First Sunday of Lent – Year A

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Aldo Potencio, O.S.A.
Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate
Radnor, Pennsylvania

Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7
Ps 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Rom 5:12-19, or Rom 5:12, 17-19
Mt 4:1-11

In his Lenten message in 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said that “Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way.” At the heart of our Lenten observance is the Spirit inviting us and guiding us to profoundly understand and realize the meaning of the Gospel of love. It prepares us for our encounter of Easter so that we would not only see the power of God over death, but also experience the depth of God’s love for us. We remember how the Son of God was willing to humble himself and die on the cross so that we may live.

This first Sunday of Lent shows us how even from the beginning of human life, God’s love was already given to us through the breath of life. The intimacy of God breathing into his creation was a sign of God’s self-giving and his love as he bestowed life upon us.

It was not simply the power of life that was given to us at the onset of our creation, but it was God’s life that was given to us because of his love.

In this eternal covenant, God offers the gifts of life and love so that we may open our eyes to the reality that God is our God and we are God’s people. The gift of life itself is an invitation for us to freely respond to God’s offer of a relationship with us. Just as God freely gave us the gift of himself because of love, our response must be from freedom if it is to come from a loving heart.

Many times, however, we struggle with the choices in front of us. St. Paul (in his letter to the Romans) reminds us that the choices we face, fundamentally, are about life and death. When we follow the will of God, we choose life because God is the source of life. And when we choose sin, then we also choose death.

The significant choices we face can be masked in many different ways, but at the heart of them is the choice between God with his gift of life, and death as a consequence of sin.

In the gospel today Jesus reminded us that making a choice for the good, even in the most difficult situations, is possible not through our own efforts, but through his help. As Jesus endured the three temptations, he responded with complete trust in and oneness with the Father.

When tempted in his hunger to turn stones into bread, he proclaimed: “one does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” In the sacrifice of even our basic needs, God reveals to us his nurturing and caring presence so much so that even when the world does not provide, we will remember that God always provides.

Jesus’ response to the tempter is a reminder that our basic needs are ultimately provided for by our God. He guides us to an openness of heart to the God who nourishes and provides. When tempted to prove who he is and his very essence to the world, Jesus replied: “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

At the heart of this temptation is to test the bond between the Father and the Son. If the Father truly loves the Son, no harm would come to him, which was an attempt to sow doubt. But for Jesus, there was no need to test this divine bond because Jesus knew that the Father was always with the Son, and the Son was always with the Father. It is a bond that endures.

We have been given this gift through baptism. The bond we share with Christ also binds us to his Father.

And when tempted to have the whole world if he would turn away from the Father, Jesus knew that this was something that he could not truly do. He could not turn away from the Father who is always with him.

Lent teaches us to live the love of Christ in a radical way. This begins by recognizing God’s love for us from beginning of our life and remembering God’s invitation for us to be one with him.

Living the love of Christ in a radical way is being able to respond “yes” to God’s invitation. It is about our willingness to enter into the mystery of his suffering, death and resurrection, so that we may truly be one with him.