Homily for March 13, I Sunday of Lent, cycle A
Temptation is something we all face every day. If we take into account temptations to sins of the mind, heart, and imagination, sometimes they may even come to us every hour, or every few minutes. Hopefully, with God’s help, we dismiss most of them with hardly a thought, but sometimes we have to fight a difficult battle in order to reject them – and sometimes we give in.
We heard the first sin of humanity described in the first reading today. The surest road to victory usually is to reject temptation as quickly as possible, but Adam and Eve made the mistake of listening to the arguments offered them by Satan, giving temptation a foothold in their desires. As we all know, they ended up caving in and committing what we call “original sin”, and humanity has been paying the consequences ever since.
Jesus also was tempted by the devil, as we hear in today’s Gospel reading, but His reaction was totally different from that of Adam and Eve. When the serpent spoke to Eve, she listened, and even conversed with him, and began to judge God’s word in the light of Satan’s lies. Jesus, on the contrary, did the opposite: He based His response on God’s word, and used it to judge Satan’s lies. Jesus took as His reference point, not the temptation, but God’s truth – and as a result, He conquered the devil. His ultimate victory over sin and temptation was His death on the cross out of obedience to the Father, despite the very attractive temptations He must have had to use His power to escape.
This is why St Paul, in the second reading, describes Jesus in terms of a new Adam. Because Adam sinned, He lost for himself and all humanity the gifts of God’s favor and the right to be in God’s presence. Because Jesus did not sin, but rather conquered sin and took our punishment upon Himself, He won for us “the abundance of grace and the gift of justification” for everlasting life.
The rewards of our Lord’s faithfulness are freely available to us, but we have to take certain steps to receive them. The first step, of course, is Baptism, but that doesn’t free us from temptation. We need to learn the lessons of today’s readings. When we face temptation, we should turn to God and His Word for our strength, neither dwelling on the attractions of sin nor allowing ourselves to doubt the moral teachings that we receive from God through the Church.
Because we are weak, there are times when we do sin, even though we may have fought the temptation for a while. When that happens, we need to adopt the humble attitude of today’s psalm, #51 – which can be a great text to read in prayer during Lent – and go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation on a regular basis. Lent is a particularly good time for this sacrament, to prepare ourselves well to celebrate Easter with heartfelt joy.
This is what keeps Lent from being gloomy. While we take time to reflect on our sins, the suffering they caused Our Lord, and the need for repentance, we are also reminded that Christ has gone before us and won for us the gift of redemption, offered to us through the sacraments. The fruit of our Savior’s death and resurrection is ripe, and God Himself invites us to take it and eat.