Sunday, March 1, 2020

Reflection for Today

Borrowed from A Catholic Moment;

Lent is here again. It is a 40 days walk to Calvary. It is a relieving of the experience of the garden of Eden and the wilderness of Judaea. Is is a journey from the desire of the “apple”(the fruit depicted as apple because it’s a fruit that originated from the east) of fall to the affirmation that man does not live by bread alone but on the Word of God; from disobedience to obedience. It is a time that reminds us of the human journey of fall and redemption.
The readings today remind us that temptation is part of our journey of faith. It usually always come with a price tag. Yes the devil does not come dressed in red cape and pointy horns. He disguises himself in everything we desire.
We are thus invited to make this Lenten season different through resistance to evil. And this is only possible if we learn to look at Jesus.

FIRST READING: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Our first reading today is an Elohist tradition (The Old Testament texts are said to have been composed by four sources abbreviated as JEDP…Yahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomic and Priestly traditions) which attempts to explain the origin of evil in the world.
The figures of Adam and Eve represent the fallen humanity. It is a mirror through which this biblical tradition attempted to explain the perfection of God in relation to the imperfection of man, and the dependency of man on the mercy of God.
1. Why did Adam and Eve fall? The same passage gives us the answer. It says because they wanted to be like God (Gen. 3:5 ). And this is the general character of sin…doing what one is not ought to do.
2. Did they finally become the like of God?Unfortunately, No! Instead of becoming like God they rather experienced a degradation in their nature. This is exactly the work of sin. It disfigures the image of God in man. It exposes man’s nakedness (they discovered that they were naked) which is a figurative expression of vulnerability and the absence of God in the life of man.
3. Why did they cover their nakedness and tried to hide from God? This is another figurative expression of the character of sin. It not only distances man from God but it equally hides him away from God because the holiness of God is incompatible with the corruption of sin. And the concept of “covering and hiding” also gives the sense of darkness which impedes sight. Sin darkens the soul and deprives it of the light of God.

SECOND READING: Romans 5:12.17-19
The second reading is Paul’s solemn proclamation of the victory of the New Adam (Jesus) over the old Adam; the victory of obedience over disobedience; the victory of good over evil and life over death. He reaffirmed the Genesis account that death came through sin (Gen. 3:19). Yes for a long time humanity has borne the mark of the corruption, condemnation and death inherited through the first Adam, but fortunately that is not the end of the story. Thanks to the coming of Christ; those condemned through sin and death are now justified and saved.

GOSPEL: Matthew 4: 1-11
The Gospel pericope is a direct response to the First Reading. Matthew tells his audience that although at the garden of Eden the old humanity was condemned to death as a result of disobedience of Adam, but at the desert of Judaea a new humanity will be born through the obedience of Jesus. The insertion of the scene of temptation is a further attempt by the evangelist to affirm the humanity of Jesus because God cannot be tempted. But then on the other hand, his account of the victory of Jesus is an affirmation of his divinity (true God and true man). That is to say, the devil wrestles with what is human in us, but he can only be overcome through our connection with the divine.
This expresses the subtle character of the devil. He knew Jesus to be the Son of God, yet he cunningly wanted Jesus to say…’Yes I am, in fact let me prove it to you.’ But Jesus proved to know the game more than him.
The devil knows our identity. He often tempts us through our position, our status and our background. Such things as:
–“You know your status. You don’t need to bring yourself low. They are not of your class.” THE SIN OF PRIDE.
–“You know your family is poor, do you want to reject this huge offer that can change the life of your family in a twinkle of an eye?” THE SIN OF AVARICE.
–“You know you are a man, and men are polygamous by nature. Just go ahead…it is not cheating on your marriage…it is in the nature of men.” THE SIN OF INFIDELITY.
The problem of who we are is a trap for the devil.

–BREAD: He knew that Jesus was hungry. So it is very natural that he would desire for food.
–POWER: He knew Jesus was God, that is is why he wanted him to prove his power by jumping down from the hill.
RICHES: He knew that Jesus was from a poor and humble home of Nazareth. So it natural for him to go for riches and glories made available for him on a platter of gold, if only he could just bow down.

Jesus remembered to repeat the Word of God to the hearing of the devil. The reason why Adam and Eve failed is because they were not able to insist that the Word of God said, “we shall die if we eat of the fruit.”
The devil does not tempt us with what we don’t know or like. The secret is to tell the devil..”Yes I know it…I am in charge.” Hence the Word of God is a powerful instrument against the devil. He knows it and he uses it, but he despises it. So we are more powerful than him because we have the capacity to love it. The love for the Word of God is the secret to defeat the devil.

1. Reading in between the lines, we discover that the devil is just an intruder. Nothing belongs to him:
a)He never provided bread. He only said, “Command this stone…”
b)He never provided Angels. He said, “He will give His Angels charge over you…”(quoting Psalm 91:11).
c)He was not the owner of the kingdoms of the world and its glories, but he said, “I will give you all this…”
2. In each of these three stages of temptation, the devil sought for permission. He did not command. It simply means that the devil has no power over the will of man. He doesn’t have direct access to it. He only waits for man to give it out. It is only then that he can manipulate it the way he wants.

This scenario of the fall of Adam and Eve is being replayed today. The “apple of pride” has continued to entice man, and he has refused to take his eyes off the tree. Today, the scientific evolution and man’s capacity to achieve many things has generated in him the pride of reason to formulate his own “Credo.” He no longer professes faith in the centrality of God in his life and history, rather he has opted to be his own god.
Then the fundamental question that continues to beg for answers till today is: Has man finally become God?
How do we explain a lot of natural evil and catastrophes that we are experiencing today which the scientific capacity of man is struggling to overcome? The more we have increase in scientific discoveries, the more a lot of problems surface. More suffiscated medicines, more viruses in the air. More global warming as a result of quest for development, more catastrophes to the natural environment and more death toll. More suffiscated alms, more tendencies for war, more terrorism, more suicide etc.
The first reading today simply calls us to reevaluate the choices we make in life and to understand that the freedom God has given us is not to do anything we want, but to do good. It invites us to look at Jesus who had the freewill to accept the beautiful proposals of the devil but decided to turn them down. Why? Because he did not want to be like God. He only wanted to do the will of God.

The psalmist of the day gives us only one way in which we can stop hiding from God and from giving excuses. And that is the popular “Miserere”—“Have mercy on me oh God.” It was the song of David’s repentance after realizing his evil (sleeping with Bathsheba the wife of Uriah and putting Uriah to death at the war front). It is the prayer of the prodigal son of Luke 15, “Father I have sinned against heaven and against you…” And it is the prayer of all who recognizing their offences (no matter how many they are) still desire to come back to God.

St. Paul’s message is a powerful instrument for those who feel that they have sinned so much that they cannot be forgiven; those who still see themselves in the mirror of the first Adam; and those who feel already condemned and driven out of “the garden of Eden of God’s mercy.”
St. Paul says, No. We have a New Adam, Jesus. With him, our book of condemnation has been torn, and our death sentence has been cancelled. All we need to do is to come to him; for He says, “…I have come so that they may have life, life in abundance.” (Jn 10:10).

We all desire for bread, for power and for riches; and how often we destroy the lives of others because of our unquenchable taste for these? The devil is still holding multitude of persons captives in the wilderness of temptation because they have submitted themselves to his proposals. Jesus rejected them, that is why He was able to come out. He knew that there was no life in the wilderness. Therefore, Lent is a time we must learn to say no to the devil and come out of the wilderness of temptation and sin.
Lord we truly deserve to be chased out of the garden of your love because of our many sins, but through your son we have known that your love has no end. Help us to keep our focus on him so that we may learn to say no to the lure of the evil one. Amen.

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