On this First Sunday of Lent, our readings today take us from the Garden of Eden to the Desert.

As the season of Lent always does, we are reminded today of the reality of sin and its consequences.  In our first reading today, Genesis tells us that in the beginning man and woman enjoyed a loving relationship with each other, with God, and with all of creation.  To a certain extent, every human heart still longs for such a properly ordered life, and we believers seek such a life through faith, hope and love.  At the same time, we know of the ways this ideal is continually spoiled through sin.

Our first reading from the Book of Genesis tells us a great deal about our own encounters with ‘the serpent.’  Sin begins with the creation of doubt in God’s commands.  Just as the serpent asked Eve: “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” he ‘engages’ in ‘conversation’ when we entertain such questions about God’s ways.  God’s commands to Adam and Eve were quite clear, as are the commandments today.

The story of the first sin also teaches us that sin reaches beyond the one committing sin.  Sin effects our relationship with God, with others, and with all of creation.  The sin of Adam and Eve impacted their relationship with God, with one another, and led to their being banished from the Garden.

Lent is a time for us to be honest about our own sinfulness and humble about its varied consequences in the world around us.  But Lent calls us to not only identify with Adam and Eve, but especially with Jesus Christ.  Lent is mostly about refocusing our life on Jesus who has freed us from sin.  Here is what St. Paul tells us today in the Letter to the Romans:

But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many.

The Temptation Of Jesus Christ by Sandro Botticelli

As we look to Christ today, we see him led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where he is to be tempted by the devil.  For forty days and forty nights, Jesus prepared himself for this encounter through prayer and fasting.  His preparation was through the Holy Spirit and in constant conversation with the Father.

The desert is a privileged place of encounter with God!

How many of us look at Lent as a privileged means and place of encountering God?  How many of us look at our Lenten practices as a a time to be less focused on the world and more focused on Jesus Christ? As our sin has cast us out of paradise, the desert is where we find our way back, because Christ is there to meet us, to heal us, to lead us, because he is the way, the truth, and our life.

I know I look forward to Lent, but I also know how I struggle to embrace its penitential nature.  This is a stark reminder of how comfortable I have become with worldly things, and how lethargic is my spirit even in its thirst for God.

In each temptation Jesus faces, he relies upon God and teaches us that in every circumstance of trial and temptation our only hope is to rest in God.  Listen to Jesus’ three responses to the various temptations:

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.

The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.

Lent is the time to discipline our minds to think always of God and strive to honor and glorify God in every way.  Jesus found his strength in the Father.  We find ours in Christ.

When the devil left Jesus, the angels came and ministered to him.  I love the depiction of this moment in the painting of Sandro Botticelli, (above) as it is reminiscent of the Eucharist.  In every Mass we are nourished by God’s Word and the Body and Blood of Christ.

So my friends, let us acknowledge our sins, but not despair.  Let us turn to Christ who is our help, our sustenance, our salvation.  Let us not fear the desert of this Lenten journey, but rather experience in it the privileged encounter with the Lord.