1st Sunday of Lent (A)
"Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned."
Entrance Antiphon: Ps 91(90):15-16 —“When he calls on Me, I will answer Him; I will deliver him and give him glory, I will grant him length of days.”
First Reading: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7 — “The creation of our first parents, and sin.”
Responsorial Psalm: Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17 — “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”
Second Reading: Rom 5:12-19 — “Where sin increased, there grace increased all the more.”
Verse before the Gospel: Mt 4:4b — “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
Gospel: Mt 4:1-11 —“Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights and was tempted.”
Communion Antiphon: Mt 4:4 — “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
I think the following is a fair statement. We all like shortcuts. In the world of computers, a “macro” allows someone to complete with a single click several operations that would take much longer if done separately. Thus, a computer “macro” is a useful shortcut. Interstate bypasses, on the other hand, may or may not save us time ... depending on our final destination and the time of day that we are taking the bypass. Some things that present themselves as shortcuts are really dead ends. Another statement I think is very true is this ... every sin presents itself as a shortcut, but in reality each of those options is really a dead end. Evil often has a certain “glamour,” as our Profession of Faith at Easter will acknowledge.
Today’s reading from the Book of Genesis and the passage from the Gospel of Saint Matthew help us understand why we will be asked on Easter Sunday to renounce the glamour of evil and to recognize Satan’s empty promises. The whole Lenten season encourages us to be realistic about the spiritual shortcuts that are constantly offered to us.
Eve and Adam took a shortcut and as a result they can never erase the difference between God and themselves. Eating the forbidden fruit did not make them as smart as God after all. Sin breaks up the harmony that Adam and Eden originally had with God and with one another. The finger pointing in today’s First Reading would almost be comical if we hadn’t experienced people laying blame on others for their own mistakes. Maybe we have heard such excuses or even used them ourselves. Remember ... when you point the finger of blame at someone, there are three (3) fingers pointing back at you. The serpent in today’s First Reading should have been highly amused at the finger pointing. That mission was certainly accomplished. We cannot force God to surrender. Eve and Adam found that out the hard way.
The temptations offered to Jesus are all plausible but deceptive. Each temptation would have turned Jesus into a sideshow attraction, drawing attention but falsifying what being a disciple means: unlimited bread (who could argue with that?) ... huge publicity for jumping off the temple’s pinnacle (“Details at 11 ...” the news teaser would have said); Satan does not even control the kingdoms that he offers to Jesus. This is the tempter’s ultimate scam. By rejecting these temptations, Jesus stakes out His territory as Messiah: "Don’t follow Me because you think that entitles you to unlimited creature comforts" ... "Don’t follow Me because you want to get publicity for yourself" ... "Don’t follow Me because you think that will guarantee you political, social, or economic power" ... "Follow Me because I will lead you to God the Father, God the Holy Spirit and the harmony in which God has always intended the world to live. Follow Me because all other shortcuts are as deceptive as these temptations."
The temptations offered to us each day are plausible but misleading. More is better. This can be applied to possessions, relationships, or power. In whatever way you can, get an edge on other people. After all, that’s what they are trying to do to you, right? After all, you are entitled to whatever you want.
As the altar is prepared the altar and we celebrate the Eucharist, remember this: Every Eucharist ... every time we commemorate the Last Supper, we should be reminded that the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ ... Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection are the ultimate reality. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.