1st Sunday of Lent, Year A.
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7 – Romans 5:12-19 – Matthew 4:1-11.
The season of Lent is a special time in the life of the Church. We are starting Lent with Jesus, who went into the desert for 40 days, and we are going to go through a desert experience with Him. In Lent, our eyes are especially focused on Jesus as we journey with him, reflecting on who He is and the mission which He came into the world to accomplish. As we do that, the Church calls us reflect upon who we are, where we come from, what God wants of us, where we have got to now and where he wants us to go from here. We pray that we will use these 40 days favourably, both to deepen our relationship with God and also to come to know more deeply His love for us.
Who are we? The First Reading takes us to the story of the our “beginnings”. It is the astonishing story of the creation of the oneness of body, mind, soul and spirit in each of our first parents, Adam and Eve. It is also the story of how the sin of Adam and Eve caused humanity’s fall from grace.
God made us so beautifully! The word of God says, “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” I just love this image from the Scriptures because it underlines the loving involvement of God in forming man with whom He could have a relationship. I imagine the sheer tenderness of God in moulding man and insufflating – breathing life – into his special creature with a body, mind, soul and spirit. It’s jaw-dropping! It’s overwhelming! Each and every individual from that point on is uniquely and wonderfully made by God. He is the Creator, and our parents are pro-creators with Him. Oh, when I look at the heavens the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you care for him and keep him in mind? (Ps. 8:3-4). It’s amazing when we stop and think about how much God loves each one of us with such devotion and in such an extraordinarily special way.
The dark side of the story, however, is that humanity (represented by our first parents Adam and Eve) rewarded the love of God by disobeying His command. Humanity wanted to be on a par with God and make decisions accordingly. This aspect of the story communicates how each one of us is blighted by the wound of original sin. Sin is unfortunately part of who we are. As Rom 3:23 states, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. We are all only too well aware that we are sinners. We all have flaws and burdens, and those of other people are often easier to see than our own. Our daily experience evidences that to each one of us. Sin happened because, at some point, humanity betrayed its trust in God. Nonetheless, we recognize that we are God’s special children. Thanks be to God who loves us beyond measure, He didn’t abandon us. Although sin erected a barrier of imperfection between us and the perfection of God, He didn’t allow our sinfulness to bring an end to divine history. That is the beautiful truth of our lives! God loves us so much that he will never abandon us to sin. That is why God in his mercy sent Jesus Christ to set us free.
Let us focus on Jesus the God-Man, fully God and fully man, who has come to lead us to victory through the wilderness of sin. Jesus is truly the Son of God (as the devil confessed during the temptations), the Second Person of the Trinity, the Word through Whom everything was created; and Jesus is truly the Son of Man, fully human, ‘an ordinary bloke’, tempted as we are, one of us. In Jesus, we have a new creation where divinity meets humanity again in love. That is why we need to understand the gospel in terms of redefining who we are, because in Jesus, we have been re-Created … ‘re-born’, if you will. Jesus changed the story of humanity in and through Himself because He has the power to do all things; He literally can do everything. St. Paul referred to Him as the Second Adam, the New Adam: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man, the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”
Jesus sets us free! The outcome of the temptation narrative gives us hope and genuine expectation that we too can overcome our personal demons, that we too can win through by total reliance on Jesus, in combination with personal resolve to follow his example. Because Jesus was victorious over the devil – because he resisted and overcame worldly temptations – it means that we too have the capacity to overcome the temptations that afflict us. This is the objective of our 40-day journey into the wilderness with Jesus.
My dear brothers and sisters: because of Jesus, we who were sinners have been made righteous. We are Children of God who once were estranged from God in our disobedience and sin, but who now through Jesus have received the grace of salvation. With Jesus by our side this Lent, we can spring-clean our bodies, minds, souls and spirits; we can reject sin and overcome the temptations to which we fall prey. May God, by his grace, help us to make the journey successfully through our Lenten observance of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Amen. God bless you.