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Sunday:       First Sunday Of Lent.
Date:         March 5, 2017.
Year:         A
The readings: [Gen. 2:7-9; 16-18, 25, 3:1-7; Rom. 5:12-19; Mt. 4:1-11]
The message:  Away with you, Satan!
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry.
Total words:  2852


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** The readings follow the sermon.

How does today's celebration of the First Sunday of Lent relate to the creation of man versus Jesus spending forty days in the desert? My brothers and sisters in Christ, both events have to do with temptation! Allow me to explain...

Lent is a season of penance that has been set apart by the Catholic Church in memory of the forty days' fast of Our Lord Jesus in the desert and as a mean of sanctification for her members. Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent includes forty fasting days. The Lenten Season is a time to fast for the purpose of gaining spiritual strength in order to resist all forms of temptations. It is a time to firmly say, "Away with you, Satan!" [Mt. 4:10]

"Lent is a time to ask oneself a number of questions. Where is life really leading me? Is the hope of eternal life my aspiration? Have I tried to grow in the life of the Spirit through prayer, reading the Word of God and meditating on it, receiving the Sacraments, self-denial? Have I been anxious to control my vices, my bad inclinations and passions, e.g., envy, love of food and drink? Have I been proud and boastful, thinking myself better in the sight of God and despising others as less important than myself?" (Sunday Missal - Prayerbook - Hymnal - 2000, page 669)

By persevering in fasting, penances and prayers, the faithful obtain the strength that they need to overcome their sinful tendencies.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Genesis [Gen. 2:7-9, 16-18, 25; 3:1-7] recalls the creation of our first parents and the entry of original sin into the world.

"The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being." [Gen. 2:7] The first chapters of the Book of Genesis reveal two things to us. First of all, God created the earth for man's use. Before God created man, "there was no one to till the ground." [Gen. 2:5b] Secondly, when man dies, he will return to dust. [Gen. 3:19]

While the outcome of placing man in the Garden of Eden was foreseen, God still created the first man as a unique life form, distinguishing him from all other earthly creations. Adam had a life that came from God. For God breath into the nostrils of Adam the breath of life, and he became a human being. [Gen. 2:7] Placing man in the Garden of Eden was symbolic of Adam receiving Divine blessings. The Hebrew meaning of the word "Eden" is "pleasure." The Garden of Eden was created to be a place of ongoing bliss for humans, they having all of their needs met.

In the Garden of Eden, the Lord God created a number of trees. Two of them had special importance. One was the tree of life, the other being the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. [Gen. 2:9] God commanded Adam to eat freely from every tree of the garden, from all the variety of fruits that flourished, with the exception of one tree. Adam was not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Should he do so, he would surely die. [Gen. 2:16- 7]

In this context, to experience death meant two different things. First of all, to die meant to experience spiritual death. Adam would no longer enjoy the harmony that he previously had with God. Secondly, he would experience physical death, his body turning to dust. [Gen. 3:19] Therefore, the permanent happiness of Adam depended entirely on his obedience, his remaining subject to God.

Knowing that Adam was lonely, God determined that it was best to "make him a helper as his partner." [Gen. 2:18] When God created Eve, it was to complement Adam so that they may become one in the sharing of each other's happiness. Contrary to what some joke about, Eve was not created as a slave to man. Adam did not possess ownership over Eve.

At this phase of creation, Adam and Eve enjoyed an innocent nature. As very young children, about age two or three, who are not ashamed of their nakedness until they are told to cover themselves, Adam and Eve were both naked and they were not ashamed. [Gen. 2:25]

In the midst of this newly created couple, there dwelled the serpent who was more crafty than any other wild animal. [Gen. 3:1] This serpent had a way of distorting the truth. Approaching Eve, he asked her, "Did God says, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden?'" [Gen. 3:1] To this, Eve answered, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" [Gen. 3:2-3]

While Eve corrected the distortion of the serpent, she added her own distortion of God's Words. She stated that God said, "Neither shall you touch it." God had never said anything about touching the tree, only about eating from it. Here we see how sin begins with the distortion of the truth. Prior to eating from the forbidden tree, Eve had already distorted the Word of God.

Entertaining Eve in the distortion of the truth, the serpent told her that she would not die. [Gen. 3:4] In fact, by eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she would become just like God, knowing good and evil. [Gen. 3:5] Here we find two deceptions. First of all, the serpent denied that Eve would suffer death, such being the punishment for disobeying God. Secondly, he told Eve that she would be like God if she ate of the fruit.

Here, Eve had to make a decision! Should she believe God who had said that she would die or should she believe the serpent who said that she would not die? Then, should she remain subject to God or should she strive to be like God? Having a free will, she rejected God's truth and decided that she wanted to be like God. This meant eating from the forbidden tree. [Gen. 3:6]

Having done so, she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. [Gen. 3:6] Then suddenly, the eyes of both were opened. They noticed their nakedness, being ashamed of their bodies. Accordingly, they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths to cover themselves. [Gen. 3:7]

Summarizing what happened here, the Book of Wisdom tells us, "But through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it." [Wis. 2:24] Satan, the serpent, envied God's first human creations, the daily personal relationship that they enjoyed with God, the world that had been created for them. By turning their back to God, our first parents became subject to Satan. The devil became the "prince of the world," [Jn. 12:31] the prince of death.

Speaking of Satan to hardened hearts, Jesus said, "You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies." [Jn. 8:44]

The Second Reading from The Letter of Paul to the Romans [Rom. 5:12, 17-19] provides us with a greater understanding of the nature of sin. "Paul begins his description of the status of the reconciled Christian by comparing it with man's previous condition before the coming of Christ. It is a comparison of Adam, the first parent, with Christ, the head of the new humanity. But it is not smoothly worked out; for Paul also wants to extol the superabundance of Christ's grace which now reigns instead of Sin and Death which had been in control of man since Adam's time. Just as sin came into the world through Adam (and with it death, which affects all men), so through Christ came uprightness (and with it life eternal). But Paul feels the need of justifying his novel teaching about Adam and breaks into the parallelism to assert emphatically that it was Adam's sin that affected all men. Paul emphasizes the surpassing quality of what Christ did, when it is compared with Adam's influence. Christ, the new Adam and head of a new humanity, was incomparably more beneficent toward man than Adam was maleficent." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary.)

"Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, so death spread to all, because all have sinned." [Rom. 5:12] Because this biblical passage states that "death spread to all" men, the Council of Trent concluded that Infant Baptism was necessary as part of one's salvation. While an infant cannot sin because it lacks the ability to reason and does not possess the moral knowledge of right and wrong, it is still called to die because it has inherited the Original Sin. Therefore, the death of an infant is not because it sinned, but because it has inherited the Original Sin. But, speaking of those who reached the age of reason, according to St. Paul, death spreads to all, because all have sinned! And I agree with him!

Paul proceeds to say, "Sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law." [Rom. 5:13] What he is saying here is that while sin was in the world from the days of Adam to the day when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, because there was no law, personal sins could not be counted against the people. Without laws, the people could not be accused of having done evil because they did not violate any precepts. Yet sin was still in the world because of the inherited Original Sin. Death still exercised dominion on the people from the days of Adam to Moses. [Rom. 5:14]

In view of the severity of the trespass of Adam that brought death to the entire human race, the free gift of the grace of God through Jesus far surpassed the outcome of sin. God's favour was far in excess of any mercy that sin could have invoked had Jesus not died for us. There is no comparison between the free gift of the grace of God versus the consequence of one's sin. While one's trespass brought condemnation, the free gift of God brought justification. [Rom. 5:16]

While the trespass of the first Adam brought death the human race, the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness that we have received through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, has brought us life. As the trespass of Adam led to condemnation, the act of righteousness of Jesus had led to justification and life for all. [Rom. 5:18] "For just as by the disobedience of one the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one the many will be made righteous." [Rom. 5:19]

The "last enemy" to be vanquished is physical death. "For this perishable body must put on imperishable, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: 'Death has been swallowed up in victory.'" [1 Cor. 15:53-4; Is. 25:8] "For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being; for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ." [1 Cor. 15:21-22]

During today's Gospel Reading, [Mt. 4:1-11] we heard that Jesus fasted for forty days and He was put to the test by Satan. This reading from the Scriptures provides us with clues as to how we can overcome sin. Matthew 4:1 tells us that "Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness." Where exactly did this event occur, the Holy Bible does not specify the area. One place West of Jericho that is called "Jebel Qarantal," named after 40 days, has traditionally been associated with the mount of temptations. So the possibility exist that this is the location where Jesus was tempted.

After fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was awfully hungry. The forty days and nights may be symbolic of the 40 years in the desert when Israel endured a time of temptations and failure. Now, Jesus, the new Israel, is likewise being tempted in the desert.

In the first temptation, the tempter said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread." [Mt. 4:3] To this, Jesus answered, "It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" [Mt. 4:4]

These Words of Jesus mirror a passage in the Book of Deuteronomy. "He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither quainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." [Deut. 8:3]

In His response, Jesus is indicating that basic necessities should be subject to the revealed Word of God. His mission was not fulfilled by providing for basic needs but rather by proclaiming the Word that is life.

In the second temptation, quoting from the Book of Psalms, "the devil took Jesus to the holy city and placed Him on the pinnacle of the Temple." {Mt. 4:5] Then Satan said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" [Ps. 91:11-2; Mt. 4:6] To this, Jesus replied, "Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" [Mt. 4:7]

Once more, Jesus answered by quoting from the Book of Deuteronomy, "Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested Him at Massah." [Deut. 6:16] This Biblical response was a warning against rashness. By imposing demands upon God that God has not promised to fulfill, it is saying, "My way Lord, not Your way!" This is not the way that God has chosen to reveal Himself.

In the final temptation, the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the Kingdoms of the world and their splendour. [Mt. 4:8] There, Satan said, "All these I will give You, if You will fall down and worship me." [Mt. 4:9] Quoting Deuteronomy 6:3, Jesus answered with severity, "Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" [Mt. 4:10]

In this last incident, Satan tempted Jesus with a secular messianism, the use of power to accomplish the ends of the Messianic mission. By His response, Jesus placed secular messianism on the level of worship of false gods. Did Jesus not say to Pilate, "My Kingdom is not from this world." [Jn. 18:36]

Jesus also said, "The Kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; nor will they say, 'Look, here it is! or 'There it is!' For in fact, the Kingdom of God is among (within) you." [Lk. 17:20-1] While the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom, Satan tempted Jesus to make it a physical Kingdom.

By now, you must have all realized that all of the temptations can be summed up as temptations to power. The first temptation demanded that miraculous power be used to provide for basic material needs. The second temptation demanded that Divine power be used to produce a spectacular "sign" that would compel anyone to believe. The third temptation demanded the use of Divine power to establish a worldly Kingdom of God.

Having entered into the Lenten Season, this is a time for us to review our beliefs and expectations. Do we demand that God provide for our basic needs while ignoring our spiritual needs? Do we impose demands upon God when we pray, ignoring the impact of such demands on our salvation, the impact upon those around us, and even the impact of such demands upon the Divine Will of God? There has to be a balance between asking the Lord for a blessing if it is according to His Divine Will and saying, "Give me, give me, give me!" And, do we have false hopes of a secular messianism, awaiting for what will never come to pass? Are we wasting valuable time that could be applied towards our spiritual growth, our sanctification in Christ?

This week, may we reflect on these things and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in the truth so we may become as precious pearls to the Lord. And when we are being tempted by the devil contrary to the teachings of the Holy Catholic Church, may we raise our voices and say, "Away with you, Satan!" [Mt. 4:10]

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"The Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

And the Lord God commanded the man, "You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die."

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his patner.' And the man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat from any tree in the garden'?" The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.'" But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.

Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves." [Gen. 2:7-9; 16-18, 2-5, 3:1-7]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Brothers and sisters: Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, so death spread to all, because all have sinned.

Sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man's trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one person's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.

If, because of the trespass of one, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as the trespass of one led to condemnation for all, so the act of righteousness of one leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the disobedience of one the many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one the many will be made righteous." [Rom. 5:12-19]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished.

The tempter came and said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.' But he answered, 'It is written, 'One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'' Jesus said to him, 'Again it is written, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.''"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, 'All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.' Jesus said to him, 'Away with you, Satan! for it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.''"

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him." [Mt. 4:1-11]

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