First Sunday of Lent (Cycle A)

When we approach the readings for the Sundays of Lent, we have to shift gears a little inasmuch as these readings follow a pattern. Each of them has a separate function. The first reading from the Hebrew Scriptures relates an event from our salvation history which points us toward the Christ event. The second reading from the writings of St. Paul opens the mystery of our participation in that event through the Sacrament of Baptism. The Gospel readings, especially during the A Cycle of the Lectionary for Sunday Mass, are designed to illuminate the experience of the catechumens as they approach the Easter sacraments.

This Sunday we will read a selection from the second creation story of the Book of Genesis. This story illustrates God's intention in creating the human person. God designed us to be companions and fellow gardeners. As St. Irenaeus explained in his writings, God's intention in creating us was to provide God with an object for his gifts of grace. The second creation story explains that both the human person and the trees of the garden were created from the soil of the garden, thus providing us with an understanding that we were part of the created universe but different in that God had breathed into our nostrils the gift of life. However, we failed to grasp our role and by disobedience upset the balance of creation. The punishment for that disobedience was exclusion from the garden so that we could not eat of the tree of immortality. However, having denied us access to God and to the garden, God also set into motion a plan that would reinstate us.

St. Paul explains that our reinstatement or acquittal was accomplished by the obedience of Jesus, the second Adam. Just as Adam's sin brought death, Jesus' obedience brought life. Just as Adam's sin denied us access to God, Jesus' obedience gave us one through whom that access was reacquired. Through Baptism we are reunited to the gift of God's life-giving spirit.

The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent always features the episode of Jesus' life in which he is tested by the devil while in the desert. These temptations mirror the same temptations which the Israelites experienced during their forty year sojourn in the desert. The first involves bread. The Israelites responded to their hunger by grumbling against God while Jesus faces and resists the temptation to turn stones into bread. Jesus does not need the manna which sustained the Israelites. The second temptation involves testing God just as the Israelites did at Meribah in the desert. While the Israelites succumbed to the temptation, Jesus does not. The third temptation involves the worship of a false god. Jesus resists, but the Israelites formed a golden calf and worshipped it.

The catechumens who are preparing for Baptism at Easter will also be tested. The example of Jesus in the desert teaches us all that obedience is the way to life with God. While the readings show us that our own disobedience has separated us from God, through the obedience of Jesus, we have been brought back and reconciled with God. Not even the wiles of the serpent could completely thwart God's plan for us to be companions and fellow gardeners with God.

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