Today’s readings from the Old and New Testaments and the Gospel are very familiar to most and highlight one of the primary themes of Lent. On this first Sunday of the Lenten season, that theme was the battle of each individual against sin and our ability to overcome that temptation.

In the Old Testament reading we return to the Garden of Eden. There, Eve is approached by the serpent, who inquires as to why she and Adam may not eat the fruit from a certain tree. She explains to him:

“We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden;
it is only about the fruit of the tree
in the middle of the garden that God said,
You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.

The serpent then tells Eve the first lie. Not only will she and Adam not die, but instead, their eyes will be opened. Like gods, they will obtain the knowledge of good and evil.

We all know what happens next.

The New Testament reading then harkens back to that moment of Original Sin in the garden. It tells us that “through one man, sin entered the world, and through sin, death came to all men.”

The verse highlights the gift of grace bestowed upon man in the form of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross: “just as through one transgression, condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all.

Finally, in Matthew’s Gospel, the serpent returns many generations later to tempt Jesus Himself. Led by the Spirit, Jesus enters the desert where he fasts for forty days and forty nights.

These forty days and nights are reflected in our modern Lenten season lasting that same length of time. By the end of Lent, you are probably missing whatever minor item you “gave up”: eating candy or some food, drinking soda or beer, or fighting against some other bad habit.

Now imagine Jesus, fasting those forty days and nights. He is a human. And he is hungry. So, the devil tempts him, challenging that if Jesus is truly the Son of God, then He should be able to turn the very stones into loaves of bread. Jesus’ response has become classic:

“It is written:
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth
from the mouth of God

The devil goes on to challenge Him two more times. Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve in the garden, overcomes each of these temptations.

Fact remains, we are never going to be Jesus. We are never going to be that perfect. Never will we be able to fully overcome our sinful inclinations. However, even given that fact, there are two important things to remember where our sinning is concerned.

First, the fact that we may never fully overcome our sins does not mean that we shouldn’t strive towards that unreachable goal of perfection. When you sin, when you do wrong, you are fully aware of it. You are capable of stopping yourself. Capable of taking a breath, taking a moment, and making a different choice. We all must be willing to fight back against the devil as Jesus did in the desert.

Second, remember that no one is irredeemable. Jesus has paid for your sins and mine through his quiet acceptance during a rigged trial by the Sanhedrin, the cowardly result of Pontius Pilate’s subsequent inquisition, His flogging at the hands of Roman soldiers, and the ultimate final sacrifice on the cross of His very life.

Today’s New Testament reading ends with this important message: “through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.” While we should all work on overcoming our individual weaknesses and sins, we must also be willing to accept Jesus’ sacrifice, made on our behalf.



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