Reflections on the Readings
First Sunday of Lent - March 13, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
Recognizing Sin Again or
Everything That Glitters
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me."
The Bad News
Choices. We all make them. Sometimes we make the right decision, the right choice. Often we ask forgiveness for what we have done and for what we have failed to do. We don't always choose rightly. This is the human experience since the Garden of Eden.
All of creation is presented in the opening pages of Genesis. Over and over, God says, "It is good." Adam was created on the sixth day, and out of Adam, Eve was formed. And God looked at all he had made from the first day through the sixth day and said, "It is very good." Everything was good, and nothing that was good for Adam and Eve was withheld. Nothing, that is, except the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Satan is a spoiler. He raises questions that cast God in a bad light. "How could you die eating such beautiful and rewarding fruit? Are you kidding me? Give me a break!" Satan teases. And then inviting Adam and Eve to come closer, he whispers, "God knows that if you eat this fruit, immediately your eyes will be opened. And you'll be like gods; you will knoooowwww good and evil. Die? What harm could possibly come from knoooowwwinng everything?"
Everyone lives with regrets. Some are benign regrets, while we need to ask forgiveness for other matters. Lent is about the latter. Life is all Adam and Eve had known. We could speculate that they had eaten often from the Tree of Life. Either way, God, in his infinite love, would not let the first man and woman live forever in sin. So they were ushered out of the Garden where only life had been. Now there was death; something Adam and Eve were not supposed to know about. So through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch all sinned. (Romans 5:12)
The Good News
Jesus comes into our hearts to give us abundant life. It is not God's will that we remain in our sin. He is not willing that anyone should perish in their sin. In great mercy, he reaches out to us. He invites us to come as we are so that we may become what we should be. As someone has said, "Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future." Consider St. Augustine, who before his conversion, was a licentious womanizing man of his times. Through the intercessory prayers of Monica, his mother, Augustine, who was dead in sin, came back to life. God, who is infinite in mercy and grace, drew Augustine to himself and gave him a new heart.
Conversion is an ongoing necessity if we are to grow in grace and holiness. This is the blessing of Lent. It is forty days of renewal - an extreme interior makeover. During this time of self examination, we discover how much we have taken on the spirit of the age. It's not just about giving up the sweet tooth. There are deadlier things within us to confront - for out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and slander. But in the heart also resides charity, the source of the good and pure works, which sin wounds. (CCC #1853)
Some Important Soul Searching
As Jesus wrestled with the devil, the third assault stands out in a particular way. "Worship me," Satan taunts. Offering Jesus everything in the world, Satan imagines himself to be preeminent. And Satan's modus operandi is to suggest to us things that leave us empty. He works to deceive us. And the deception is that the next batch of stuff and things will bring us the desired happiness. But it just ain't so. With every unrestrained indulgence, there is a price tag, a price that includes believing that the father of lies just might tell us the truth soon! But it just ain't so.
Pope Pius XII said of the twentieth century, "The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin." It remains for us today - this holy Lent - to recognize sin, any sin, that so craftily beguiles us and wounds the heart meant for God and his majesty. Separating us from our true self, which is union with God, sin makes us strangers to ourselves, our Lord, and our Church. It may glitter and entice us to think that the Ten Commandments are out of step and out of date. But in the end, unconfessed sin, the Decalogue lying in shambles about us, keeps us from the Tree of Life - the Table of Christ's precious body and blood.
Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. (1 Corinthians 11:27-29)