First Sunday of Lent
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
Lent: Working on Our Relationship with God
Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good to eat, beautiful and desirable for knowledge. But Eve and Adam after eating the fruit see something else. They see themselves in our fragile humanity, exposed, knowing good and evil. The image of God holding the sleeping Adam at Chartres Cathedral has been interpreted as taking place outside the Garden. God leaves the Garden looking for Adam and Eve who are in exile. God finds them when they sleep and embraces them, because God cannot stop loving them. They have been made in the divine image.
John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is leading us to the Father; Jesus is leading us back to the Garden. He is the Gardener as Mary Magdalene correctly named him. The reading entitled ‘The Rending of Hell’ from the Office of Readings for Holy Saturday tells of Jesus descending among the dead after his dying on the Cross. He goes to the prison where all of the dead wait, finds Adam and takes him by the hand and leads him and all who wait with him to the heavenly banquet.
Our first reading today establishes our relationship with our Loving God. We can imagine being where Adam and Eve are before the fall, if we could just remove their mistake. In the Gospel Matthew reflects on our relationship with God. He looks to chapter 6-8, of Deuteronomy, where Moses recalls God’s faithfulness to the Covenant with Israel: God set his heart on you not because you were great, you were the least of all peoples. God chose you…know that your God is God indeed, a faithful God who is true to the covenant. Moses encourages Israel to remember their forty years in the desert as they prepare to go into the Promised Land. They have learned much. Be true to the Covenant. However Israel will not always be true to the Covenant.
Matthew shows us Jesus, Son of God, who passes the tests set forth by the tempter and who is the model of faithfulness to the Covenant and love of the Father. "We have one who has been tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin" (Heb.4:15).
The first preface for Lent calls it a joyful season. It is the time when we try to live fully our Christian lives, to tend or relationship with God whose love is faithful and embraces us. Using the metaphor of journey for Lent is good because every journey has its tests and challenges, be it an epic of ancient history or a recent trip to another city for a visit with family and friends. Our Lenten journey cannot be without ‘tests’ because we are rending our hearts, working on our relationship with our God. We are dealing with those everyday demons who get in the way of living fully our Christian life.
Lent will take us to the celebration of Our Lord’s Passover from death to life as we celebrate the Paschal Triduum, and we will come in the end to renew our Baptismal Covenant and to sing the Alleluias with those who approach the ‘waters of refreshment’. The gates of the Garden are opened. The failure of Eve and Adam is the happy fault that reveals to us the love of so great a redeemer. From beginning to end we are in a relationship with God. Let us respond to the invitations of grace these days as we tend the garden of our relationship.
Fr. William Murphy, CP is the pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Jamaica, New York.