How did we get here? That question has a lot of parts; where did the universe come from, how is it that people exist, but, perhaps most importantly, why do we cause so much trouble for each other? Genesis, the first book of the bible, lays that out for us. Without going into a detailed analysis of Genesis there are two basic facts we should consider. First, God brought human persons into existence in a right relationship with Him. Interestingly, many anthropologists (see Professor Amanda Podany, California State Polytechnic University) argue that the earliest human groups lived in harmony with each other. Secondly, our original parents chose to turn away from God.
The most important reflection on these readings is St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, which is excellently summarized in our other “Christ at Mass” reflection for March 1 by Bob Dunne. Rather than repeat Bob’s excellent discussion, I’m taking a slightly different approach. However, don’t bypass Bob’s analysis. Don’t miss out on St. John Paul’s important treatment of the significance of the human person.
The author of Genesis uses metaphorical language to describe what happened. Genesis, for example, is not claiming that in the ancient past snakes talked. The serpent in chapter 3 is Satan (see Revelation 12:9 and 20:2). The Hebrew word used is Nachash, more of a monster than a garden snake. What the enemy offers is independence from God, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God.” (Genesis 3:5). As a side note, even though the conversation takes place between Satan and Eve, we refer to the event as the sin of Adam. Why? Adam and Eve are standing side by side during this conversation (Genesis 3:6). Adam had a chance to step up and defend his wife. Why did he fail? We don’t know, but there is evil and suffering in the world because original humanity turned away from God.
Reconciliation was necessary. God desired reconciliation and humanity was incapable of returning to harmony with God. Reconciliation, relationship, love, is always between persons. Both parties must participate. Christ came into the world, entered into our human condition, to represent us in our reunification with God. Christ is the Eternal Son in the Triune God, yet, born of the Virgin Mary, He is fully human. He would get hungry, He would get tired, injuries hurt. In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent Christ faces the temptations we all face and remains faithful to His Mission. His forty days of fasting and trial in the wilderness are the beginning of His public ministry.
That ministry will lead to the His ultimate act of self-giving love, on behalf of humanity, so that we can have reconciliation with God. That is the sacrifice of the cross. We need to respond by remembering that God is here with us by the presence of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Church gives us the forty days of lent as a time to reflect on our relationship with Christ and our own mission in life. During Lent we need to think about what our lives mean and where God is in my life. Lent is a great opportunity to double down on our spiritual life. We need to think about our routine of prayer. Do I pray every day? Do I pray with the people I care about?
We don’t need to spend hours in prayer every day, but we need routine and we should use Sacred Scripture in our prayer. There are specific Scripture readings for the Mass of each day and they are on the internet (www.usccb.org). We remember that the Mass is a privileged encounter with Christ in the Eucharist. Lent is a great time to refocus our attention on the importance of the Mass. We need to get to Confession. By the way, you don’t have to go to Confession on Saturday. We are priests seven days a week. Call the office (609 399 0648) and make an appointment. These things bring us to what Lent is all about, reconnecting with God, and, hopefully, bringing along those we love.