By Fr. Leon Flaherty, C.PP.S.
“Repent and believe in the Good News.” This is the theme for the season of Lent.
Repent: to realize that you are traveling in the wrong direction; stop; reflect; and move in a new direction to reach your goal.
As we do that on this first Sunday of Lent, we are given a passage from Genesis and Matthew that give us time to reflect as we stop, fast, do penance and pray for God’s strength and guidance.
I like to put the temptation of Jesus alongside of the creation story. Our passage today gives us a second way of looking at creation, but the focus is the same as the first one: all of creation is in harmony with itself and with God
The temptation, however, destroys this harmony. Our parents are told a lie: if they eat of the fruit they will be like gods. They already were: created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1) and had received the life giving breath of God (Gen 2). This temptation is presented, as always, as something good, pleasing and desirable: to be able to play God. But it was a lie! The harmony was destroyed! However, God promised to bring it back some day through the offspring of the humans (Gen 3:15).
Throughout the Hebrew scriptures, God keeps calling the people back to a harmonious relationship, even if he has to do a heart transplant (Ez 36:26). The prophet Daniel admits that it was the people who had turned away from God and not God from the people (Dn 3:26 ff).
The fulfillment of God’s promise of the restoration of the harmony came when Jesus accepted fully our humanity and all of its consequences. In the Gospel today, the story of his temptation, we see a very similar tactic by the devil as was used in the Genesis accounts: to get Jesus to put aside his humanity and play God. This would have been good, pleasing and desirable to any human. Jesus refused, and accepted everything about human nature, even an unjust death, for us.
The challenge for us: during this Lenten season, to check out if we are traveling in the wrong direction: to stop, reflect and take action with the help of God’s graces. Jesus also asks us to accept our human nature, with its limitations, and share this with others who are struggling. Today this seems to be a big problem.
As Adam and Eve received the gift of a harmonious relationship with God, so we have been offered that through Jesus. We will celebrate that great grace on Easter Sunday as Jesus brings his divinity and humanity to us in triumph. Our second reading from 2 Corinthians challenges us to reflect on this great gift and work together to make this grace fruitful.
“Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, King of endless glory!”
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. Leon Flaherty, C.PP.S., a native of Superior, Wisc., is now in ministry in his hometown, at the Cathedral of Christ the King.