Homily – March 13

Today’s first reading can’t be read as actual fact. It is an attempt by a primitive people to understand the human condition. Someone said that the first book of the Old Testament should be Exodus, the deliverance of the Jewish people from the bondage of Egypt. This was an event they celebrate every year at Passover and it was in freedom the Jewish people began to reflect on their history as a people, beginning with the call of Abraham.

Today’s story about the alienation of the humans from God is their attempt to understand the human condition. Why is there sickness and death? Why is there war? Why is there conflict between brothers? Why is life such a struggle? Even though we might say that the first tellers of this story had a primitive notion of the God Who chose them as His people, they could not bring themselves to put the blame for all their struggles on God. Humans had to have caused the rift between God and humanity.

In this story Adam and Eve lived a blessed existence, they had a close relationship with God who would come and walk with them in the cool of the day. We could say ‘they had it made.’ There was one restriction: they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The tempter tried to assure them that God was putting them on. Tasting the fruit of this tree would make them be like God, equal to God. The more they thought about it the more enticing the fruit became; it was a delight to the eyes and would make them wise. They took and they ate and that was the beginning of the alienation between God and the human family. It all began when Adam and Eve wanted to be someone they were not. They wanted to be like God.

When we stop to think of it, this is what happens in our own lives when want to be someone other than who were are. Instead of appreciating our own worth, our own dignity, our own gifts we want more and in our striving for the ‘more’ we create our own grief. The story of Adam and Eve is the story of every one of us.

The same dynamics are found in today’s gospel and Jesus’ encounter with the tempter, the enticer. Before Jesus went into the desert he had been baptized by John and heard the Father’s voice ‘this is my son, the beloved, my favor rests on him.’ During that time alone Jesus tried to sort out just what those words meant that he was the beloved son of God.

The tempter comes and tries to lure Jesus away from his identity – you can be more – you can be a wonder worker- you can be master of the universe – you can call on the powers of heaven – the people will love you, they’ll follow you where you lead them, it’s a piece of cake. The tempter tries to derail Jesus’ centeredness on God but Jesus was solidly grounded in his identity as God’s beloved and no enticement would lure him away from that relationship.

This story of Adam and Eve is all about us – we are Adam and Eve. We’ve been told that before the world began God chose us in Christ to be God’s adopted, chosen, sons and daughters. To deepen that relationship with God means living our lives in a Christ-like way so that God may see and love in us what God sees and loves in Christ. As with Adam and Eve, as with Jesus, the tempter is constantly trying to lure us away from our true identity as treasured and beloved sons and daughters of God. Adam and Jesus are the prototypes of the disobedient and obedient person.

It is when we let ourselves be conned into thinking we can live happier and fuller lives by going after the trinkets the tempter shows every day of our lives that we bring disaster and unhappiness into our lives and the lives of those we say we love.

We are encouraged to spend the season of Lent sorting out and admitting those things in our lives that are unworthy of us and our true identity of being loved sons and daughters of God, our ways of living and relating to others that weaken or even destroy our personal relationship with God.

Our Lenten retreat will focus on one important example of this: our personal relationship with God’s good creation. Different times I’ve quoted a hymn that states our usual mindsets toward creation, ‘may us lords of all creation, every thing is ours to use.’ Our Lenten retreat will call us to live simply so that others can simply live. The tempter is always telling us we need more, we need the new and improved product, and we fall for it. This message is almost like the air we breathe, more is better, more is necessary. Consumerism and the reckless use of the limited, unrenewable resources of the earth will be humanities downfall. Just as our relationship with others is a test of our relationship with God the same is true with our relationship with God’s good creation. As I’ve said before, the earth does not belong to us; we belong to the earth and what we do to the earth we do to ourselves. We did not weave the we of life we are a strand in the web and what we do to the web we do to ourselves. Our life style has a great impact on the human family and on the earth itself.

As we continue to celebrate this Mass and reflect on the message of today’s scripture may we all have the willingness to take an honest look at all our relationships, but especially our relationship with God’s good creation and make an honest effort to live simply that others may simply live.