1st Sunday of Lent -Year A.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
In the introduction to this period of Lent, the Church has set aside for this liturgical period of time the most important catechetical themes. Today it invites us to reflect on ‘temptation’.
The first reading tells us of the unfaithful man; the man who lets himself be seduced by evil and chooses to go against the will of God. This man destroys his own self and condemns himself to unhappiness.
The second reading describes the behaviour of Jesus, the obedient Son of his Father.
The Gospel, which describes the temptations that Jesus had to face in his mission of salvation, wants us to reflect on our own temptations, which are not much different from his.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfill the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“In the Old Testament the ‘New’ is hidden.
In the New Testament the ‘Old’ is laid open”.
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7.
The author of Genesis writes, “The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being”. All was unalloyed (pure) happiness – perhaps only the happiness of human infancy, but happiness never since experienced. Then came the tragedy. The world was spoilt not through God’s intentions, but through the ambition of the man and woman whom he created. Desiring equality with God, they disobeyed his commandment and sinned. In the mysterious process of growing towards God, selfishness took over. We gave up our humanity and chose to be God. This was our tragic error. When we open our eyes, we realize that by refusing to depend on God, we have degraded and shamed ourselves; we feel naked and ashamed. The outcome of sin is a curse upon ourselves. Whenever persons do not respect the plans and the Laws of God, when instead, we set up our own moral laws, everything will turn against us; everything is spoilt and thrown into confusion.
The ‘Curse of Sin’ means just this. Our Creator is not an angry God who punishes people (God never does such things; he is a Saviour). When the Bible speaks of curse it is to warn us about the ‘consequence of sin’. Punishment does not come from God; it is the person who by doing evil suffers the results of sin and therefore punishes themselves.
The story does not only tell us of what happened once at the beginning of the world, but what is happening now, each and every day, and to anybody who ignores the word of God. God loves us and his word is given to protect us.
Psalm 51:3-6, 12-14, 17.
This Psalm is traditionally associated with the sin of David and Bathseba (2 Sm 11). It expresses so accurately the feelings and emotions that go with sorrow for sin; it is included among the ‘Seven Penitential Psalms’. The psalmist knows all too well that he has got things wrong, and that he has to go back to God to get it put right.
The heart of the matter is knowing when we have got it wrong, and who alone can put it right: ‘against you alone have I sinned… create a pure heart for me, O God’, he says, dolefully, ‘do not send me from your presence… restore me to me the joy of your victory… Lord open my lips and my mouth shall proclaim your praise’.
“The tyranny of sin and death, which Adam introduced, is no more”. Looking back on human history, Paul voices his views on this tragedy. “Just as sin came into the world through man, and death through sin, so death spread to all, because all have sinned. The name of the human tragedy is thus “sin”.
Fundamentally, sin is a breakdown of that life-imparting relationship that God established with us. Once this break took place, it continued to grow worse, threatening an utter and final death; but for God’s graciousness, such would certainly have been our terrible ending. Paul explains to the Romans how God averted this disaster. “For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many”.
In other words, Jesus restored us to a ‘right relationship’ to God, to one another and to our world. Paul gives the Romans confidence that they have the grounds for hope, simply because (as he contrasts Jesus and Adam) of God’s response to the mess we have made. God’s response far outweighs the original catastrophe, because Christ’s obedience means that all will be well.
The story of temptation that we read about in today’s Gospel is, probably a summary of the moments of temptation in the life of Jesus. The story is summarized and placed at the beginning of his public ministry in order to highlight the fact that Jesus was really a human being and that, in spite of temptation, he chose to be faithful to his God and to the Father’s will. Jesus’ experience recalls that of Israel’s stay in the desert for forty years before entering the Promised Land. Like Israel of old, Jesus was led into the wilderness. There, for forty days, he was tempted. Unlike Israel, and unlike Adam, Jesus did not succumb to the wiles of evil.
First temptation: Jesus was hungry and was tempted to lose patience and use for his own benefit the gift of God that he had received. The bread symbolizes self-indulgence, the instant gratification to which people are prone today. Second temptation: Jesus was tempted to test God by jumping off the Temple parapet. That’s the temptation to self-sufficiency. We are all interdependent, we all need each other. Third temptation: Jesus is tempted to bow down and worship Satan, and in return receive lordship over the kingdoms of the world. Lust for power has tempted people and corrupted the human spirit since time began. Thrice he was tempted and thrice he conquered. “Away with you, Satan!” he finally ordered. “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” Jesus resisted this primal temptation toward misuse of power, while emptying himself so that we could experience true power: liberation from the fear of death through his passion and cross; confidence that even when we are of little faith, we can hear his words, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid”.
The story of Jesus’ temptations reveals the devil’s role of testing people regarding their work. Into this certitude the devil comes and proposes other ways of carrying out his mission. Contrary to God’s way the devil comes and proposes one of ease, glory and fame if only he might choose a different way of being Messiah and transfer his allegiance from God to the devil. He creates confusion and forces Jesus to choose again more consciously to be faithful to his original mission as the Son of God.
The devil does not quote scripture again, but Jesus does. He recalls God’s word that God alone deserves total allegiance and service (Dt 6:13-14). Jesus turns regularly to the word of God for guidance in making the right choices. Where Israel and humanity had failed, Jesus succeeds. The comparison gives us a clear message: “Turn to God’s word if you want to act as God’s children”.
To be faithful to God when everything else around us pushes us to look for personal glory and satisfaction is certainly not easy. The devil is always putting us to a test of our faithfulness. Our weapon in our struggle to be faithful to God lies in our fidelity to the word of God.
The period of Lent is a time also for us disciples of Jesus to listen again attentively to God’s voice and renew our original decision to put God at the centre of our lives. Our forty days of Lent guided by the Church will reveal where our hearts are truly rooted.
Jesus teaches us not only what to answer the tempter but also how to give our worship to God alone. ‘Yes’ to God, and ‘No’ to the devil.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the 1st Sunday of Lent Year A, we reflect on …
Sun. … Today’s first reading deals with the beginnings of creation, of humanity, and of God’s on-going care for us. Man, together with the woman that God had also formed, were not content with what God had given them. The dialogue between Eve and the serpent provides a universal picture of ‘temptation’.
Mon. … The basic sin of Adam and Eve was a sin of ‘pride’, of being unwilling to acknowledge dependence on God, to try to get control of what God had set-aside for himself. The desire to push God aside and to take the initiative for ourselves is part of every wrong that every one of us has done. The unwillingness to be subject to God is inherent in every sin. Do we really believe we can do without God?
Tue. … What we now call ‘Original Sin’ could have been the ‘Original Great Co-operation’, if humankind had chosen to grow with God rather than apart from the source of truth. Each of us is involved in God’s plan of salvation as they were. Irrespective of the wrong choices we have made, God loves us. We are part of his plan of salvation if we so choose. It is up to us to live the ‘Way’.
Wed. … In the second reading Paul sums up what salvation history is all about. Sin – the deliberate movement away from God’s will – comes into the world through human choice. Grace – the bridge that allows us access to God’s way again is offered to our world through our Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Thur. … The specter of Satan spouting Scripture at a fast-weakened Jesus in the desert is an eerie scene. In all instances the tempter approaches its victim at a disadvantage: “Eve’s ignorance, Jesus’ physical exhaustion and us through stoking our pride and seducing our greed”.
Frid. … The story of the forbidden fruit is the ‘prototype of all temptations’. First, Satan plants a question in the mind, the seed of doubt or compromise. Then he shows the attractiveness of the fruit. Then the deception, you will be like gods, knowing good and evil. Humankind fell for it. Many of us still do!
Sat. … Jesus withstands a trinity of assaults to become the supplanter of temptation itself, the personification of grace and his Father’s will. Eve and Adam and all of us need never to face the tempter alone again. Jesus said, “I will be with you to the end of time”.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, may Your Spirit guide us this Lent to get in touch with our inner weaknesses and our source of strength. May we give up all our compromises and ways of disobeying Your will and to commit ourselves to serve You alone.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives, and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.