First Sunday of Lent
March 5, 2017
Reading 1GN 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Responsorial PsalmPS 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Reading 2 ROM 5:12-19
Verse Before The GospelMT 4:4B
Homily— March 4 & 5, 2017
The delightful myths of the first chapters of Genesis offer profound meditations on the meaning of human life and its travails. “Myth” is a genre of literature which depicts a truth that goes deeper than mere facts. Myth uses story to illuminate timeless meaning. Thus, while it is highly unlikely that Adam and Eve and the serpent wandered around Eden talking to each other, the story’s depiction of human vulnerability to temptation and deception, our tendency to rebel and wreak havoc in relationships, tells us profound truths about who we are.
As the story opens, we see life as it was intended to be. God had created the world with delightful and nourishing plants and had blown divine breath into human creatures so that they share the very life of God. All relationships moved in harmony: people with one another, human beings with creation and creatures with their life-giving God. Adam and Eve knew and could thoroughly enjoy where they fit in relation to everything.
Enter doubt in the guise of the questioning serpent. “Isn’t God a bit arbitrary? Why aren’t you allowed to eat the fruit of the trees?” Eve passes the first test admirably as she contradicts the deceitful exaggeration: “We can eat fruit. . .it’s only about the tree in the middle that God said you shall not eat it or even touch it.” Imitating the serpent, Eve added that last phrase on her own. God hadn’t said anything about not touching the tree. Was that what let the serpent know how gullible she was? If she could believe that touching the tree would lead to death, perhaps she’d believe something even more fantastic! So the snake went on sowing distrust: “God is afraid of you, jealous that you might become just as powerful! Eat it and you’ll see.”
Eve took the bait and shared it with her mate. Forgetting that she and Adam were already created in the divine image, they took God for their rival instead of their source of life. They abandoned the dance of creature with Creator for a wrestling match they could never win. They exposed themselves as trying to be what they were not and were suddenly so ashamed that they had to hide. The myth of the Fall explores human rebellion against “creatureliness” the self-destructive drive for autonomy that infects history and wreaks havoc throughout God’s creation.
Temptation. Even the word itself is alluring, glamorous, enticing. Although we usually think of temptation as something bad we also are tempted to do good things, to go beyond what we would usually do for someone in need or to cooperate with God’s plan in our lives. Maybe you are tempted to do something good during Lent!
What daily temptations do you face? Are they temptations in your mind? Do the temptations find expression in your actions? Have you turned all that you have been given by God back over to him? We sometimes find ourselves in the wilderness. The next time you face this challenge remember that Jesus went there before us and he is with you now.
Lent is not a time for us to withstand temptation alone. Rather, it is a wonderful time to get involved with others spiritually, and help each other to grow in goodness and the ability to resist temptation and come to a deeper realization of what our baptism entails. We are baptized into a community—the Body of Christ. With our common identity in Christ, helping another resist temptation is, in effect, helping ourselves grow, helping ourselves to be transformed into more perfect members of Christ’s Body.
Jesus, like Moses in Exodus 24:18, takes a journey of forty days into the wilderness. Why forty days? Forty is a symbolic number in the bible. Forty days or forty years allow for sufficient time to pass so that something new can appear.
Jesus is tested in the wilderness. This test is essentially the very same one that we all have to pass if we are to assume a position of power in our own lives whether as a husband or wife, a parent, a leader of any kind.
Jesus is asked to deny who he truly is: the Son of God. Will we claim our identity as God’s very own, acknowledging our true identity as human beings who are made in the image of God?
Jesus is told he can be the source of great signs and wonders. Will we forsake our desire for fame and adulation, and instead live a life of humility focused on service?
Jesus is told he will be given all the power and glory of the world’s kingdoms. Will we be able to resist the power inherent in greed, lust, vengeance and all the glamor the world offers?
Jesus was able to say no to the temptations in his life and I can only imagine how many there must have been as the people and his disciples kept failing to understand him. May we turn to Jesus to help us say no to the temptations that look good but in reality after we give in to the thought, word or action they leave us feeling guilt and shame and frustrated and regret. Thank you Jesus for your patience and continued forgiveness which we do not deserve.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen