March 5, 2017: First Sunday of Lent
Catholic Social Teaching: Rights and Responsibilities
The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father. The sign of the cross strengthens us in temptations and difficulties. (2157) Catechism of the Catholic Church
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
Psalm: Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19
Gospel: Matthew 4:1-11
Catechism of the Catholic Church
The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man and temptation, which leads to sin and death. We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation. Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a “delight to the eyes” and desirable,154 when in reality its fruit is death.
God does not want to impose the good, but wants free beings. . . . There is a certain usefulness to temptation. No one but God knows what our soul has received from him, not even we ourselves. But temptation reveals it in order to teach us to know ourselves, and in this way we discover our evil inclinations and are obliged to give thanks for the goods that temptation has revealed to us. (2847)
From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the First Sunday of Lent , Cycle A
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
The fundamental message of Sacred Scripture proclaims that the human person is a creature of God (cf. Ps 139:14-18), and sees in his being in the image of God the element that characterizes and distinguishes him: “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). God places the human creature at the centre and summit of the created order. Man (in Hebrew, “adam”) is formed from the earth (“adamah”) and God blows into his nostrils the breath of life (cf. Gen 2:7). Therefore, “being in the image of God the human individual possesses the dignity of a person, who is not just something, but someone. He is capable of self-knowledge, of self-possession and of freely giving himself and entering into communion with other persons. Further, he is called by grace to a covenant with his Creator, to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his stead”. (108)
The importance and centrality of the family with regard to the person and society is repeatedly underlined by Sacred Scripture. “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Gen 2:18). From the texts that narrate the creation of man (cf. Gen 1:26-28, 2:7-24) there emerges how — in God’s plan — the couple constitutes “the first form of communion between persons”. Eve is created like Adam as the one who, in her otherness, completes him (cf. Gen 2:18) in order to form with him “one flesh” (Gen 2:24; cf. Mt 19:5-6). At the same time, both are involved in the work of procreation, which makes them co-workers with the Creator: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Gen 1:28). The family is presented, in the Creator’s plan, as “the primary place of ‘humanization’ for the person and society” and the “cradle of life and love”. (209)
The biblical accounts of creation bring out the unity of the human family and teach that the God of Israel is the Lord of history and of the cosmos. His action embraces the whole world and the entire human family, for whom his work of creation is destined. God’s decision to make man in his image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26-27) gives the human being a unique dignity that extends to all generations (cf. Gen 5) and throughout the entire earth (cf. Gen 10). The Book of Genesis indicates moreover that the human being was not created in isolation but within a context, an integral part of which are those living spaces that ensure his freedom (the garden), various possibilities for food (the trees of the garden), work (the command to cultivate) and above all community (the gift of someone who is like himself) (cf. Gen 2:8-24). Throughout the Old Testament, the conditions that ensure the fullness of human life are the object of a divine blessing. God wants to guarantee that man has what is necessary for his growth, his freedom of self-expression, success in his work, and a wealth of human relationships. (428)
It is in the free action of God the Creator that we find the very meaning of creation, even if it has been distorted by the experience of sin. In fact, the narrative of the first sin (cf. Gen 3:1-24) describes the permanent temptation and the disordered situation in which humanity comes to find itself after the fall of its progenitors. Disobedience to God means hiding from his loving countenance and seeking to control one’s life and action in the world. Breaking the relation of communion with God causes a rupture in the internal unity of the human person, in the relations of communion between man and woman and of the harmonious relations between mankind and other creatures It is in this original estrangement that are to be sought the deepest roots of all the evils that afflict social relations between people, of all the situations in economic and political life that attack the dignity of the person, that assail justice and solidarity. (27)
Genesis 3:5 and 3:6-8
Work is part of the original state of man and precedes his fall; it is therefore not a punishment or curse. It becomes toil and pain because of the sin of Adam and Eve, who break their relationship of trust and harmony with God (cf. Gen 3:6-8). The prohibition to eat “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17) reminds man that he has received everything as a gift and that he continues to be a creature and not the Creator. It was precisely this temptation that prompted the sin of Adam and Eve: “you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). They wanted absolute dominion over all things, without having to submit to the will of the Creator. From that moment, the soil becomes miserly, unrewarding, sordidly hostile (cf. Gen 4:12); only by the sweat of one’s brow will it be possible to reap its fruit (cf. Gen 3:17,19). Notwithstanding the sin of our progenitors, however, the Creator’s plan, the meaning of His creatures — and among these, man, who is called to cultivate and care for creation — remain unaltered. (256)
The principle of the universal destination of goods also applies naturally to water, considered in the Sacred Scriptures as a symbol of purification (cf. Ps 51:4; Jn 13:8) and of life (cf. Jn 3:5; Gal 3:27). “As a gift from God, water is a vital element essential to survival; thus, everyone has a right to it”. Satisfying the needs of all, especially of those who live in poverty, must guide the use of water and the services connected with it. Inadequate access to safe drinking water affects the well-being of a huge number of people and is often the cause of disease, suffering, conflicts, poverty and even death. For a suitable solution to this problem, it “must be set in context in order to establish moral criteria based precisely on the value of life and the respect for the rights and dignity of all human beings”. (484)
The universal destination of goods requires a common effort to obtain for every person and for all peoples the conditions necessary for integral development, so that everyone can contribute to making a more humane world, “in which each individual can give and receive, and in which the progress of some will no longer be an obstacle to the development of others, nor a pretext for their enslavement”. This principle corresponds to the call made unceasingly by the Gospel to people and societies of all times, tempted as they always are by the desire to possess, temptations which the Lord Jesus chose to undergo (cf. Mk 1:12-13; Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13) in order to teach us how to overcome them with his grace. (175)
Jesus refuses the oppressive and despotic power wielded by the rulers of the nations (cf. Mk 10:42) and rejects their pretension in having themselves called benefactors (cf. Lk 22:25), but he does not directly oppose the authorities of his time. In his pronouncement on the paying of taxes to Caesar (cf. Mk 12:13-17; Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:20-26), he affirms that we must give to God what is God’s, implicitly condemning every attempt at making temporal power divine or absolute: God alone can demand everything from man. At the same time, temporal power has the right to its due: Jesus does not consider it unjust to pay taxes to Caesar.
Jesus, the promised Messiah, fought against and overcame the temptation of a political messianism, characterized by the subjection of the nations (cf. Mt 4:8-11; Lk 4:5-8). He is the Son of Man who came “to serve, and to give his life” (Mk 10:45; cf. Mt 20:24-28: Lk 22:24-27). As his disciples are discussing with one another who is the greatest, Jesus teaches them that they must make themselves least and the servants of all (cf. Mk 9:33- 35), showing to the sons of Zebedee, James and John, who wish to sit at His right hand, the path of the cross (cf. Mk 10:35-40; Mt 20:20-23). (379)
Romans 5:12 and 5:19
This marvellous vision of man’s creation by God is inseparable from the tragic appearance of original sin. With a clear affirmation the Apostle Paul sums up the account of man’s fall contained in the first pages of the Bible: “Sin came into the world through one man and death through sin” (Rom 5:12). Man, against God’s prohibition, allows himself to be seduced by the serpent and stretches out his hand to the tree of life, falling prey to death. By this gesture, man tries to break through his limits as a creature, challenging God, his sole Lord and the source of his life. It is a sin of disobedience (cf. Rom 5:19) that separates man from God. (115)
With her social doctrine not only does the Church not stray from her mission but she is rigorously faithful to it. The redemption wrought by Christ and entrusted to the saving mission of the Church is certainly of the supernatural order. This dimension is not a delimitation of salvation but rather an integral expression of it. The supernatural is not to be understood as an entity or a place that begins where the natural ends, but as the raising of the natural to a higher plane. In this way nothing of the created or the human order is foreign to or excluded from the supernatural or theological order of faith and grace, rather it is found within it, taken on and elevated by it. “In Jesus Christ the visible world which God created for man (cf. Gen 1:26-30) — the world that, when sin entered, ‘was subjected to futility’ (Rom 8:20; cf. Rom 8:19-22) — recovers again its original link with the divine source of Wisdom and Love. Indeed, ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only Son’ (Jn 3:16). As this link was broken in the man Adam, so in the Man Christ it was reforged (cf. Rom 5:12-21)”. (64)
Romans 5:14 and 5:18-21
Christian realism sees the abysses of sin, but in the light of the hope, greater than any evil, given by Jesus Christ’s act of redemption, in which sin and death are destroyed (cf. Rom 5:18-21; 1 Cor 15:56-57): “In him God reconciled man to himself”. It is Christ, the image of God (cf. 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), who enlightens fully and brings to completion the image and likeness of God in man. The Word that became man in Jesus Christ has always been mankind’s life and light, the light that enlightens every person (cf. Jn 1:4,9). God desires in the one mediator Jesus Christ, his Son, the salvation of all men and women (cf. 1 Tim 2:4-5). Jesus is at the same time the Son of God and the new Adam, that is, the new man (cf. 1 Cor 15:47-49; Rom 5:14): “Christ the new Adam, in the very revelation of the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to himself and brings to light his most high calling”. In him we are, by God, “predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren” (Rom 8:29). (121)
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to confront temptation. The physical and material hunger welled up from fasting, testing God to rally the angels and idolatry from possessing all the kingdoms in their magnificence, not by spending money, but the utterance of a command, throwing oneself into the churning of the holy city or prostrating to worship seeable kingdoms. A giving up of one’s dignity to react to desires, instead of firmly grasping the Divine were polarizing choices for Jesus. As the Son of God, he knew the response to each temptation, the underlying theological reality to unravel the lure of temptation. Physical and material substance will never fulfill all our needs, only the gifts and grace of God. Testing God says we orchestrate life. Seeking earthly kingdoms says we want all we can possibly possess of the material world as a road to happiness.
As Jesus was led by the Spirit to be tempted in the desert, Jesus’ infinite grasp to the Father manifest in his response to each temptation. In life, when we journey through proverbial deserts, leading to the brink of temptation, does our attachment to our Father come forth or do we waffle into the momentary soothing of perceived needs that are just wants, the desire for control, satisfaction from possessing instead of being possesses by God?
Temptation led Jesus to stand on the parapet of the temple. Are we too poised in lofty overlooks, tempting God to sustain our ruse for glory? Jesus spoke to the power of temptation to get away from him, not crowd out the worship and service of God alone. A precursor to telling Peter and each of us as his disciples to not limit our thought to earthly tones when the temptation to journey the easiest path lurks as a mirage to separate us from God and plunder us into the complex emotional briar, snagging our heart from experiencing the Divine embrace.
One day a year we visibly sign ourselves with the cross. The ashes may quickly get washed off or smudged
and smeared to an unrecognizable sign during the day., never lingering till the next sunrise. Yet we need the sign imprinted by the ashes to help us resist temptation. For the ashes allow us to realize our lives are physically sustained only by our interrelation dependance on one another and creation, the fleeing nature of power and true wealth is faith that worships and serves God. Following the example of Jesus’ response to temptation, the ashes of the cross on our forehead become permanently inscribed on our soul.
Individual Reflection: Matthew 4:1-11
Reflect upon your most challenging temptations. Contemplate “why” they are temptations and begin to address the “why” component this week.
Family Reflection: Psalm 51:3-4, 5-6, 12-13, 17
Each family member will place in a basket a piece a paper with a short phrase defining a temptation they struggle with. Every day during the week, each family member takes one of the pieces of paper and prays for that person and their temptation. In the evening all pieces of paper are put back in the basket and new pieces selected the following day.
Prayer: As you pray the Our Father this week, deeply reflect on “…lead us not into temptation…”
This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.”150 “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”;151 on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength. (2846)
(2847 above in daily Catechism section)
“Lead us not into temptation” implies a decision of the heart: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. . . . No one can serve two masters.”156 “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.”157 In this assent to the Holy Spirit the Father gives us strength. “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it. (2848)
Such a battle and such a victory become possible only through prayer. It is by his prayer that Jesus vanquishes the tempter, both at the outset of his public mission and in the ultimate struggle of his agony.159 In this petition to our heavenly Father, Christ unites us to his battle and his agony. He urges us to vigilance of the heart in communion with his own. Vigilance is “custody of the heart,” and Jesus prayed for us to the Father: “Keep them in your name.”160 The Holy Spirit constantly seeks to awaken us to keep watch.161 Finally, this petition takes on all its dramatic meaning in relation to the last temptation of our earthly battle; it asks for final perseverance. “Lo, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is he who is awake.” (2849) Catechism of the Catholic Church
Blogs to Visit:
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By Barb Born February 21, 2017 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.