HOMILY FOR FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT, YEAR A
Rom. 5 :12-19
THEME: CURIOSITY: A SUBTLE DEVICE OF THE TEMPTER
The story of Adam and Eve is the story of all of us. However, quite amusing as it is now, I remember my first childhood rage at Adam when I learnt that he brought sin into the world. I was mad at him for that, but moreso because he was responsible for “our” dismissal from the garden of Eden, because as a little boy, frankly, I thought I could give anything to stay just a little in that garden. Not, anymore now, I have too many cares already…plus my desire for heaven is more advanced than the attractive picture of Eden painted in my Bible Stories!
One of the quickest responses that springs from our human archetypes when we read the story of Eden is our human capacity for blame games. It is quite fancy to hold Adam responsible for getting drunk last night, blame him for cheating on your spouse or for being irresponsible with your duties, but that’s not the reason for the story. For some reason, the emphasis of my Bible Instructors then made me blame Adam more. However, most men would blame Eve most and as a matter of fact, many cultures blame women more for everything! As stated at the beginning, the story of Adam and Eve is everyone’s story, because perched on the heights of God’s grace, we have become more disappointing than ever! Ours is more severe now we have our young ones observing us, yet right before them, we commit evils that affect both their present and their future!
Taking a quick glance at the first reading and the gospel reading, first thing that strikes us is the reality of temptations. Adam and Eve were tempted in the first reading and Jesus in the gospel. It is quite apt that after being reminded on the Ash Wednesday that we are from dust, the first Sunday of Lent speaks of temptations.
The first reading from the book of Genesis gives the second account of creation. Here, the Hebrew verb used for the creation of Man is “yatsar”. It is the verb used for potters who work on the clay. From the dust (“adamah” in Hebrew), God formed Adam. Left at that, man was at best a beautiful piece of sculpture. But God then breathed his spirit into man, and thus Adam became a living being. This means that left without the spirit of God man is nothing but dust. But imbued with the spirit of God, man possesses a tinge of God, great enough to rule creation!
Where did it all go wrong? CURIOSITY…one of the greatest devices of the tempter! Curiosity has stolen away many an innocence. In the story of Eden, the serpent was employed to show how crafty the tempter can be. One of the greatest gifts we can possess as Christians is the ability to discern the subtle devices of the tempter.
Many Christians who were making great efforts in the past have been pushed down for not discerning the subtlety of the tempter. Many have been used to divide the Church of Christ, either because they were praised by the devil or promised greater power which they could not resist.
The two temptation accounts today tell it all. In the first reading, Eve went into dialogue with the tempter. We must observe in the discussion that the devil tempts us with that one thing that we lack. The devil has a way of making little all the gifts and blessings of God available in our lives, only to magnify that little lack which God might have allowed for our own good. When Eve stated they had all the fruits of the garden at their disposal except one. The tempter played on her curiosity, making her wonder what it would be like to eat it, promising her Wisdom like that of God if she would eat of the fruit. Many evil habits that destroy humanity were developed out of curiosity. If we can cast our minds to the first time we committed each sin, we must discover it was harder at first to commit those sins before the devil opened our eyes to them. And now we are naked, exposed to these sins, and are always struggling to cover our naked desires for them.
In the temptation of Jesus, the devil employed the same device. Jesus had just been baptized and declared the Son of God by the heavens. He went straight ahead to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. He must be at the climax of his element. One would have expected that his first meeting would be with The Father, since the Holy Spirit appeared at his baptism. Yet it was the devil that appeared! He did not come with many horns and a long tail, rather he came using the word of God! First, he said “if you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread”. Jesus was indeed hungry, or possibly, he might have been tempted to try his powers as the Son of God. But he prized doing the will of God over earthly satisfaction. And he responded, “man shall not live by bread alone”.
How many Christians today sell their consciences for material benefits? Many Christians have committed grave errors after praying and fasting. Many have imagined that the first voice they hear after fasting must be the voice of God, therefore they were not patient enough to test the spirit. Many have dambled into unprepared marriages, fallen out of the Church, sent their wives parking, disobeyed the Church, because they could not discern the subtle strategy of the tempter.
This forty days of Lent is a period of sober reflection and sober living. Do not be carried away by the subtlety of the tempter. Tame your curiosity. Never desire to experience any vice unknown to you. Caution your appetite for things of the world. Note that the devil tempts us according to our lacks. Be thankful to God for the many things he has given to you, and be careful when you crave what you do not have! May God bless these days of lent for you through Christ our Lord, amen.
Fr. Precious Ezeh