First Sunday of Lent, Year A

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5:12-19; Matthew 4:1-11

First Reading: Today’s first reading combines passages from two different chapter of Genesis. The verses from the second chapter remind us that God formed man out of the earth and blew the breath of life into his nostrils while the lengthy excerpt from the third chapter recalls the inability of Adam and Eve to resist temptation.

Psalm 51: Psalm 51 helps us to beg for forgiveness for sin while still expressing confidence in God’s ability to renew our hearts.

Second Reading: In Paul’s letter to the Romans he draws a comparison between Adam and Christ. Adam is regarded as the one responsible for how sin entered the world; Christ is the one who has brought redemption from sin through the grace of God given to him.

Gospel: The Gospel text for the First Sunday of Lent is always the story of Jesus’ temptations in the desert. Matthew places his account right after Jesus’s baptism. The significance of this arrangement is that tempter mocks Jesus’ identity with words, “If you are the Son of God …” The voice from the clouds at his baptism had said, “This is my Son, the beloved.”

Reflection: Temptation is something we usually think of as facing alone. In the first reading, Eve was not alone; Adam “was with her.” It seems as though Adam did nothing to help Eve resist the temptation. Neither of them could withstand the temptation of the serpent alone, nor did either of them help each other. Neither should Lent be a time for us to withstand temptation alone. Rather, it is a wonderful time to get involved with others spiritually and help each other to grow in goodness and the ability to resist temptation and come to a deeper realization of what it means to serve God and God alone.

The Gospel on the First Sunday of Lent always tells of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Each year of the three year Lectionary cycle of readings, one of the synoptic accounts is proclaimed. In this Year A, Matthew’s account, which expands on Mark’s much shorter version (Mark 1:12-13), is read.

In Matthew’s account, the devil challenges Jesus to sin against the great commandment to love God (Deuteronomy 6:5) with each of the three temptations he poses. Each temptation is an invitation to walk away from what it means to be centered in God. To give in to the temptation to turn stones to bread would focus on satisfying human hunger above all else, including the human hunger of longing for God. To throw oneself from the temple would test God’s generous care in a wholly unnecessary way. To worship the devil in order to win the kingdoms of the world would give in to the temptation to love wealth and power more than God. All of Jesus’ responses, drawn from Deuteronomy 6-8, reveal trust and reliance on God alone. Jesus’ obedience frees him from the distractions of things that do not matter and provides direction for how to live in the midst of complexity. We do not always know so quickly the right path to follow or answer so rapidly in response to temptation. But if we face the temptations of daily life by making choices that are consistent with love of God and love of neighbor, our faithful obedience will lead to new life.

Most of us tend to keep our spiritual growth and struggles pretty much to ourselves. One marvelous way to help each other is to take some time with those we are in significant relationships with to do some in-depth faith sharing. When we share our own temptations as well as spiritual blessings with others, we are not alone in choosing and serving this God who give us life – at creation and through “the one Jesus Christ.”

Question for Reflection: What “temptations” distract me from serving God faithfully in my discipleship?

Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.

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