February 26, 2023 — First Sunday of Lent
GN 2:7-9; 3:1-7; PS 51:3-6,12-13,17; ROM 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19; MT 4:1-11
As we begin the beautiful and challenging season of Lent, our readings this week remind us why it is that we need these 40 days so much. They also suggest a particular strategy we Christian stewards might take as we make the journey towards Easter, so that we arrive there as better disciples — more focused on Christ and His mission for us.
Our first reading takes us all the way back to Genesis, reminding us of our Creator and the loving care and lavish gifts He gave to our ancestors, Adam and Eve. Out of pure love, He “formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life.” Then He “planted a garden in Eden… [and] made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food.” Life was good in the Garden!
Until the first couple allowed just a sliver of doubt in the goodness of God to enter their minds.
Swayed by the words of the serpent that they could become like gods if they ate of the one fruit God had forbidden, they became ungrateful and distrustful despite God’s great love for them and all the gifts of creation He had provided. Sound familiar? These are the same temptations that threaten to pull us away from God today.
Our second reading, from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, sums up this ancient story and reminds us that the same all-perfect God who created Adam and Eve and that good Garden has provided a remedy for our sins — the saving love and perfect obedience of Jesus on our behalf. “For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.” This is truly Good News!
Our first reading reminds us of our need for this 40-day “reset” to examine our lives and make changes where needed so that we can become stronger in overcoming temptations to sin. Our second reading gives us hope that this reset is truly possible through the mercy and grace of Jesus.
Our Gospel passage, from Matthew, shows us by the example of Jesus Himself one way that we can attain spiritual strength and grow to become more effective disciples and stewards. In this passage we find our Lord in the desert, fasting for 40 days and 40 nights. Like Adam and Eve, He is confronted by the evil one. But unlike our fallen parents, our Lord triumphs definitively over the devil’s lies and sends him slithering away. How did He do it? By knowing the Scriptures and by proclaiming them confidently, and by His perfect trust in the Father.
This Lent, let’s embrace this 40-day spiritual reset. Let’s commit to prayerfully studying the Scriptures. This could take the form of a daily family Gospel reflection, a few moments with the Psalms at the beginning of a lunch break or any other countless ways. If this requires a bit of “fasting” from social media or a favorite TV show in order to find the time, all the better since Jesus Himself fasted for 40 days, too. As faithful stewards, we are called to prioritize our use of time to seek relationship with our loving God. Let’s get to know Him better by studying His Word this Lent!