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First Sunday of Lent

February 10, 2008

Happy “little Easter”! (Sunday, even during Lent, is a day to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection, just as every Friday is a “Little Good Friday”, a day of gratitude for the death He suffered for our salvation)

Lord our God,
You formed man from the clay of the earth
and breathed into him the spirit of life,
but he turned from You and sinned.
In this time of repentance
we call out for Your mercy.
Bring us back to You
and to the life Your Son won for us
by His death of the cross,
for He lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
(Alternative Opening Prayer for the First Sunday of Lent)

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 (the Original Sin)
Psalm 51:1-6, 12-14, 17 “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned”
Romans 5:12-19 (old Adam versus New Adam)
+Matthew 4:1-11 (Jesus’ temptation in the desert)

Today’s readings put our foundational problem and God’s solution in a nutshell.

Our problem? We’ve listened to the ancient serpent who feeds us the lie that we have to rebel against God’s will for us in order to be happy. We’ve taken forbidden fruit for ourselves because we didn’t trust God to want what’s best for us. From this original lie sprang the original sin, with all its deadly consequences. We lost our immortality. Suffering became a part of life. Holiness became hard because our very desires rebelled against us. Creation itself suffered the loss of its original perfection and harmony. Worst of all, our share of God’s own divine life within us died within our hearts. We became exiles from God and from ourselves.

God’s solution? The Second Person of the Blessed Trinity became one of us to expose the lie and to take the consequences on Himself. When Jesus was hungry after 40 days in the wilderness, the ancient serpent tried the same old lies on Him, tempting Jesus to take for Himself food, fame and power. Jesus rebuffed him with Scripture, depending on God alone. From this victory and its culmination on Calvary came a new beginning in the order of grace. “Just as through one man’s disobedience all became sinners, so through one man’s obedience all shall become just” (Romans 5:19). Jesus’ obedience opened the way for us to return to God, to be reborn into His divine life through Baptism as sons and daughters of God. His obedience showed us the way to victory over the ancient serpent, who tempts us still, greedily trying to snatch this new life of holiness away from us.

The lie has been unmasked. The victory has been won.

It’s up to us to claim God’s love for us as our rightful heritage, humbly trusting Him to provide whatever is best for us and letting the devil eat his own poisonous forbidden fruit (a la St. Benedict).

May we who have died in the old Adam follow in the footsteps of the new Adam, that we may bring our new life unspotted to the splendors of our eternal home.

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