1st Sunday Lent – Year A

Readings

First Reading: Genesis 2:7–9; 3:1–7

NB: The Old Testament readings during Lent are in the order of the history of salvation. Therefore, the OT reading will not always correlate with the Gospel.

Today’s 1st reading does correlate with the Gospel, in which Adam and Eve were tempted 3 times.

Genesis 3:6 gives us 3 reasons for the fall. The tree was:

  1. Good for food
  2. A delight to the eyes
  3. Desirable to make one wise

The ancient Jews considered these 3 reasons for the fall to be the 3 root causes of all of the sins in the world. These 3 reasons were later called “triple concupiscence,” as is shown in 1 John 2:16: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.”

Jesus is the new Adam, who enters into the desert (our sin has turned the paradise of creation into a desert) in order to lead us back Home.

Response: Psalm 51:3a (“Have mercy, O Lord, for we have sinned”)

Psalm Ps 51:3–6, 12–13, 17

Second Reading: Romans 5:12–19 or Romans 5:12,17–19

Gospel Acclamation: Matthew 4:4b (“Man does not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God”)

Gospel: Matthew 4:1–11

NB: The Church chooses the temptations of Jesus in the desert for the 1st Sunday of Lent for all 3 years of the Liturgical cycle: “By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert” (CCC 540).

  • The Church calls us to go out into the desert with Jesus to do battle with the devil, to fight against temptation, to be tested through a time of trial and purification. And how do we do this? The Church has given us on the 1st day of Lent, Ash Wednesday, 3 Lenten commands: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.
    1. Prayer – kills pride at the root by helping us to grow in humility, because whenever we get on our knees and pray, we are by definition recognizing that God is God and we are not, that we are his creatures, that we need his help and that we need his grace.
    2. Fasting – uproots disordered desire for pleasure because fasting helps you to control and to mortify, to put the death that disordered inclination to pleasure.
    3. Almsgiving – uproots disordered desire to acquire money or possessions. Give to the poor & the Church & those in need this Lent.
“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.
  • The New Exodus: Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness would call to mind the exodus from Egypt for 1st century Jews. Just as Israel was in the Sinai desert for 40 years, so too Jesus was in the desert for 40 days. Therefore, Jesus, who was just baptized in Matthew 3 (a symbol of Israel passing through the waters of the Red Sea), is embodying Israel and inaugurating a new Exodus.
  • 40:  40 symbolizes 2 things in the Bible: (1) temptation/testing + (2) purification from sin. Examples include Noah in Genesis 7-8, Israel in Exodus 13, Moses in Exodus 24, Elijah in 1 Kings 19 –> Jesus reenacts & fulfills all of these 40-day periods of testing & purification.
 3 The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
  • A real temptation: Since Jesus was fully human, he experienced the desires of the human body. Having fasted for 40 days in hot desert, he was surely famished.
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
  • Devil quoting Scripture: The devil quotes Psalm 91, which in a 1st century Jewish context, is a Psalm of exorcism, which Jewish exorcists would sing when casting out demons. Ironic. The devil knew this Psalm really well. He had heard it before. Now he takes it out of context and throws it back at Jesus.
  • Pride: The devil tries to get Jesus to commit the sin of pride. But Jesus did not come to prove his power by a prideful and grand display of miracles but rather to reveal that He is the Messiah through the humble act of love through His passion, death, and resurrection.
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; 9 and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”
  • A real temptation: Since Jesus’ mission was to take back all of the souls of all of humanity from the power of the devil, who is the prince of all the kingdoms of the world, as is mentioned in Luke’s Gospel account, this was a real temptation for Christ. Instead of suffering the Cross, all Jesus would have to do is take a knee, just genuflect, just bow down and worship Satan.
11 Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

 

“So that’s why the Church gives us this reading. It is a beautiful and powerful way to start off the Lenten season. And as you will see over the course of the next six weeks, it’s going to get more and more intense as we get closer and closer to Calvary. Because ultimately, it’s going to be on the cross where Jesus completely overcomes those three temptations, because he is going to go to the cross and he is going to suffer. He is going to feel the depths of a lack of pleasure in the pain of the crucifixion. He is going to overcome our desire for possessions, because he is going to go to the cross with absolutely nothing to his name, even his clothes will be taken from him when he is on the cross on Calvary. Even his mother, his beloved mother, he is going give her away so that he leaves this world with zero possessions, absolutely nothing. And finally, pride, the people at the foot of the cross are going to tempt him with the same thing the devil said to him: “if you’re the son of God then come down from the cross. Prove it to us.” Instead he is going to take the road of humility and he’s going to crucify pride, so to speak, by being humiliated on the cross in the crucifixion. So the first Sunday of Lent is already preparing us. The shadow of Calvary is already cast over this first Sunday as we begin our journey to Calvary, and then through Calvary to the resurrection” (Pitre).

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