The readings for the first Sunday of Lent encapsulate the origins of sin and its remedy, Jesus Christ. They also reveal to us that temptations can be a blessing if they drive us to Jesus to seek His help.
The first reading stresses the peacefulness present at the creation of man. No sin was present. “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.” Man was created with the ability to choose good or evil. Before Adam and Eve make a choice between good and evil, there is neither merit nor sin.
However, Satan, who had been thrown out of heaven for disobedience, was looking for recruits for his kingdom of disobedience. How fortunate, he must have thought, to come across innocent human beings capable of deception.
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked.” As soon as they realized they disobeyed God, their eyes were opened. Sin entered the whole human race, and mankind was looking for an answer.
God knew ahead of time the whole story and already worked to provide an answer. He was to send His Son Jesus, who was God and man, to redeem us by His death on Calvary and by His resurrection from the dead.
God is compassionate and wanted to offer each man and woman an opportunity to make her or his own choice. Paul tells us: “But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.”
Then Paul says: “But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.”
In the Easter proclamation, the Church sings: “O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault, that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer.” Remember this Easter proclamation follows the revelation given to Paul. The Easter proclamation celebrates the good news that Christ’s death is a greater gift for good than all the sins of mankind are a force for evil.
Yet the Gospel makes clear that each man and each woman must make their own personal choice of obedience or disobedience to God. Jesus goes into the desert to allow Himself to be tempted by Satan and to show us how to deal with temptations.
Notice that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” The Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil because that was the Father’s plan. The Father wanted to teach mankind that when Satan tempts us, we should not try to outwit Satan, but use the word of God as well as Jesus, to drive Satan away. The more we are steeped in the word of God, the more authority we have over Satan when he assaults us.
Jesus’ final answer to Satan was: “Get away, Satan! It is written: ‘The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.’”
Every time we are faced with temptation and we choose Jesus instead of Satan, we become stronger in our struggles with evil. This exercise is so necessary if we are to grow in virtue. This growth in virtue brings us peace and confidence. It gives us a desire to continue to pray and to continue to deny ourselves legitimate pleasures and offer them up for the salvation for others. This helps us grow in confidence that we are realizing our vocation as an evangelist.
When we find ourselves growing in desire to help others in their weaknesses, we find that we discover our true mission for our lives. Not only do we want salvation for ourselves, but we want salvation for those around us. We feel that we are participating in God’s inner life.
Participating in God’s inner life enables us to embrace hardships for the kingdom with peace and joy. God finds an outlet for His goodness to flow into the lives of others through us. This is what redemption is all about, participating in the life of God by inviting Him into our weaknesses.
So, make this Lent an opportunity to allow God’s goodness to flow into us and out to others by making a regular confession. It cleanses our attitude toward ourselves and toward others. It brings freedom and joy to our spirits. I strongly encourage the daily Rosary, as well as making the Stations of the Cross at least once a week. This can be done at home with a devotional booklet.
Doing these exercises with devotion diminishes negative attitudes we have against ourselves and against others. It helps us to rejoice that Jesus is our daily companion.
Lent is a time of spiritual growth and joy!