Concupiscence

2nd Sunday of Lent [A]
March 5, 2023
Matthew 17:1-9

Lenten Season is characterized with acts of penance as well as intensified spiritual exercises like fasting and almsgiving. One of the purposes of these activities is to strengthen our spiritual muscles against the weaknesses of the soul or ‘concupiscence’, that is a tendency to fall into sins due to our wounded nature. Yet, why do still have this weakness if we have been redeemed? St. Paul in his letter to Timothy emphatically says, “… the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus, who destroyed death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Tim 1:10).”

I must admit that we are dealing with mystery of faith. Like other mysteries, the reality of redemption as well as the presence of concupiscence are a reality, but the reasons behind these realities remain largely hidden because these truths are greater than our minds’ capacity. However, it does not mean that we are clueless. Through her theologians and saints, the Church has reflected on the matter for two thousand years, and taught that the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle (CCC 405).

The presence of concupiscence opens up an opportunity for us to exercise the virtues and to grow in holiness through the practice of spiritual exercises. Thus, even though concupiscence remains after baptism, it is not an insurmountable obstacle to living a holy life, and in fact make our journey a lot more meaningful. With the help of God’s grace, we can resist their disordered desires and grow in holiness.

In today’s gospel, we hear that Jesus was transfigured in the mountain. For Peter, John and James, this was an ecstatic experience overflowing with joy. They did not want to lose this elating experience, and thus, Peter proposed to build tents so that they could stay longer up on the mountain. But, Jesus did not stay long in His divine state, but summoned his disciples to go down and follow Him. Where? After transfiguration, Jesus set His eyes to Jerusalem where His suffering and death awaited. Jesus understood well, ‘there is no resurrection without the cross.’ Concupiscence is one of our crosses here on earth, and it becomes a means to holiness.

One good friend of mine once asked me, “Why did God allow concupiscence to remain in our soul? It could have been better and easier for us if concupiscence had been removed during baptism.” The point was clearly taken. I can imagine that without concupiscence, I would not have to deal with many temptations. Life would be much easier, and the world would be a better place because people would no longer commit evil things out of selfish interests. However, our first parents still sinned even without concupiscence. The absence of concupiscence does not automatically prevent us from falling into sin. In fact, the moment we sin out of our total freedom and without the influence of concupiscence, we will fall extremely hard, just like Adam and Eve. Perhaps to prevent us from experiencing what our first parents had suffered, God allows concupiscence to remain.

Eventually, we still face the mystery, but we believe that even the presence of concupiscence is ultimately for our good.

Rome
Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

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