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First Sunday of Lent

February 27, 2020

March 1, 2019


Book of Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7

Psalm 51 (cf. 3a)

Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

In today’s first reading from the Book of Genesis we hear of one garden, two newly-minted beings, and trees surrounded by various verities of flora and fauna.  Oh yes, I forgot to mention the serpent

All good stories have an “inciting” incident in order to accelerate the action.  As you read this passage, ask yourself what would you say is the real beginning of the energy or excitement of this story?  It could be the announcement that everything was good and available, everything that is, except touching or eating from one of the trees.   Well, just maybe, for the sake of my imagination, let us say that it is Mrs. Adam’s desire for wisdom.  God has forbidden them to eat of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”  Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat of the forbidden tree.  Why would she want to have that kind of knowledge?   The answer is simple.  She and her mate wanted the “quick and easy.”  God did not say exactly what would result from eating from “the tree of Life.”  Perhaps eating of that tree would invite a taste for more life, but that would take a life of time and tasting, wouldn’t it?  Eating of the “knowledge tree” would result in self-fascination and a “leaf-covering” shame of negativity.  Eating from this tree faced them both with the struggle about what is good and what is bad about them. 

The “tree of Life” would have resulted in their seeing what God had said about all of creation, including them, that all was good and they were “very good.”   But, alas, they wanted a snippet; just a little something that would solve their incompleteness.  What they did receive was their life-long struggle to learn from the “tree of life” the wisdom that comes from the long and hard climb up the branches of life.  Sound familiar to anyone? 

In the reading from Saint Paul to the Romans, it is comforting to hear about how disobedience, or more literally, “not listening,”  is contrasted to the “listening” of the “New Adam, Jesus.”  One sin of one man is contrasted with the one life of receiving Himself and living that life to its end on the “Tree of the Cross.”

Our Gospel for today is the account of Jesus’ time in the desert before beginning His public ministry.  In the verses immediately before today’s Gospel, we read of Jesus being announced as the “beloved” of the Father in Whom God is well pleased.  Jesus heard what the Father had said, and was sent to live that identity.  Therefore the rising action of His story takes place quite quickly.  The devil has Him where he wants Him.  Jesus is hungry, vulnerable, and unsupported by anything – except His Name.

In three straight stories, the Tempter is back at it.  “Forget yourself, forget your Name, and what you heard and listen to what others would say of you.  You changed stones into bread.  You went flying off the ledge and landed safely.  You now have all the kingdoms, handed to you by the real creator of what life can be.”  Our Lord seems to laugh at the Devil’s silly invitations to forget or deny His Self and His relationship with God the Father and His Father’s Kingdom.

Friends, the Tempter is a fashioner of the “quick-and easy” style of life.  The Tempter is still working on humanity to convince us that knowledge is wisdom and it can be obtained by answers on the internet or a quick-fix supplement.  Jesus lived the life now traveled by those who are “defig-leafed” by God’s love. 

Lent is the time for letting our names and identities be listened to again.  We are walking life’s road toward our being immersed again in the waters of Easter.  We are encouraged and graced to continue climbing the “tree of Life” and rejoicing in the wisdom-fruit it offers to the patient climbers.  No serpents allowed please!

Question of the DayAre you willing to receive God’s Holy Wisdom through the Gospels, the Good News of Jesus Christ?

Prayer: God our Father, I give You Thanks because I can call myself your child and an heir to Your Kingdom.  Give me the innocence of a child, that I may be sure of Your Fatherly love.


Deacon Anthony J. Cincotta

Assistant Director for Retreat Ministry

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