I remember the first time we talked about the story of Adam and Eve in religion class. It was third grade, I wasn’t exactly paying attention to what was going on in class, and suddenly I hear the teacher say, “OK class, today we’re going to learn about the sin of Adam.” I can only imagine the look of terror that must have come over my face until a few seconds passed and I realized that I was not the Adam being referred to. For all the rich meaning in the story of Adam and Eve, it’s sad that what we sometimes boil it down to is Adam’s sin. I understand why that happens — it’s a huge part of the story — but there is more there, too.
I learned that “more to the story” in the college seminary, when one of the priests gave a homily on the story of Adam and Eve. He pointed out that some people think that to be human is to be sinful… even if not consciously aware of it, people will look for an excuse from a failure and say, “well I’m only human.” This priest told us to never let people think that way. God created humanity, and God only creates good. If we sin, it is because we are not human enough. To sin is to be less than human.
In this Gospel, Jesus is tempted with sin and remains sinless. I think we always attribute the perfection of Jesus to his divinity and think, “well of course he can’t sin… he’s God.” But this time in the desert doesn’t reveal the fullness of his divinity… it reveals the fullness of his humanity. Jesus was tempted… in a very real and meaningful way, Jesus was tempted. And when he refused those temptations he was not rising above his humanity, he was being what humanity was always meant to be.
In this time of Lent, the Spirit is drawing us into the desert so that we might be more fully human. Lent is a desert time. It is a time in which we face our failures and our sins. Hence we have our Lenten observance of prayer, fasting, and alms-giving, so that we can strip away the clutter of our lives and more clearly perceive our relationship to the Father.
And the first temptation for all of us is going to be the refusal to enter the desert at all. How many of us will mess up our Lenten sacrifice one time and give up on it entirely? How many of us will think, “yeah I should pray a little more during Lent” and never do anything beyond that one thought? Or worst of all, how many of us will look at our sinfulness that only we know and think, “it’s impossible, there’s no use trying, I’m only human.”
My brothers and sisters… it is the Spirit of Christ that has led us to this desert time of Lent, and it is His Spirit that desires us to be fully human, to be the creation that God intends for us to be. God does not lead us to the impossible, and he does not lead us to despair. Trust in Jesus Christ. Trust in the Spirit that leads us into the desert. Take this Lent seriously, and you will grow into the image of Christ, the fullness of humanity.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.