Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Adam and Eve’s fall from grace
This is the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, the loss of an intimate relationship with their Creator. The reading begins with the creation of the man. The man is brought to life by God’s breath, showing the absolute dependence of the creature on his Creator. Then God creates a beautiful garden, which the first man and woman are given to enjoy―with one stipulation, namely, that they are not to eat of the fruit from the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” in the middle of the garden. The tree presumably represents, on one hand, man’s ability to distinguish between good and evil and, on the other hand, the knowledge that belongs to God.
Enter the serpent, the most cunning of all creatures, tempting Eve to disobey her Creator. The serpent plants the seeds of doubt in Eve’s heart about God’s command and God’s love for her. She falls for the serpent’s irresistible challenge, “If you eat the forbidden fruit, you shall become like God.” In tempting us, Satan cleverly presents evil as some desirable good. The forbidden fruit was “pleasing to the eye” (sensual dimension of temptation) and “desirable for gaining wisdom” (intellectual dimension). Having succumbed to temptation, the woman leads her man into the sin of disobedience. Sin loves company.
Having sinned, Adam and Eve’s “eyes are opened.” They realize the wrong that they have done, and they experience shame. Sin always leads to inner disease within one’s self. Adam and Eve cover themselves up with fig leaves (the first ‘cover-up’ story). If we read the Fall story in its entirety (Gen 3:1-24), we will see that Adam and Eve’s sin of disobedience not only ruptured their relationship with God but also with each other and within their own selves. Harmony with God, with each other and with self, was replaced by discord.
“The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” — Gen 3:6 (NAB)
Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.
David recites his prayer of contrition after God opens his eyes to the poor choices he had made in committing adultery and planning a murder to cover up his sin of infidelity.
A lament, the most famous of the seven Penitential Psalms, prays for the removal of the personal and social disorders that sin has brought. The poem has two parts of approximately equal length: Ps 51:3–10 and Ps 51:11–19, and a conclusion in Ps 51:20–21. The first part (Ps 51:3–10) asks deliverance from sin, not just a past act but its emotional, physical, and social consequences. The second part (Ps 51:11–19) seeks something more profound than wiping the slate clean: nearness to God, living by the spirit of God (Ps 51:12–13), like the relation between God and people described in Jer 31:33–34. (Source: NAB notes).
“Against you, you alone have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your eyes. So that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment” — Ps 51:6 (NAB)
Then Paul goes on to contrast the sin of Adam to the infinitely greater gift offered to us when Christ entered the world. If there is a “sin force” operating in the world and in us, there is an even greater “grace force” at work everywhere and in each one of us. While we may still struggle with sin and evil, we must remember that our baptism into Christ has given us the divine power to say ‘no’ to the enticements of sin and the evil one.
The sin of disobedience spoken about in this reading was called ‘original sin’ by St. Augustine in the fifth century. In a way that we cannot understand the sin of our first parents has had consequences for all humanity. Because of Adam and Eve’s sin, each of us was born with a certain inclination or tendency towards sin.
Original sin means that our natural powers for relating to God and choosing good have been weakened and our emotions and passions are disordered. We live with a certain resistance to the Holy Spirit.
For more on this topic, continue reading…
“Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned.” — Rom 5:12 (NAB)
Catholic Catechism Connection
The Fall – original sin (C 385-421, USC p. 68-70)
By one man’s disobedience many (that is all)were made sinners. (Rom 5:12)
We have seen how God created the world good and created the man and the woman very good. We might say that prior to the fall, “all was rosy”in the garden of Paradise. Then as we move to chapter 3of Genesis, we read the sad account of how Adam and Eve used their free will to disobey God’s command to not eat the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden(Gen 2:15-17). The tree of knowledge of good and evil symbolizes the limits human beings have as creatures. We are not free to do as we like.
We do not need to believe that Genesis is a historical account of how sin entered the world. The Catechism(309) states: “The account of the Fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man.”
The purpose of the author was not to give us an eye witness account of how sin entered the world, but rather to tell us that sin or moral evil entered the visible world when our first parents used their gift of free will to disobey their creator. Evil entered the unseen world when some angels rebelled against God.
The temptation of Jesus
Jesus resists every temptation to use his authority in any self-serving way. In each temptation, Satan seeks to coax Jesus into abusing his power to prove that he is the Son of God. In two of the three temptations, the devil begins by saying: “If you are the Son of God…” The setting for the temptations of Jesus is the desert, where the Israelites spent forty years and frequently succumbed to the temptations to disobey God.
The first temptation has to do with hunger. At the end of forty days of fasting, Jesus must have been very hungry. Satan tempts Jesus to prove his power by transforming stones into bread―to use his power for himself. The temptation recalls the hunger of the Israelites in the desert when they rejected the bread God offered them. Rebuking Satan, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 8:3: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Unlike the Israelites who argued with God about the bread he provided for them, Jesus acquiesces to be fed and sustained by the living bread of God’s Word.
In the second temptation, Satan lures the Son of God into demonstrating his power by using it in a sensational way, i.e., throwing himself down from the parapet of the temple. Refusing to yield to the devil’s machinations, Jesus once again refutes Satan by quoting a Scripture passage that spoke about Israel’s rebellion against God: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test as you did at Massah” (Deut 6:16).
The third temptation involves idolatry. Israel had failed this temptation many times, notably by their worship of the golden calf in the desert. Satan tempts Jesus to change his allegiance from God to him. Outraged at his tempter, Jesus tells Satan to get lost, saying: “The Lord, your God shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
The temptations of Jesus remind us of a verse from Hebrews: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)
At the beginning of our Lenten journey, our Church places before us stories of temptation and testing― temptations which Adam and Eve gave into and temptations which Jesus resisted. Like Jesus, we too are tested by Satan to abuse and misuse the gifts God has given us. We too are tempted to forget our true identity as beloved sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. During the forty days of Lent, we pray, fast and do almsgiving, so that we may have the strength to say ‘no’ to Satan and ‘yes’ to Jesus.
“At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” — Mt 4:1 (NAB)
1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?
2. When tempting us, Satan seeks to present evil as something good, e.g., eating the forbidden fruit will make you gods. Can you name how Satan does that today?
3. As stated in the piece at the end of the Second Reading, Original Sin leaves us wounded with a tendency or pull towards sin. How do you experience that in your life?
4. What can help us to be more aware of the devil’s temptations as we begin this holy season of Lent? What can help us to be more aware of the ‘grace force’ (see commentary on second reading) that is always available to us?
5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.
Call to Action
Be aware of how Satan seeks to pull you away from the ways of Jesus. Do some form of fasting.
Jesus, as I begin this Lenten journey to Easter, help me to be aware of Satan’s temptations and give me the strength to say ‘no’ to them.
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel: Saint Michael the Archangel,defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, w e humbly pray;and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host,by the power of God,cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Societal injustice and the devil’s bargains
EXCERPT – Jesus’s temptation in the desert is an apt metaphor for the temptations that we live with in a society in which we see injustice all around us. When I think about the ways that the devil tries to convince Jesus that if he follows his empty path, then he will receive relief from his hunger, from his thirst, from his desire for certainty about his struggle, I think about the choices that are put before people every day in terms of how to either amplify their level of privilege and power in society. Or the conscious choice to step away from it. When I think about the history of racism and white supremacist violence in the United States, in many ways I think for people in positions of power they are presented a subtle temptation from the moment they realize that inequality is an engine for many of the dynamics we see before us. So, in the ways that the devil showed Jesus the great wonders of the many kingdoms and in the many ways that the devil asked Jesus to bow before him, we find similar bargains in our society today.
EXCERPT — The battle between good and evil is writ large in literature, drama and religion. Today’s readings — indeed, all of Scripture — reveal a truth we know all too well. Even the best of us has experienced the powerful attraction of what we should not do. Our tradition tells us even more profoundly that the story is larger than temptation or failure. We hear, instead, what is possible: Grace, justification, obedience, righteousness and life are the real end of the story.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Joan DeMerchant
EXCERPT — Temptation was always there in the life of Jesus. It went with Him from the beginning to the end, from His baptism to His death on the cross. The more the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom spread in the midst of the people, the greater the pressure on Jesus to adapt Himself to the messianic expectations of the people to be the messiah desired and expected by others: “a glorious and nationalist messiah”, “a messiah king”, “a messiah high priest”, “a messiah judge”, “a warrior messiah”, “a messiah doctor of the law”. The letter to the Hebrews says, “Like us, he was tried in all things, except sin” (Heb 4:15). But temptation never succeeded in distracting Jesus from His mission. He continued firmly on His journey as “The Servant Messiah”, as proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah and awaited especially by the poor, the anawim.
THE ORDER OF CARMELITES – Lectio
EXCERPT — In imagining yourself walking into a worship space and seeing the electric chair as the focal point, you are replicating the experience of a first century Jew or Gentile entering a Christian place of worship – where the cross – a hated, disgraceful and terrifying symbol of death stands as the focal point. I think we have gotten so used to the symbol of the cross that it loses its meaning. Today, it gets decorated with jewels; it hangs around rock musicians’ and wannabees’ necks, another artifact like an earing or a nose ring. We walk into church – and hardly notice it. We have lost the ability to understand its shock value, what it cost Jesus to die on the cross – a n d – the demands which the cross makes on those who say they are followers of Jesus.
OBLATES – Homily Helps Feed
EXCERPT — It’s here. March first. That’s a date. It might also be an order. With Jesus and his ancestors, we are about to march into the 40-day* pilgrimage we call Lent. What if we really take this as an order? “March first!” Don’t make your own plans too carefully, don’t decide what you want to do or learn. March first. Go into this Lent like Jesus went into the desert — with nothing except vulnerability to God.
NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER – Mary M. McGlone, CSJ
EXCERPT — The story of Adam and Eve reminds us that sin has been part of human existence from the beginning. The second reading starts by recalling Adam’s sin and says that all people have sinned. The Gospel recounts the temptations of the devil that Jesus faced in the wilderness, though he did not sin. What is often overlooked, however, is the point that Paul is making in that second reading. Though all have sinned, he says, “how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one person Jesus Christ overflow for the many” (Romans 5:15). Grace abounds even more than sin abounds. God’s grace, mercy and love overcomes the power of sin and enables us to live in freedom as the children of God.
NCR SUNDAY RESOURCES – Fr. Lawrence E. Mick
EXCERPT — As we embark on the 40 days of Lent, today’s readings prompt us to confront our human tendency to sin and our mortality… As we journey through these 40 days of Lent, we can emulate Jesus’ acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving and recognize his obedience and willingness to sacrifice himself for our salvation. Lent gives us an opportunity to work against temptations towards sinful behavior and instead live simply and justly, inspired by Christ. May these actions guide us through this Lenten season and throughout the year.
AMERICA MAGAZINE – Jamie Waters
EXCERPT — In acknowledging the lies of our own egotisms, of the great injustices of the world, of the excesses in appetite, of the woundings in relationship, of all the mean divisions in the church, we drop once again the heavy mask of deception. It falls from our faces, revealing our need. We are sinners, dear friends. If we do not know that, we suffer a poverty of self-knowledge. But if we yield to the truth, not only that we are creatures, but that we are in sore need of redemption, we are newly free, open to love.
SUNDAY WEB SITE – John Kavanaugh, SJ
EXCERPT — The Bible’s epic view of human destiny may seem simple or naïve but, in fact, there is great wisdom here drawn from common human experience and the deepest convictions of our faith. We are children of God, endowed with great dignity and beauty, made in the very image of God. Sin, violence and tragic death are all around us, as evident to the biblical peoples as they are to us. But God’s promises are stronger than death. That movement from death to life is what we are asked to remember this Lent as we prepare for Easter. — From 2017 Reflection | 2020 Reflections
CHICAGO CATHOLIC – Father Donald Senior, CP