This meditation is on the readings from the First Sunday of Lent and can be found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/030914.cfm.
We hear in our first reading from Genesis about two trees in the middle of the garden: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Only one was forbidden. That is the one Eve, then Adam, chose. We know the rest of the story.
What is it about us humans? Is it because we don't like being told what to do? If someone says, "You can't," that is when we are tempted to say, "Oh yeah? Watch me." Whether it's a two-year old just learning to say, "No," a teenager challenging a curfew, or someone ignoring the speed limit. It doesn't matter: Rebellion, which usually translates into pride! It just seems to be who we are as humans! It was through the rebellion of our original parents that we get this rebellion from. It's part of that original sin that we are all aware of: we, like Adam and Eve, want to be like God.
It is because of this self-centeredness that the Church, during this time of Lent,spends a lot of time talking about sin, and encouraging us to turn away from it. On Ash Wednesday, when you received your ashes, you probably heard one of two choices spoken by the priest or deacon: "Repent and believe in the Gospel" or "Remember, you are dust, and to dust you will return." These two phrases remind us that we are all sinners, due to the original sin of our parents, Adam and Eve.
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once said of sinners, "The worst sinners are nice people who, by denying sin, make the cure of sin impossible. Sin is very serious, but it is more serious to deny sin." It is during Lent that we are to find that cure for sin!
In our Gospel of Matthew we also hear of temptation but with a far better ending than that of our story in Genesis. Jesus went into the wilderness of Judea and there He was also tempted. But here, instead, we have victory over the temptations. It was three times that Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, and three times Jesus won. The temptations that Jesus faced are no different than the temptations that we all face.
In the first temptation, Satan knows Jesus is hungry, and also knows the power that Jesus has. So he tempts Jesus into turning stones to bread. Tie this in with fasting during Lent. Why should we fast and give up things during Lent? In our society, so driven by consumerism, we are all tempted to satisfy our human needs with food and drink, plus all the other luxuries that you see advertised on TV. Jesus teaches that, "We do not live by bread alone." There is more to us than what we eat, wear, or drive. There is something down deep within us that needs to be satisfied, a place only God can fill. To have God fill that center of our lives, the Church encourages us to fast and abstinence. Giving something up for Lent is not about self-punishment but about freedom that liberates the soul and makes space for God.
In the second temptation, Jesus is tempted to put God to the test by jumping from the Temple. How often do we turn to God in prayer to try to compel him to do something for us. Often we are looking for quick answers to our prayers and quick fixes to our problems. Instead, prayer is a time to be with God in repentance and conversion of life. Jesus says, "You shall not tempt the Lord your God." We are to place our cares in God's hands and trust that He will always be there for us.
The third temptation is to seek the kingdoms of the world in the belief that fulfillment comes with power and control. Jesus teaches us a different way, "to do homage to the Lord alone." Fulfillment comes from following the Lord and in giving something of ourselves to others. We are serving God when we are helping others.
During this season of Lent, take the time to be with the Lord in true repentance. Read scripture daily, and if it's been a while, make use of the Sacrament of Confession. Then we will come to know the power of Jesus Christ in our life if we are generous in our fasting, prayer and alms giving.
Deacon Tom Tortorella is a guest blogger on FatherRosado.com. He is a permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New York and is currently assigned to St. Clare of Assisi Church in the Bronx, NY. He was ordained by His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan on June 19th, 2010.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.