Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7 – Romans 5: 12, 17-19 – Matthew 4: 1-11
Those who have heard me speak over the years know that I am not a story-teller. Stories, however, are an important part of the Scriptures we hear in the effort to reveal God and mankind’s relationship with God. Such is the case today with the brief passage from the Book of Genesis which we heard today. It is part of a very good story about creation and the beginnings of mankind, but it is not a literal account. Rather, it is a simple, straightforward effort to pass on an important truth.
What this story, recorded in the first book of the Bible seeks to teach us is that it was God’s intention, from the beginning of creation, that we, as mankind, would live in a state of perfection, in a perfect relationship with God. There would be no pain, suffering or sinfulness. There would be no jealousy, hurt, pride or envy. The dignity of all persons would be honored and respected.
But this plan was frustrated because of one element which God added in creating us. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, God endowed us with free will, with the ability to choose. What is told to us in the story from Genesis is that a choice was made for immediate gratification. It was in response to a temptation to be something other than what was intended. This choice was a rejection of God’s plan.
The amazing thing is that the Scriptures also tell us that God did not give up even though sinfulness, a distancing from God, became a part of humanity. God constantly seeks to win back creation, to win back humanity. But, again, because of the free will God has given us, God will not force us. We continue to have the ability to choose.
Saint Paul told us today of the ultimate effort of God our behalf. Just as sin, the rejection of God, entered the world through a man’s choice, so sin is conquered and reconciliation with God is accomplished by one man’s action in Jesus Christ. God offers all of us the opportunity to join in the redeeming action of Christ, to become part of that restoration of God’s original plan.
It is in recalling this that gives insight into the account of the temptations which Jesus experienced. It is important to remember that it is a very human Jesus who is gradually becoming aware in his humanity and of his mission. He is to call all of humanity back to its origins, back to the reality of God’s plan from the very beginning.
The question before Jesus as he begins his ministry if how he is to accomplish this. Thus, the temptations are proposed. Is he to be a political and social Messiah? Jesus rejects this because it is a limited view of a much deeper mission. Is he to force God, in some way, to protect him, to make God work according to a very human plans? He rejects this because of his confidence in God’s plan. Is he to be powerful in human terms, emphasizing humanity as more important than God? This, too, he rejects because it would only be a continuation of past failures. The response of Jesus in each instance presents an example for all of us to follow.
As was the case with the first man and woman, and with all persons since, there are many temptations to act contrary to God’s original design for us. The Season of Lent offers to us various symbols and reminders to make what effort each of us can to bring about a genuine renewal of creation, starting with ourselves. It offers opportunities to restore the richness of life intended for us that is achieved through an intimate union with our good and gracious God