The First Sunday of Lent
Gen 2:7-9; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11 (Year A)
“The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and thus man became a living being. The Lord God planted a garden in Eden, and there he put the man he had fashioned.”
At the beginning of Lent the Book of Genesis reminds us that life, creation’s most fundamental blessing, is a gift of God. The Garden of Eden, with its overflowing abundance, sought to express the richness of a life lived in the presence of the God who walked with the man and the woman in the cool of the evening.
Creation’s story is our own story, and the narrative of the Fall reaches beyond the original sin to describe sinful humanity’s estrangement from God’s presence. At the beginning of Lent, Ash Wednesday’s call to repentance bids us to confess that we also have departed from his presence, seeking to conceal a shame that cannot be hidden from his presence. We live, and yet in a way that cannot be fully articulated, we are but half alive.
St Paul, reflecting on the narrative of the Fall, saw in his Risen Lord the promise of our own liberation from sin’s pervasive tyranny. “If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s sin, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous.”
We who as sinners are but half alive are called to the fullness of life in Christ Jesus.
St Matthew’s narrative of the temptation takes us to the heart of the Incarnation, a God who did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself, becoming as we are in all things but sin. He took to himself our sinful history and was tempted as we are tempted. Where sinful humanity had surrendered to sin’s false attraction, he remained in the presence of his Father and faithful to the Spirit leading him through the wilderness. He refused to be nourished by anything other than the will of his Father. He rejected the pride that presumes to test itself against God. Worship, the gift of our inner selves, he reserved for the Father. “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.”
As Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, we too, at the beginning of Lent, are led into the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. Repentance opens our lives to his presence, and it is in the grace of that presence that we are brought to the fullness of life.
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