Tempted to forget

temptationAnd sin entered the world. In the second reading, St. Paul is pretty clear that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve. Did you ever stop to think about what exactly was the first sin? Maybe it is as simple as disobedience. “The LORD God gave the man this order: You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden except the tree of knowledge of good and evil. From that tree you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.” (Gen 2:6-7) That seems awfully clear… lots of trees, lots of fruit, help yourself, but not from that one tree. Awfully clear and awfully tempting. We get to listen to Eve’s thoughts as Satan tempts her: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen 3:6) I suspect I had many the same thoughts when as a child, I stood before the open refrigerator door staring longingly at the last piece of key lime pie – so good, so pleasing to the eye… and there was mom talking from the next room, “Have a piece of fruit. It’s good for you.” You can guess how that story ends. In my case, it was clearly disobedience, but I am not so sure about Adam and Eve.

Satan is not holding up the most awesome piece of fruit ever known to humankind. Satan is holding up the possibility that Adam and Eve can be something other than what they are – that they are not exactly adequate or secure in their present state. Satan is tempting them to not trust God and long for something they are not. “God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods” (Gen 3:5) And there it is “be like gods.” There is the temptation. Maybe the sin is forgetting who they were, who they were created to be – stop trusting God. And sin entered the world through the first Adam.

The Gospel opens with the second Adam (as St. Paul often refers to Jesus.)  Immediately following Jesus’ baptism in the River Jordan, the Spirit leads Jesus into the desert. This is no Garden of Eden, there is no abundance of fish, fowl, and fruit – there is hunger. And there is Satan. Sa’tan, the ancient word for “tempter” – and Satan is doing what Satan does. He is not here to get Jesus to be disobedient to his heavenly Father, Satan wants Jesus to be something other than what his Father as sent him to be. Satan wants Jesus to trust a new plan, not the one his Father has established to bring new life to the world.

If you are the Son of God…”  Interestingly, an equally good translation is “Since you are the Son of God…” There’s no doubt Satan knows who he is dealing with. “Since you are the Son of God and you are hungry, turn these stones into bread. In fact, turn all these stones into bread, because it is not just you who are hungry, the whole world is hungry. They are hungry for food, hungry for leadership, hungry to follow the One who will lead them to the kingdom. Think about it.  As bread, wouldn’t these stones be good for food and pleasing to the eye?”

At this point this Satan dialogue should sound oddly familiar to a conversation in the Garden of Eden.

“OK, how about this… let’s go to Jerusalem, to the highest tower on the Temple, where everyone can see you, and since you are the Son of God, let the people know. Throw yourself off. Make it spectacular and when the angels come to catch you, then everyone will know and follow you. Isn’t that what your Father wants? For everyone to follow you?  Come on… work with me! I can make you great!” It is the same old tactic, forget who you are – trust your own plans rather than God’s plan.

But Jesus remember who he is. Jesus is the one baptized in the Jordan, who arising from the water hears God say, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) This is Jesus who is like us in all things but sin. This is Jesus who shows us how to navigate these temptations – by remembering who we are and whose we are. Because once we don’t remember who we are and whose we are, we’ll do all kinds of things to dispel the insecurity that attends this life and to find that sense of security and acceptance that is essential to being happy. We’ll begin to trust our own plans. We will begin to trust ourselves more than we trust in God.

At every temptation Jesus resists, not simply by quoting Scripture in general but by quoting Scripture that reminds him of God’s trustworthiness, the need to depend on God for all good things, and consequently of God’s promise to care for him and all God’s children. This is what Adam and Eve forgot.

Here at the beginning of Lent, these readings ask us to remember who we are. So, let me remind you. You are the beloved children of God. You are beloved sisters and brothers to Jesus. You are the ones who at your baptism were claimed for Christ by the sign of the Cross. You are the ones, in your baptism, anointed to be priest, prophets and kings in this world. You are the ones who this past Wednesday, again claimed your inheritance, your family legacy, your baptismal right as you again wore the sign of the Cross on your forehead. And you remembered to whom you belong. You are the beloved of God.

There are lots of temptations in the world – some bright and shiny as that original apple – but the real danger are the subtle messages and whispers that seek to invite you to forget you are and to whom you belong.

You belong to Christ.

You are beloved.

Never forget that.


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