Readings: Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7. Rom 5:12-19. Mt 4:1-11.
The journey of Lent begins in the desert with Jesus. The desert in the Bible was a place that called on the people of Israel to forget the comfort zones they had built for themselves in Egypt. In spite of their grumbling and impatience, the desert became a place of life-changing discovery, giving them a new identity as the people of God. Jesus was aware of his people’s desert history, as he himself faced there temptations to take shortcuts to a life of prestige, pride and power. Instead he learns from his time in the desert to discern the Father’s word, to trust utterly in the Father’s goodness and to become totally dependent on the Father’s will.
In the first reading’s mythological story of the Garden, the man and the women (who symbolise Everyman and Everywoman) portray the opposite tendency, giving in to the temptation to take precisely those shortcuts to prestige, pride and power. Instead of accepting their human condition, “dust from the soil,” created to “serve” the earth rather than dominate over it, they succumb to the ambition “to be like gods, knowing good and evil.” A modern embodiment at the present time comes to mind!
The whole point of St. Paul’s second reading is to encourage us to follow the example of Jesus who lived humanity at its depth, rather than follow the all too-familiar tendency we humans have of living out of a desire for prestige, pride and power.
The Lenten season calls us each year to find our own desert space – it may be a hospital bed, a demanding caring situation, or a real physical desert. The important thing is to journey into it, to allow the starkness to hollow us out, so that we can open a space for God in our lives and, having experienced the call of the Father with Jesus, to return from the desert ready to “serve” our world in a new way.
Céline Mangan, O.P.