Sunday, March 1, 2020
+1st Lent A+
Lent starts with Adam and Eve, with how the world we are born into got this way—and what is to be done about it. At first they are innocent as babes, unaware of their individuality and sexuality.
God brings them creatures to name—like you present little stuffed toys to infants. They live in a timeless dream world called paradise.
Inevitably, like two-year olds, they disobey God—I am not you because I can say no. Now they see they are naked, discover shame, and quickly learn to blame each other. They hide from God.
Paradise becomes a wilderness where food is uncertain and suspicion of one another grows. Cain kills Abel and pride, envy, and fear of one another multiplies and is passed on and on.
Unreflected fears and smug certainties about status, race, gender, religion, and culture blind us to the harm we do as individuals and as a nation, while we hold ourselves innocent and justified.
Our ability to discern and choose what is truly good, right, and beautiful is easily swayed by what is superficial and transitory.
The Holy Trinity, in its brooding compassion, looks on our world and decides to send the Son to re-form us. What God created, God chooses to redeem. The Word becomes flesh.
The new Adam enters into time and contingency, weakness and vulnerability, hypocrisy and malice—in order to give us new birth as individuals and as a people.
He is driven by the Spirit into the desert—the world as we have de-formed it—as were Adam and Eve. In this world, he worships God alone and lives on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Satan’s temptations are issues Jesus will struggle with all through his life, right up to the Cross.
They are the hopes of the oppressed for the promised Messiah, who will impose the reign of God on earth, kick out the evil empire, give them bread, and miraculously remove pain and suffering.
Crowds flock for handouts and miracles but walk away when asked to follow in self-giving. Peter is called “you Satan” when he argues with Jesus over predictions of suffering.
Satan’s mocking words return as Jesus hangs on the cross: “If you are the Son of God, come down from that cross.” We too taunt him:
If you are so compassionate and loving, how could you have allowed the Holocaust? Why don’t you suspend your precious laws of nature a little more often for this paralyzed teenager or that dying mother?
We all end up looking in silence on the silence of the Cross and what it proclaims about the God who, with relentless compassion, suffers with us, suffers for us—and at times suffers on account of us.
His offering his life to the Father in trust and in being with us in everything right to the end is supposed to move us to compassion—move us to action, move us to involvement and risk.
We are called to live the life of God in this world, in this place, at this time—in joy and in peace—in solidarity with one another, with those who suffer, are burdened, or are mocked by the powerful.
We begin Lent with something Theresa of Avila said, “Don’t ask God to give you light burdens. Ask him to give you a strong back.”