First Sunday in Lent

‘..Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God..’

 Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7 Ps 50 Rom 5:12-19 Mt 4:1-11

The story of the Garden of Eden offers a paradigm of the human condition – that is why it has such a universal resonance. The idea that things were meant to be different, meant to be perfect, echoes through all human experience. But the story has other important truths to hold on to. Humankind was made deliberately and directly by God; humanity can be naïve and gullible – rather than evil; the senses can fool us and first impressions can easily win the day and then – alas – the awful dawning of the truth and the consequences come home to roost. It is always a story to ponder – its significance is not as some sort of “historical” event which “explains” why things are the way they are now, but its significance is that it reveals how human action and motivation operate, and that is something that all people who reflect on it can recognise – it speaks to our personal condition.

That is why today’s gospel has such an importance. The first Sunday of Lent always has the account of the temptations of Jesus from whichever evangelist is the subject of the year. And the account of the temptation shows an alternative to the Eden story. If the temptation in the Genesis story is somewhat vague, those in the gospel are very specific – and enticing. The temptation to satisfy my physical desires, the temptation to impress and the temptation to power are all to some extent very common human temptations – it doesn’t require much reflection for any person to recognise elements of each in daily living. Jesus’ utter rejection of temptation is both a model and an encouragement. Christ joins us in our humanity to reveal the way to be truly human. The passage from Paul is a theological reflection on the truth behind both readings. There is an invitation to begin Lent with a careful pondering on these three texts – a reflecting that can help any follower to enter Lent with a clear perspective of what the season is about.

By Monsignor Robert Draper