The First Sunday of Lent


By Maria di Paolo

Lent is a time for prayer and reflection and the scriptures for Ash Wednesday and for today, the First Sunday of Lent, give us much to begin with.  On Ash Wednesday, we hear Jesus instructing the disciples in piety, telling them not to be hypocritical in prayer, fasting and almsgiving: these activities are to be done privately, without show and fanfare.  What is skipped over in the Lectionary reading is Jesus’ special instruction about how to pray the “Our Father.”  I decided to start my reflection with this thought because it occurred to me that it provides a link to the readings we hear this Sunday …

The Book of Genesis contains two creation stories that seem contradictory.   In the first one, God creates the world in six days, resting on the seventh.  He creates humankind in his own image and, when he finishes, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.”  In the second story we encounter Adam and Eve and the serpent in the garden.  The serpent tempts Adam and Eve to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They do and are expelled from paradise.   Two contradictory ideas: the perfection of being created in God’s image, and the imperfection of being human.  The story about Adam and Eve is about what we are as humans: we do have the ability to know right from wrong, good from evil.  We never had an option to say “No” to the serpent.

In today’s Gospel, we encounter Jesus in the desert being tempted by the devil.  If we forget Jesus’ humanity, we have an image of a superhuman divine being who sees off the devil relatively easily.  But these are temptations that we should all be able to relate to: satisfying our own physical needs and desires, satisfying our desire to control our own fate, and satisfying our desire to have power over others.

St. Paul provides a bridge between these two stories in his letter to the Romans.  While Adam and Eve represent our fallen nature as humans, easily lead into temptation, Jesus shows us the way to redemption and salvation.