On this first Sunday of Lent, we hear the familiar stories of the first sin and Jesus’ temptation in the desert. From Genesis, we listen to the myth of how sin entered the world through the disruption of human’s relationship with God. (A myth is a story from pre-literate society as an account of how natural phenomena, social customs, etc., came into existence.) St. Paul reminds us, though, that “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.” (Rom 5:19) Matthew’s account of Jesus in the desert shows Jesus as the one who will restore human’s relationship with God.
The Genesis reading begins with God creating man and breathing life into him. God is the true source of human’s life. God gave his creatures everything they needed, and they were so comfortable in God’s presence that they didn’t mind being naked before God.
Then along comes the serpent. The serpent’s temptation is three-fold. First, it tells the woman, and the man “who was with her” (Gn 3:6), that if they eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that they will not die. It is true that they did not die, but after eating the fruit they are subject to death. Second, the serpent tells them that their eyes will be opened. Their eyes are opened in the sense that they are now aware of their guilt and shame. Third, the serpent tells them they will be like God, knowing good and evil. After eating the fruit, the man and woman, in a sense, “grow up.” They are no longer children of God. Their awareness of their nakedness and need to cover themselves with fig leaves shows that their relationship with God is broken.
Ultimately, the truth of this reading from Genesis is that evil is present in the world due to humanity’s decision to oppose God’s command. We humans don’t need God. We like having control over our lives. We know what’s best for us. Our perspective, however, is limited. God, as our creator and parent, has a much greater perspective and wisdom.
Through the account of his temptations in the desert, Jesus shows us that if we trust in God’s greater wisdom and submit completely to God’s will, our relationship with God will be restored and we will be freed from sin and death. Our lives will be complete and good if we live according to God’s word rather than rely on our need for material goods, if we trust in God’s plans and don’t put God to the test, and if we worship only God rather than seeking influence in the world. If we turn from sin and live with total trust in God, our lives will be rich, we will have everything we need, and we will be content.
Lent is our time to turn from sin and live with total trust in God. The three spiritual practices of Lent help to restore our relationship with God. Through prayer, we focus our worship on God. Through fasting, we sacrifice what we think we need and put our trust in God to provide what we need. Through almsgiving, we put the needs of others ahead of our own desires. May these forty days of Lent be a restoring of our relationship with God. May we regain our comfort in being naked before God.