Have mercy on us, Lord, for we have sinned: A Reflection on the Readings for the First Sunday of Lent 2017

Here we are five days into our Lenten journey; today is the first Sunday of Lent. Many of us began our Lenten journey at Mass reflecting on our mortality and the need for urgent repentance through the imposition of ashes. Through God’s grace we have made it through these five days of our new Lenten penance. I thought that during these beautiful weeks that the Church provides us to fast and pray I would spend some time reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings and share some of my reflections.

Our mother Church provides us with such beautifully crafted Scriptural Readings at each and every Mass. Far from being just a random selection, each of the readings at Mass are intended to be a careful reflection on the current Church season or feast day. Even though these readings are standardized for the entire Universal Church, I cannot tell you the number of times I have opened to the daily readings to find just what I needed to hear in that particular moment in my spiritual life. I find this to be especially so during the season of Lent where all of the readings hone in on our need for repentance and total change of life.

Today’s readings are drawn from Genesis, Romans and Matthew. In the First Reading, we hear of Adam and Eve’s fall from the original state of grace at the tempting of the serpent. In the Second Reading, we hear that the one transgression which took away our life of grace came at the hands of the one man, Adam, so too does our return to grace come at the hands of one man, Jesus. In the Gospel, we hear the story of Jesus being tempted by the very same spirit that tempted Adam, however, Jesus’ response to this temptation is so very other from that of Adam. Jesus rejects the temptation to power and status and begins to undo the terrible knot tied by sin.

I find these readings particularly beautiful because in some simple way they tell us the story of our salvation. At the very beginning of time we—all of us—fell from the original grace and harmony that God had set before us. I find it can be alluring to blame Adam and Eve for taking away our original grace by their disobedience, however, how many times have we found ourselves in that very same situation—tempted and unable to resist? I feel the pull of the concupiscence EVERY SINGLE DAY. I wake up in the morning committed to living my life in a way that will honor and serve my Lord and by the end of the day I find that I have not stood up to the temptations brought before me. For example, I have been making extra efforts to be extra patient and caring to my children. At the dawn of the day, I tell myself that I will not raise my voice; I will speak with tenderness and compassion in all my interactions with my children. Then, they WAKE UP and I feel that familiar pull of concupiscence calling me to do what I know is not right, calling me to disobey my vocation to be a loving mother to these children with whom I have been blessed. It is pitiful; I cannot last but a day without falling, without giving into disobedience. It is a lie then that the devil tells us that we are not guilty, that we do not share in the responsibility for our fall from grace.

It is so good that the story does not here in the muck and mud of sin. The tale of our salvation takes many twists and turns but it finds its apex in Jesus Christ. In today’s Gospel, we find Jesus standing face to face with the tempter, the one who quietly and insidiously calls us away from our true home. Just as we are metaphorically stealing away to the desert through our Lenten penances, Jesus has just completed 40 days and nights fasting and praying in the desert. The tempter comes to him and tells him to turn the stones into bread. Being fully human, this had to be at least a little bit tempting for our dear Lord. After fasting for 40 days he must have felt great hunger and after all, as fully God this would be such an easy task to turn the stones into bread. What could it hurt? Then, Jesus is brought to the top of the Temple at asked to throw himself down. He knows the angels will catch him; they belong to him after all. What could this show of power hurt? Next, the tempter offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world—an offer of power and prestige. At first look it appears to be such a tiny cost, just giving worship for all the kingdoms of the world! What’s so wrong with that? As we know, Jesus rejects all of the temptations placed before him and says, “Get away, Satan!” (Matthew 4:10)

How utterly different is this response?! Where Adam bowed down to the tempter and gave into the desire for power and knowledge, Jesus stood tall and refused to give his worship to anyone but the Lord God alone. His actions began to unravel the disobedience of Adam, a task he would complete upon the Cross where he gave his full obedience to God by literally laying down his life, by holding nothing back from God. He gave his all and by this accomplished our salvation.

The truth of the matter is this—listening to the tempter WILL hurt, it will deprive us of the one thing we really and truly need, union with God! Jesus foreknew all and could fully see the consequences that obedience to Satan and thus, disobedience to God would entail. We, as limited human beings, do not always see all of the consequences of our sin. Since we are unable to foreknow all of the consequences of disobedience we must fall back upon the wisdom of the teachings of God to guide us in our choices. We can choose to give into the tempter and be like Adam and choose disobedience. Or, we can be like Christ and banish Satan.

Here, we find ourselves in the Second Reading which beautifully contrasts the disobedience of Adam with the full obedience of Christ. I just love the verse which says, “And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned.” (Romans 5:16) The gift is NOT like the result of the sin, the result of the sin is death and eternal separation from God. However, the GIFT is LIFE and oneness with our God and Creator. Knowing that this is the gift that awaits because of Jesus Christ’s suffering and death makes my little daily sufferings and the penances I undertake during Lent so much easier to bear!

I wish each of you a happy week of Lent! Until next time!

©Unrepeatable Blessings Blog 2017

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