The prayer for the first Sunday of Lent invites us to grow in our understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and, by the conduct of our lives, to be transformed into his likeness. The season of Lent, therefore, is centred on the person of Christ. Are we alive to his presence, and, if not, how do we rekindle a neglected love?
The Genesis account of Creation and the Fall, while never intended as a scientific description of our origins, beautifully portrays the meaning and purpose of life. The Lord God fashioned humanity from the dust of the earth, and, with the breath of life, awakened us to the wonder of our being. This simple description embraces a universal longing for life, a desire not simply to exist, but to live to the full everything that makes us truly human. The abundance of the Garden of Eden expressed the Creator’s intention that we should live life to the full, that we should be blessed in a living relationship with our world, with each other and with God.
Sadly this is not always the manner in which we experience life. Far from living life to the full we are all too well aware of our vulnerability and, like Adam and Eve after the Fall, feel exposed by our own frailty, naked before the divisions of a broken world. We begin to realise that sin has played its part in alienating us from God and from each other. Lent invites us to discover within ourselves a longing for life, calling us to renew our faith in Christ who is the fullness of life.
Writing to the Romans, St Paul described sin not simply as an event, but as the power of death reigning over sinful humanity. We have only to examine our own lives to understand that sin is indeed a power, frequently thwarting our best intentions. To paraphrase Paul’s own words, sin kills the good that we intended, and promotes all that we wished to avoid: the living death of sin.
The beginning of repentance is the confession that we cannot by ourselves break free from sin’s tyranny. Grace alone enables us to entrust ourselves to Christ and the power of his death and Resurrection. “If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous.”
Let the first step of Lent be a renewed commitment to the Lord, whose power at work within us can achieve more than we could ask or even imagine.
The Gospel reading leads us with Jesus into the wilderness. Here we can review the many temptations that we have faced in the past. Like Jesus, we have been tempted by hunger. Many hungers come our way: the hunger for love, for approval, for success and wealth. Like Jesus we are sometimes tempted to ignore the consequences of our actions, to presume on the Father’s continuing love. Like Jesus we are tempted to power, the power that manipulates life to our own convenience.
Where we have so often failed, Jesus overcame temptation. In so doing he promised us the grace that alone enables us to share in his victory over sin.
On this first Sunday of Lent let us renew our faith in Christ, who alone feeds the soul, who alone is our security and in whose humility is the power that sets us free.