There are many things that are constant in our life.
One of those things is our desire to recall and remember the first time something is done or accomplished.
THis is why parents get excited about their child's first words or first step. They frantically hope to catch it on video so they can relive the moment.
Even ourselves we also like to store in our minds these various first time things like our first crush, first date, first kiss or even first heart break.
We like to recall our first job, our first paycheck, and many business will have the first dollar earned symbolically framed and hung on the wall.
The list of first could go on for awhile.
There are also the first time realities in our spiritual life as well. On this first Sunday of Lent the church invites us to go back to the beginning in order to think about the first experience of life and contemplate our first parents when life was brand new and fresh.
Our First reading form Genesis helps set the stage and get us in the mind set. while we are thinking about first, the church also asks us to think about the first temptation as well as the first sin, the first fall from grace.
As we look to the reading to day we see the setting for the plot to unfold. There in the garden is Adam, filled with the breath of God, surrounded by life abundant. At the heart garden is the Tree of life and the Tree of knowledge of good and evil.
Adam could have from any of the trees, food and drink was at his finger tips. Yet, there was on catch, from the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil he was not to partake. The fullness of life was accompanied by a call of abstinence.
Adam in order to embrace the gift of life was told do without. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we are invited to abstain during lent. We are asked to reconnect to that original experience of life when it was brand new.
We too only discover the fullness of life when we learn do without thus allowing God to satisfy.
Here is a question, "why not eat from the tree of knowledge of Good and evil."
It seems like a good idea. Yet what is the author suggesting, exhorting, warning as this invitation to abstain is laid at our feet.
The author simply wants to remind us that it id God's prerogative to set the standard of what is good and what is evil, what should be incorporated into our life and what should be avoided.
Our freedom is fully actualized only when we choose the highest good the God has revealed and placed before us.
SO what is the temptation. The devil invites Eve to not just eat from the tree but really to usurp God's role, to make her own decision about what is good and what is bad. Rather than letting God's criteria to lead and guide, she is invited to come up with her own criteria.
The temptation is to make her freedom superior to God's goodness. IT is to make her freedom the center of the universe.
IS this not what we do today. Is not freedom hoisted at the be all and end all. We have the freedom to do whatever we want, with no restrictions. Is this not the lie our society tries to feed us continually. I am free so I should be able to do...fill in the blank. IT is up to me to decide...
Look around our world. Ask the question,"has this mentality be favorable to our world?"
Every temptation is founded on this one principle...to be like god...to be the arbitrator if what is perceived as good or evil. The temptation is to remove the objective reality of goodness altogether and limit or reduce our life to just the individual manipulation or perversion of "goodness."
In some sense Lent is meant to be the opportunity to rediscover God's plan of goodness and allow it to lead us. Lent is the time we stop being the rugged individual, doing our way and start living His way.
Let us go back to the narrative. The serpent is tempting Eve, so the question to ask is where is Adam while this is going on.
Go back and read Chapter 2 of Genesis. What you discover is the God puts Adam in the garden for a purpose. Adam was told to cultivate and till the garden. This doesn't make Adam a gardener. In Hebrew the words for cultivate and till is "Shamar" and "Abad". These words mean to serve and protect. Adam is placed in the garden to police it. HE was asked to guard it, protect it, to be on the look out so that nothing would harm God's good creation,the gift God had given. What we must remember is that Eve was also a gift.
Adam was meant to protect her as well. There was a job to be done. Adam's vocation was spell out and yet he is mysteriously absent in the dialogue between the serpent and Eve. So what gives.
In reality Adam is there the whole time. He is right next to Eve while the tempter tempts and yet he does nothing. He remains silent and lets it happen. Sounds a lot like many of us.
How often do we stand idly by and silently watch others fall, make mistakes and do nothing or worse we judge them, ridicule them, condemn them and do nothing to help them.
How different would it had been if Adam would have spoken up and encouraged Eve and reminded her that they could do it together that it would be okay. Or what if he would stood between Eve and the tempter and stared him down and did what he was called to do, protect and serve.
How different would our world be if we would invest in others and show concern to support and encourage and guide?
Something to think about.
Back to the narrative. What happens to the garden after the fall. The garden once teaming with life becomes a desert. Life was once at their fingertips after the fall had to be gotten by scratching and clawing through the thistles and thorns.
This is why Jesus in the gospel goes in to the desert. He goes to reclaim the garden. He goes to do what Adam didn't do. He goes to speak out and stare the devil in the face and back him down.
He shows us how to live our vocation and mission.
If you look at the words Jesus uses when he speaks to the devil, you notice he is quoting scripture. The scripture he uses comes from the book of Deuteronomy chapters 6 and chapters 8. This is Mose's farewell address. He is getting the people ready for the promised land and is reminding them how to move forward.
The one thing that is repeated over and over again in these two chapters is "remember the Lord your God." Moses is inviting to people to remember what God has done for them an din remembering God they also remember their identity as belonging to God. It is God's yes to them that will be their strength and help them resist temptation as they move into the promised land.
It is holding on to their identity and mission that will enable them to rise above and stand victorious.
Jesus Allows God's goodness and his identity to lead him against the assault of the devil. So must we.
Lent is given to us to rediscover God's goodness, to rediscover our identity, to rediscover who we are and thus live out our true self in reshaping the world through the eyes of God allowing our freedom to be shaped by God's goodness and thus refusing to do it my way but rather Making our life conformed to his way.
Life becomes no longer "my will be done" but "thy will be done."