Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE TO CELEBRATE EASTER AND RENEW OUR BAPTISMAL PROFESSION OF FAITH
- Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7
- Romans 5:12-19
- Matthew 4:1-11
Today is the first Sunday of Lent, and Lent is a time when we prepare for the celebration of Easter! For those of us who have already been baptized, Lent is a time when we renew our faith, so that on Easter Vigil Night or Easter Sunday Morning, we can renew our “baptismal profession of faith”!
The priest will ask us 3 questions on faith:
Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth?
Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was born of the Virgin Mary, was crucified, died, and was buried, rose from the dead, and is now seated at the right hand of the Father?
Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting?
And we will answer, “I do” to all the 3 questions of faith and the priest will sprinkle us with the water of baptism and we will die and rise with Christ to the new and eternal life of Easter!
The readings today have to be seen in the liturgical context of Lent and Easter, and of Baptism and the renewal of our “baptismal profession of faith”!
In fact, Lent was originally a time when the catechumens prepared their faith for baptism on Easter Vigil Night! They too had to answer the 3 questions of faith before they were baptized!
The first reading from Genesis tells us that Adam and Eve Sinned against God! It was the first sin, the original sin, and the mother of all sins! It was a sin against faith in God, it was a sin of self-sufficiency, it was a sin of pride, and it was a sin of independence of God! Adam and Eve no longer lived from God and for God, but Adam and Eve lived from themselves and for themselves!
When we no longer live from God and for God, but live from ourselves and for ourselves, all the other actual sins follow, mortal and venial sins: theft, adultery, fornication, murder, deceit, injustices, corruption, jealousy, revenge, hatred, etc.!
The first reading tells us that the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’
The sin of Adam and Eve was not the sin of adultery, murder, or theft, but it was the sin of pride, of self-sufficiency, and independence of God! It was the original sin of dependence on oneself rather than dependence on God! It was the original sin of having faith in oneself rather than having faith in God! Again, when we put our faith in ourselves, rather than putting our faith in God, actual sins follow, mortal and venial sins: theft, murder, adultery, etc.!
More importantly, the gospel tells us that Jesus Christ the New Adam, put his faith back in God! Again, the 3 temptations of Jesus Christ were temptations against faith in God, but more importantly, the response of Jesus Christ was a response of faith in God! Jesus Christ the new Adam, the new Israel, the new Son of God (Israel was the old son of God who lost faith in God in the desert and later in Canaan!), put his faith back in God!
The faith responses of Jesus Christ are from Deuteronomy chapters 6 to 8: “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God”! (Deuteronomy 8:3). “You must not put the Lord your God to the test”! (Deuteronomy 6:16) “You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone”! (Deuteronomy 6:13)
Jesus Christ the New Adam though crucified, died and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father! Adam though he was alive died because of his Sin! And Saint Paul tells us in the second reading today from the letter to the Romans that through Adam sin and death entered the world, but more importantly, Saint Paul tells us that through Jesus Christ the New Adam, life, righteousness and justification entered the world!
On Ash Wednesday when the priest applied ashes on your foreheads he said: “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” or “Remember, man, you are dust and to dust you will return”!
The first formula is from Mark 1:15, said by Jesus after his temptation and at the beginning of his ministry: “Repent, and believe the gospel”! The second formula is from Genesis 3:19, said by God to Adam after his fall: “For dust you are and to dust you shall return”!
The first formula is preferred over the second formula: “Repent and believe the gospel”! To repent does not only mean turning away from sin, but it also means turning away from the world, that it, turning away from power, wealth, status, etc.! For if we only turn away from sin we will turn back to sin, but if we also turn away from the world and turn to God and believe the gospel, then we will not sin again! On the contrary, we will live and love like Him!
The gospel of Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6. 16-18) is also very important, for it tells us to pray, fast and give alms to the poor during Lent. The Church asks us to pray, fast and give alms to the poor during Lent, to help us turn away from sin and the world, and to turn to God and believe the gospel!
The Church asks us to pray, fast and give alms to the poor, to counter the 3 temptations of the devil, that is, the temptation to test God rather than believing in him and praying to him, the temptation to live on bread alone, and the temptation to power and wealth, respectively!
Again, the Church asks us to pray, fast, and give alms to the poor during Lent to help us renew our faith, so that on Easter Vigil Night or on Easter Sunday Morning, we may renew our “baptismal profession of faith”, and the priest will sprinkle us with the water of Baptism, and we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the New Life of Easter! A Happy Lent to all of you!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.