Sunday Sermon for March 1, 2020, the First Sunday of Lent, Year A
Readings: Gen 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11
In the second reading today St. Paul states that sin came into the world through one man. He also refers to the “trespass of Adam,” and the disobedience of one man. However, in the first reading we hear about Eve being tempted by the enemy of our souls and falling prey to his cunning. Only after Eve had eaten of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the tree from which our first parents were forbidden to eat, did Adam eat of the fruit at the behest of his wife. So, how can it be the sin of Adam when Eve clearly ate the fruit first?
The real difference comes in the gravity of the sin. God told Adam directly that he could not eat the fruit of the forbidden tree; Adam told Eve what God had commanded. Eve knew fully well that what she was doing was a serious sin, but it was not as serious as the sin Adam committed, even though they both committed the same sin. Adam is guilty of the greater sin because his action was in direct disobedience to a clear directive that was given specifically to him by God Himself. Eve knew she was being disobedient to God’s directive, but since she received it from Adam rather than from God, her sin was not as grave.
It is also important to note that it was not until after Adam had eaten of the fruit that the eyes of both were opened and they realized they were naked. The text does not tell us that Eve’s eyes were opened after she had eaten; rather, both had their eyes opened only after Adam succumbed to the temptation to eat the fruit. Perhaps one could also consider the unity of the couple, that is, Eve is more affected by Adam’s choice to sin because she had received her humanity from him. Regardless of this, it is clear from the text that while Eve ate the fruit first, the disastrous effects on humanity took place only after Adam ate the fruit.
It is interesting, in this vein, that when Satan tempts our Lord, the first temptation has to do with eating, tempting our Lord in a way similar to how he tempted our first parents. The vile creature tempts our Lord to turn the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger. It is also worthy of note that our Lord’s response is that one lives not on bread alone, but “on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Adam and Eve had chosen not to live by the words that came from the mouth of the Lord; Jesus, on the other hand, is the Word that comes forth from the Father, so in choosing to live by God’s Word, He is choosing to live according to His own nature and being.
Of course, being God, Jesus could not sin. Satan had rejected the Incarnation, so his pride would not allow him to accept the truth of Who our Lord is. This is why the disgusting fiend would only say “If you are the Son of God…” The other demons about whom we hear in the Gospels acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, but greatest of the least would not accept this truth.
When Jesus does not fall for the devil’s tricks, that is, refusing to turn the stones into bread and refusing to jump from the parapet of the Temple, we then see the arrogance of the despicable one on full display. After refusing to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus, the vile thing wants Jesus to worship him. The foolishness of this temptation is almost laughable because he offers Jesus the glory of all the kingdoms of the earth, but our Lord is the King of the Universe, the King over all creation, including the despicable fiend. It is always important to remember that the Father of Lies made claim to all the kingdoms of the earth; in this case, Jesus did not respond by telling him the kingdoms were not his to give. So, the reason for the mess in the world can be traced directly to this point.
Original Sin and its consequences were passed on to each of us because Adam and Eve squandered the inheritance they were supposed to pass on to their children. Our Lord’s obedience, on the other hand, has won salvation for us. St. Paul says the gift from God through Jesus is not like the transgression of Adam. Every person is subject to sin and bodily death because of Adam’s disobedience; but the grace God gives because of our Lord’s obedience, that is, the life of God in our souls, overflows for the many. The devil’s lies bring momentary pleasure and end in death; God’s life and love are forever.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.