First Sunday of Lent (A)
March 01, 2020
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.

Collect

Grant, almighty God,
through the yearly observances of holy Lent,
that we may grow in understanding
of the riches hidden in Christ
and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Proper Chants

Introit

 

When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will rescue him and honour him; with long life will I satisfy him. Ps/. He who abides in the shelter of the Most High, says to the LORD, my refuge, my stronghold, my God in whom I trust.”

 Offertory

 

The Lord will overshadow you with his pinions, and you will find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will encompass you with a shield. Ps/. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *and abides in the shade of the Almighty, says to the Lord, “My refuge, *my stronghold, my God in whom I trust!”

Communion

 

He will overshadow you with his pinions, and you will find refuge under his wings. His faithfulness will encompass you with a shield. Ps/. He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, *and abides in the shade of the Almighty, says to the Lord, “My refuge, *my stronghold, my god in whom I trust!”

Liturgy of the Word

First Reading Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7

The LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and 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. And 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. Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you 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, 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 themselves aprons.

Second Reading Romans 5:12, 17-19

As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned -- If, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous.

Gospel Matthew 4:1-11

Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. And 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, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, `He will give his angels charge of you,' and `On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is written, `You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone, Satan! for it is written, `You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him.

Reflection Questions

  1. What makes you shy before God as if you had to cover yourself?
  2. How are you experiencing an abundance of grace?
  3. Which of Christ’s temptations tempt you most?

Catena Nova

Though there is no season that is not filled with the divine gifts, and though at each moment we have, through His grace, access to the Divine Mercy, yet now is  the time in which the souls of all people should be stirred with greater fervour towards spiritual perfection, and inspired with greater confidence: now when the return of that  day on which we were redeemed invites us once more to the fulfilment of  all our sacred duties, so that purified in body and soul we may celebrate the supreme Mystery of the Passion of Our Lord. Indeed, such unending reverence and unceasing devotion is due to these so sacred mysteries, that such should we ever be in the Presence of God as we now are obliged to be for the worthy celebration of the PaschalFeast. (St. Leo the Great)

“I heard a voice speaking to me: ‘The young woman whom you see is Love. She has her tent in eternity… It was love which was the source of this creation in the beginning when God said: ‘Let it be!’ And it was. As though in the blinking of an eye, the whole creation was formed through love. The young woman is radiant in such a clear, lightning-like brilliance of countenance that you can’t fully look at her… She holds the sun and moon in her right hand and embraces them tenderly…The whole of creation calls this maiden ‘Lady.’ For it was from her that all of creation proceeded, since Love was the first. She made everything… Love was in eternity and brought forth, in the beginning of all holiness, all creatures without any admixture of evil. Adam and Eve as well were produced by love from the pure nature of the Earth.” (St. Hildegard of Bingen)

‘To relieve humanity of the death that our own disobedience had brought, I tenderly and providently gave you my only-begotten Son to heal you and bring satisfaction for your needs. I gave him the task of being supremely obedient, to free the human race of the poison that your first parent’s disobedience had spread throughout the world. Falling in love, as it were, with his task, and truly obedient, he hurried to a shameful death on the most holy Cross. By his most holy death he gave you life: not human life this time, but with the strength of his divinity. (St. Catherine of Siena)

In his answer to God’s query, Adam blames everything on Eve; he has been repeating this accusation ever since, in the teeth of a Biblical text that, far from condoning his cowardly avoidance of responsibility, obviously regards it as a continuation and aggravation of the original sin. There is no biblical reason for singling out Eve as the main culprit…. From the beginning, Adam has tried to transform a minor point into the total message of the story. He does this in order to elude the truth of his desire. What we inherited from him is both the desire, and the appetite for scapegoating that goes with it. (René Girard)

What makes the temptation to power so seemingly irresistible? Maybe it is that power offers an easy substitute for the hard task of love. It seems easier to be God than to love God, easier to control people than to love people, easier to own life than to love life. (Fr. Henri Nouwen)

Yes, even in our penitential exercises, when we could least have hoped to find a pattern in  Him, Christ has gone before us to sanctify them to us. He has blessed fasting as a means  of grace, in that He has fasted; and fasting is only acceptable when it is done for His sake. Penitence is mere formality, or mere remorse, unless done in love. If we fast, without  uniting ourselves in heart to Christ, imitating Him, and praying that He would make our  fasting His own, would associate it with His own, and communicate to it the virtue of His  own, so that we may be in Him, and He in us; we fast as Jews, not as Christians. Well then, in the Services of this first Sunday, do we place the thought of Him before us, whose  grace must be within us, lest in our chastisements we beat the air and humble ourselves in  vain. (St. John Henry Newman)

Temptations are part of life, part of growing up. We grapple with them often — in some instances for our lifetime — before we come to realize that it is not so much the victory as it is the struggle that is holy.” (Sr. Joan Chittister)

Homily

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (A)

               Readings: Gn. 2:7-9;3:1-7; Rm. 5:12-19; Mt. 4:1-11

The Unfairness Doctrine

            Nothing could be more unfair.  That is, the belief that through one person sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all (II).  We call it “original sin,” and it seems just plain unfair to me.  Why should the actions of the first humans – whoever they were in the misty beginnings of the human race whom the Bible gives the symbolic names “Adam” and “Eve” – why should they have brought to the rest of us the miseries associated with sin and death?  Why should you and I be subjected to a penalty—the death penalty, no less! -- for something someone else did?  What’s worse, the Book of Genesis would have us believe it all began with eating a piece of fruit!  How could that small transgression be responsible for such a catastrophe?  It just doesn’t seem fair.

            Well, greater minds than mine have wrestled with these questions.  And I don’t feel quite right putting in my two cents after the likes of St. Paul, St. Augustine, and Martin Luther have given their answers.  But I’ll tell you what I think anyway.  I think “original sin” has to do with the importance of every person’s actions.  How the actions of each one of us has an effect not only on us, but others as well, often in ways we don’t realize.  Oh sure, we know from history how one person’s actions can affect so many.  Think of a Hitler or a Stalin, and the suffering the actions of those individuals brought upon untold millions.  Or how today the policies of a Bashar al-Assad in Syria or a Salva Kiir in South Sudan helped plunge their people into civil war.  It’s mind-boggling to think how the actions of one person can be responsible for so much misery.

            But we don’t have to be a world-class villain to get the point.  Think of the power in the hands of one parent or one government official, one manage or one minister, to inflict damage on a family or a city, a company or a congregation.  And when you multiply individuals, before long you’re dealing with a whole society, a whole nation, a whole economy, even the whole church. Oh yes, the actions of each one has a ripple effect that runs through the whole fabric of relationships of which we are part and parcel.

            Original sin, it seems, has to do then with the snowball effect of our actions.  How even those things which seem insignificant at the time can multiply out of control and before long the snowball becomes an avalanche: results that seem out of all proportion to the original actions.  Pick up a newspaper and you’ll read all about it, whether the latest mass shooting, the latest government policy to disenfranchise the poor, or the inertia of politicians to deal head on with the climate crisis.  What’s the root of all this violence and disregard for people and the planet?  You can be sure it all begins with the “snowballs” of disrespect, indifference, intolerance toward our neighbor, the choices we make in the polling booth: Seemingly small things that have a cumulative effect on our homes, our neighborhoods, our cities, our country, and our world.  And as they begin to mount, before you know it we’re all buried beneath their weight.

            So that makes the doctrine of original sin sound pretty reasonable after all, doesn’t it?  But the negative aspect is only one side of the doctrine.  The other side has to do with redemption.  Where, Paul says, the gift is not like the transgres­sion…. For if, by the transgression of one person, [Adam], death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace…come to reign in life through the one person Jesus Christ (II).  Now here’s something truly original!

            For despite the evil which is in the world due to sin, a far greater good is at work due to Christ.  Trouble is, we don’t see the results of Christ’s action as clearly as we see those of Adam – or Eve – and their descendants.  In a way, original sin is self-evident, while redemption often remains hidden.  Whereas the progress of sin is clear for all to see, the progress of grace is more subtle. Yet, I believe good far exceeds evil, just as the grace of God…overflows for the many (II) in comparison to sin -- though I admit it’s difficult to believe since the contrary so often seems to be the case.

            Yet believe we must: Believe in the importance of our actions, however minor they might seem.  Believe in the potential for good that lies in our power, however ineffective we might feel.  Believe in the great things we can accomplish under the influence of God’s grace, however meagre we might think those efforts are.  And yes, believe in the contribution we can make to the world’s salvation this Lent by our fasting, our prayer, and our works of charity.  For through the yearly observances of holy Lent…we grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects (cf. Collect).

            For all these things are caught up in the one sacrifice of Christ, which to the world seemed like scandal and folly – just one more victim of time immemorial -- yet was the one righteous act [through which] acquittal and life came to all (II).  The sacrifice we are renewing today around this altar hungering for Christ, the Bread of life.  Who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.  Amen.

 

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