them.” Moreover, Jesus was preparing for his disciples to accept a suffering Messiah to save people.
2.2/ The disciples didn’t live their faith: Even they heard Jesus’ warning, they still didn’t understand what it meant, because they still “discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.”” Jesus must remind them more clearly: “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.””
The purpose of a miracle is to lighten up one’s faith. The disciples were enlightened twice, they still didn’t believe Jesus can multiply bread again for them to have bread to eat! This fact shows people can witness miracles but they are still lack of faith.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Faith must be in parallel with action. Faith without works is death (Jam 2:17). If we believe in God’s words, we must apply them into our life.
– Jesus’ warning, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod,” is still effective to us now; because we let worldly anxiety dominate our life instead of God’s words.