Sunday, February 10, 2008

First Sunday of Lent

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19
Mt 4:1-11

Temptation. Today we are presented with two tales of temptation. Today we are presented with two responses to temptation. In the first reading we learn of the existence of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Of all the trees in the garden only the fruit of this tree is not to be eaten. Anything else they wanted was theirs, just not this tree’s fruit. I don’t know how many times you have been told that you can’t do something. Unfortunately our response to that statement is often a defiant decision to do exactly what we have been told not to do. So when our intrepid couple encounters the serpent, they are already at the tree. They failed to do what we used to call in the old days avoiding the occasion of sin. Getting them to take the fruit isn’t a tough sell. That they fail to understand the command given them is demonstrated when the woman replies that they are not to eat of or even touch the fruit of the tree lest they die. They are easily convinced that they will not die, surely! They were ready to jump, with both feet. So they did. You know the rest.
The Christ is led into the wilderness by the Spirit in order to prepare for public ministry through fasting and prayer. At the end of the fast, Jesus was hungry. So the temptations begin. Hungry? Just turn that rock into bread, after all if any one is going to benefit from who you are, why shouldn’t it be you? Jump off that building, God won’t let anything bad happen to you. Just worship me, and all the wealth, all the power, all the things of the world are yours. The temptations escalate, getting harder and harder to resist. Yet resist them Christ does. Not because the Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity, Christ has, after all a human nature, as subject to temptation as we are. No, Christ resists because of reliance on the Spirit. The Spirit gives strength, guidance, assistance to Christ as Christ faces these temptations.
Our response to temptation all too often mirrors that of our intrepid couple in the Garden. We didn’t really work hard enough to avoid it in the first place, so when we give in it really isn’t much of as surprise. We have a tendency to want to do the very things we know we shouldn’t. So how can we, weak mortal beings that we are, resist these impulses? Just as the Christ did. We can rely on the Spirit. The same Spirit that led Jesus into the wilderness, the same Spirit that aided Christ in resisting temptation, is there for us. It is the same Spirit that dwells in each of us, the same Spirit that we receive in Baptism. It is in the power of the Spirit that we find the power to resist. On our own, maybe we can fight off these impulses, sometimes, occasionally, maybe. It is in the power of the Spirit that we are able to say, “get away,” that we are able to turn from that occasion of sin and walk away.

Deacon John
First Sunday of Lent
Feb. 10, 2008