The Word for the 1st Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Most appropriately, we begin our journey at the very beginning… with our first reading from the Book of Genesis and the story of “mans fall from grace.” This is the same “necessary sin of Adam” we sing about during the Easter Vigil’s Exultet.
In our passage from Genesis this week we witness God’s creation of man and the creation of the garden. From there our text jumps to the story of the woman’s encounter with the snake. It is a story that many of us are familiar with, but it is always interesting to revisit the original text. One thing we notice is that the man and woman are not yet mentioned by name. This is because at this point in the narrative they don’t have proper names. The word “adam” comes from the generic Hebrew word for “man” or “mankind”. The word “ground” in Hebrew is “adama”… so the play on words between man coming from the ground is something we lose in the English translation. The woman doesn’t get her name of “Eve” until Adam give it to her toward the end of Chapter 3.
But more to the point… while all this is very interesting, and we could spend a considerable amount of time reviewing the deeper theological implications of the story, we don’t want to lose sight of our take-away from this story for this week. Simply this is where the history of salvation begins… with the recognition of the fact that through our own free will, we lost paradise, and only through that free will can we embrace God again (as referenced through the Psalm)
This theme is carried through in our second reading in Paul’s letter to the Romans. Here Paul outlines the story of salvation and the entire purpose of our ministry, first by recalling Adam’s sin, but how it is through Christ that we are redeemed. This is also an example Paul’s sometimes very convoluted writing style, spanning some 30 lines within only 4 sentences, so take the reading slowly and go through it several times so you can better see his point.
We close with our Gospel from Matthew and another “beginning” story - the beginning of Jesus ministry as marked by his temptation in the desert. At this point in the narrative Jesus has just been baptized by John, and is now compelled by the Spirit to go out into the desert where he spends forty days and nights in contemplation. It is also during this time he is tempted by the Devil. As we hear the narrative unfold, it is interesting to note the wordplay between the Devil and Jesus, and how both of them use Scripture to justify their arguments. Remember, Matthew is speaking to a primarily Jewish audience, so the verses they are quoting are well known to them. Also for Matthew this is an opportunity to remind us of the epic nature of this battle between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. Jesus is not just another prophet, he is the chosen one, the Son of God, the champion of the forces of light.
So as we begin our journey through Lent we are reminded that we should pay close attention to the scriptures, for by showing us these key moments of our Salvation History, we see where we’ve been as a people, see where we are now, and if we are listening carefully, showing us both individually and as Church, were we need to go.