First Sunday of Lent (March 5, 2017)

We continue our Lenten journey today with the telling of one of the oldest stories in our ancient heritage - God’s creation of the first man and woman. The storyteller reminds us that the human tendency to want to “be like God” (to exercise our free will without any restrictions) has been there from the beginning. This tendency caused a great disruption in God’s loving plan for us. As we listen, we aware of our own capacity for selfishness and sin.

St. Paul reminds us that God’s loving plan for us was only disrupted for a while. God had manifested his love for us in creation, but God chose to manifest it in an even greater way by sending Jesus among us. God’s love overflowed in compassion – in the gift of grace that Jesus wins for us by his obedience to his Father’s will. His willingness to die on the cross for our sins brings us a gift that far exceeds the original sin of Adam and Eve and even all the sins that have followed through the ages. During Lent, we are encouraged to meditate on the greatness of this gift from our God.

The Church encourages us to join Jesus in the desert during these next few weeks and share his experience of prayer and fasting. We are asked to consider our baptism and its continuing effect on our lives. How am I making use of the gift of grace in my daily living? How have I been tempted to use my free will for my own selfish ends? Am I nourishing myself on the word of God, or am I content just to eat the bread of this world? Who or what does my heart worship?

Jesus offers us a way to handle our temptations: turn to God and find our strength. Temptations are tests, but they are also moments of grace. They offer us an opportunity to acknowledge our human limitations and our need for God’s help. The grace of God can be powerful in the heart that is lowly.

The seriousness with which we choose to make our Lenten journey will be directly influenced by our appreciation of the greatness of the gift we have received through Jesus and our understanding of our need to deepen the effects of that gift in our daily living.

Let us pray each day that the Spirit of God will enlighten our minds and touch our hearts, that we may spend these graced days of Lent in ways that will open us more deeply to the grace of redemption.

Rev. Michael S. Murray, OSFS, is the Executive Director of the De Sales Spirituality Center.