February 10, 2008 Year A
First Sunday of Lent
Reflections on the Readings
By Dennis Hankins
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:17; Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11
Theme: In Your Mercy Keep Us Free From Sin
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matthew 4:1)
In the Communion Rite we recite the Lord's Prayer. But immediately before we conclude this prayer with an acclamation, the priest prays:
Deliver us, Lord, from every evil, and grant us peace in our day. In your mercy keep us free from sin and protect us from all anxiety as we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
It has become popular with some to explain away the human condition as a myth. But the drama of the Genesis reading today recommends to us a better understanding of our neighbor, our God, and ourselves. The passage unveils for us the opening moments of that which is known as THE FALL and the beginning of SALVATION HISTORY.
And this reading as well is our first look at our selfness. In contrast to everything else in creation, whether plant or roaming beast, or fish of the sea, you and me have a consciousness of self and of living things outside of our self. Animals possess instinct and prowess, while you and me possess insight, introspection, and intellect. Our powers are imparted. We read, "The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and so man became a living self." (See Abbot John Eudes)
Adam and Eve were the climax of the creative acts of God who said, "Let us make man in our image." Of all that God created, it is humankind whose self became self indulgent and self-destructive. Until united to him who in himself bore our sins and was pure, holy and undefiled, we remain dead in trespasses and sins; a self alienated from him who is another self. In Lent we respond more deeply to the command to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the devil. It is Jesus, the second man (self) who is led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the same devil. And in his forty days and nights of fasting Jesus teaches how to deny our self an appetite for self-absorption and disordered love. With Jesus, as with Adam and Eve, Satan employs a pseudo interpretation of God's words.
In the final analysis, the same Spirit that led Jesus into the desert also leads us into Lent. And we may ask why must we keep on doing this? Because we must keep learning and loving that it is God and God alone we serve. No man can have two masters. A double minded man is unstable in all of his ways. The forty days of Lent leads us to desire and embrace an undivided heart.
The Apostle Paul highlights the fall and original sin. It is with anguish we read, "…sin came into the world through one man and death through sin." Some would suggest that the understanding of original sin has run its course; that the lover of souls is more like a pal than a friend of sinners. We need Jesus not only as an important guide and teacher to a better life, but as a haven of rest for our souls. It is for this very need that Jesus invites us to come to him this Lent.
Perhaps this Lent we can capture a renewed understanding of what it means to be filled with the breath of life. It will mean coming face to face with Jesus who breathed on his disciples and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." No one can deny the intimacy our Lord seeks with us. And it is Lent that teaches us to draw near to God and He will draw near to us. A living self awaits us.
Let us pray: Dear Jesus in the salvation we seek our prayer is always, "Lord in your mercy keep us free from sin." Amen.