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Lust Leads to Dust: Reflection on the First Sunday of Lent

Say goodbye to Ordinary Time and the placid green colours around our churches; Lent is here. Ashes, mourning, fasting, prayer, repentance, almsgiving and a whole bunch of purple will be with us for the next month and a half. It’s great! Not because it’s fun and festive, but because the Lord God is calling us back to Himself. The words that we heard while Father traced a cross of ashes on our foreheads last Wednesday should resound in us all throughout Lent: “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

The first people to not believe in the goodness of God, were His first children, Adam and Eve. In our First Reading this Sunday, the book of Genesis gives us the tragic story of how Adam and Eve fell from grace.

It’s important to see what “fell from grace” means to properly understand things surrounding it. As I’ve said on Seeking the Word before, grace is God’s own divine life. When we receive grace, we receive God’s own divine life into our own life by the Holy Spirit. This is what makes us Sons of God (see Romans 8:15). We become partakers of His divine nature (see 2 Peter 1:4). We share His likeness. But when Adam and Eve sinned, they spiritually died (God told them they would in Genesis 2:17). They lost the life of grace within them. They lost God who is life Himself. This is what original sin is. It is not something that we gained, but something that we lost. And having lost it, we could not pass on what we did not have. Hence, original sin is “transmitted” to every human being born after (except Jesus and Mary of course) as a lack. Something’s always missing now.

Adam and Eve were tempted by the serpent in the midst of the Garden of Eden. The serpent tempted them with the same tactic that he has used ever since: Lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (see 1 John 2:15). Our First Reading makes it quite clear that this is what Eve experienced: “The woman saw that the tree was good to eat (lust of the flesh) and pleasing to the eye (lust of the eyes), and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give (pride of life).” All it took was the serpent to inject some doubt on what God had said (making God a liar - see 1 John 5:10) and the deal was done!

If that were the end of the story we would be “of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19). But God has given us His Son. The Son, whom Adam prefigured according to St Paul in our Second Reading, who was also tempted by Satan but brought a very different outcome.

In our Gospel this Sunday, we see how Jesus takes on the role of Adam and brings it to victory. Remember, Adam and Jesus are very similar. They both share the same five roles: Priest, prophet, king, universal bridegroom (yes, Adam was married to the whole world), and Son. They were also both born perfect; sinless. This being the case, the serpent tries his chances on the divine Son of God (the main element that separates Adam and Jesus).

temptation of Jesus. Gibraltar Catholic Youth.

The devil said: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves” (lust of the flesh). Jesus knocks that one away easily. The devil again said: “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down; for scripture says: ‘He will put you in his angels’ charge, and they will support you on their hands in case you hurt your foot against a stone’” (pride of life). Jesus responds with Deuteronomy 6:13. Finally, the devil tries one more time. “Taking [Jesus] to a very high mountain, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me’” (lust of the eyes). “Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says: ‘You must worship the Lord your God, and serve Him alone.’” Thus the “new Adam” triumphed where the old Adam didn’t.

This is the comparison that St Paul draws out at length in our Second Reading. Because of the fact that Jesus shares His very self with us in His seven Sacraments, we share in His life — We get grace back! Adam gave us a share in death, Jesus gives us a share in God’s life. As Jesus says in our Gospel and as our Communion Antiphon in Mass says: “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” Who is the Word of God? Yes, the Word of God is a person and we learn this from John 1:1 and John 1:14 together. This means that man does not live on bread alone but he lives by Jesus who comes forth from the Father!

Let us live by the bread that comes from heaven (see John 6:41), that comes to our table every day and this Sunday in Mass. Nourished by the true bread, the flesh and blood of Jesus, we will receive the strength that we need for the journey to fight off the serpent in our day to day lives and reign victorious through Him, with Him, and in Him.

May this Lent be a time of conversion and growth for you and I.

See you next week on Seeking the Word!


A Wonderful Lenten Practice

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