First Sunday of Lent
1) Dt 26:4-10
Psalm 91:1-2, 10-15
2) Rom 10:8-13
Gospel: Lk 4:1-13
The author of Genesis offers an intriguing detail in the story of the fall of Adam and Eve.
Soon after they ate of the forbidden fruit and realized the consequences of their disobedience, Adam and Eve hid from God among the trees in the garden. Then in his first words to Adam after the fall, God asked him: “Where are you?”
Did God not know where Adam and Eve were in the same garden that God had created? Was God simply asking for their physical location, as when we look for GPS directions?
Or was the question, “Where are you?” meant to point to the fundamental spiritual state of Adam and Eve, now alienated from their Creator by a sinful choice to refuse friendship with God.
On this First Sunday of Lent, perhaps God’s question to Adam, “Where are you?” is a good place to begin our spiritual journey. We might ask ourselves, “Where am I spiritually?”; “What really counts in my life?”; “Does my relationship with God inform my decisions, thoughts and actions?”
Taking stock of our spiritual state at the start of Lent reveals the attitudes, things and relationships that keep us away from God. We turn in repentance and trust in God’s mercy that cleanses from sin and frees us to live a new life of grace as disciples of Jesus.
In the Gospel, the temptations Jesus faces in the desert unmask the things that can keep us from God. First, Jesus is tempted to turn stone into bread to satisfy his physical hunger. Jesus responds that no one lives on bread alone.
The word of God nourishes and sustains us spiritually. Without God’s word we lose our way easily on the path of life.
In the second temptation, Jesus is offered control over the whole world. But his kingdom is not of this world. It is eternal, transcending every earthly kingdom.
Christian discipleship is the way of the cross. And the power of self-sacrificial love, revealed by Jesus on the cross, is stronger than worldly powers that pass from age to age.
In the third temptation, Jesus is challenged to throw himself down from a high place to test if God will rescue him. Jesus rejects the temptation to make God an object of our control, to exploit God’s power for our own plans and purposes.
The psalmist points to attitudes of humility and confident trust in God that we seek to grow in this Lent. Our Lenten practices strengthen us to face daily temptations to self-love, harsh judgment of others and the tendency to place ourselves, rather than God, at the center of life.
The psalmist praises God’s work: “Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress; I will deliver him and glorify him.”
Only God is God. We are not God! Lent is a graced time when we set things right in our relationship with God and our neighbor. By putting God first, we grow in the trust of a disciple of Jesus as we pray, “speak to me, Lord.”
How will Jesus’ response to his temptations guide your spiritual practices this Lent?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.