Readings: Genesis 2: 7-9, 3: 1-7;
Psalm 51: 3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 14, 17;
Romans 5: 12-19;
Matthew 4: 1-11
GOD does give a promise that there will be a conflict between humankind (the offspring of the woman) and evil (the offspring of the serpent). In this continual conflict, humankind would be harmed, but one of the offspring of a woman would win ultimate victory over the offspring of evil. Thus, even though sin had entered the world as a result of the couple falling into the temptation, there is this first Good News of a final victory. GOD promises that GOD would grace humanity with the ultimate gift of Divine life.
The psalm response (attributed to David after his fall from grace by his adulterous and murderous plans regarding Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah) is the response of all humanity: “Be merciful, O LORD, for we have sinned.” We, as individuals and as a whole, have not always chosen to accept the gift (grace) of GOD’s life. We have been led astray by false promises of pleasant things: fulfilling our desires, seeking and building fame, using power for ourselves instead of the Good of others, striking out at those who block our desires and wants.
In today’s passage from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear that through one human choice sin entered the world. With that sin of the first couple, death came to all humans. Yet the gift and grace of God is more powerful than death. The ultimate gift of GOD was GOD-incarnated in a human – Jesus. Through His obedience to the Divine Will, the gift of grace is given to all humans who respond. Thus the obedience of the one human, Jesus, counteracts the disobedience of the first human sin (and all sins since then). It is GOD’s will that all receive the ultimate gift of grace – GOD’s life with, and within, us.
The Gospel is Matthew’s account of the temptations which Jesus experienced. After His forty days of fasting and prayer in the desert (paralleling the 40 years that the Israelites spent in the desert), Jesus is challenged by the devil to take the easy way out. He is tempted to satisfy His hunger by changing rocks into bread. Yet Jesus responds by saying that not by bread alone are humans to live, but by the Word of GOD. Being faithful to GOD’s Word can be more life-giving than merely satisfying one’s desires for food.
The second temptation presented by the devil is for Jesus to manifest His Divine nature and relationship with GOD by having angels prevent Him from being harmed even if He would jump from the high point of the temple. Jesus could use His position of being GOD’s Anointed One (the Christ) and the Son of GOD to prevent Himself from being hurt. Yet Jesus does not want to use His relationship with His Abba-Father to take the easy way out. He knows that suffering is part of His role in fulfilling the Divine plan.
The last temptation is also one to take the easy way of winning over the world. Jesus could have everything if He joined forces with the devil. They could rule the world, not for the Good of humankind, but for their own ends. Jesus says that the only One Who deserves to be bowed down to is GOD. Jesus’ allegiance is with His Abba. It may take more work to win over humanity doing it GOD’s way, but that is what brings grace (Divine life) to all of humanity.
Grace. Temptation. Results. Grace. We are part of that process. We have been graced by GOD’s life from the first moment of our existence in our mothers’ wombs. We face temptations over and over again. The temptations are the same as for Adam and Eve, as for David, as for Jesus: We can choose to follow GOD’s plan or we can choose to do that which seems pleasing to us but is not really what God has asked us to do. We can choose to be like gods, to have our desires met, to build our fame and position in life, to gain power by taking the easy way out or by stepping on others as we get to where we want to be. Those are the temptations. The path is filled with false promises and false hopes. We think that getting those things will make us feel good and be happy. It is a lot harder to be an obedient servant who thinks of others before ourselves. Yet Jesus shows us that being obedient to the will of His Abba and ministering to those who need our care is the way to Divine Life.
What brings me to hope in all this, is that GOD continues to choose each and every one of us. GOD wants to grace us. The LORD wants to give us the gift of Divine Life. And God is patient with us even after we keep refusing to accept the Divine gift of grace. GOD offers grace to us again and again. GOD has chosen us to be holy people, GOD’s chosen people. GOD is not going to give up on us, even though we sometimes give up on GOD. GOD wants a relationship with us, even though we sometimes choose to have relationships with things and other people which/who lead us away from GOD. Jesus reminds us that He is not going to take the easy way of gaining our allegiance. Jesus d force us to love GOD, but then it really would not be love. Jesus shows us that love is making the decision to follow GOD even when faced with temptations, trials, and difficulties.
Thus, we can expect the cycle to continue. GOD will continue to grace us. We will continue to face temptation. We will experience the results of our choices. And GOD will then grace us again. This type of gracing again will depend on what we have chosen to do with the temptations. If we choose to fight the temptations, we will experience a greater sense of GOD’s grace as we draw closer to GOD. If we fall into the temptations, GOD will grace us differently. GOD will offer to help us to pick ourselves up and give us yet another chance to accept the Divine graces. The Lord Jesus has chosen us to be in relationship with Himself and His Abba. GOD is not going to give up on us. It is ultimately our choice whether we want to accept the graces GOD is offering us.