March 1, 2020: First Sunday of Lent
Catholic Social Teaching: Life and Dignity of the Human Person
Celebrate International Women’s Day by advocating, witnessing for equality and dignity of Catholic women
First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7
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, 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 marvelous 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.
From revelation we know that Adam, the first man, transgresses God’s commandment and loses the holiness and justice in which he was made, holiness and justice which were received not only for himself but for all of humanity: “By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice”. (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)
Will we live mired in sin or abounding in grace? A paradigm shift from focused on frailties to the abundance of a loving Father. Seeking not to shove us into submission, but embrace us in love. In that embrace, we desire not to part ourselves from His company, separate ourselves from his compassion. Life becomes not avoiding the temptation of sin or living calculating our scrupulosity, but leading lives pleasing to our heavenly Father. Knowing nothing can surpass the grace and love of God puts worldly attachments into perspective. Power holds no grip on a soul yearning for the goodness of its Creator. Testing, daring God has no place in the verbal and physical lexicon of those washed in the waters of baptism and sealed in the chrism of the Holy Spirit. Life plays out not as a fight, battle of good and evil, but the pursuit of goodness pleasing to God, present in serving others and relished in our stature as a child of our loving God. Temptations, dryness of parched environs lead us not to the mirage of desolation, but the holiness of hope. We begin that journey each day by letting every fiber of our being attentive, open to the greatness of God’s compassion to wipe out our offenses, throughly wash us from our guilt and cleanses us from our sins. Then God provides us a clean heart and steadfast spirit to always be united with Him in the joy of His salvation offered through His Son. Let us always open our mouths, proclaim praise and live lives in service to His Kingdom.
Individual Reflection: Psalm 51:3-4,5-6, 12-13, 17
This Lent educate yourself on the reality of poverty in America and in the coming year select one act of justice you can undertake and encourage others to participate with you to address poverty in your community:
Family Reflection:Romans 5:12-19
Encourage your parish to act justly, by serving fair trade coffee, such as Café Justo
Prayer: Collect for First Sunday of Lent
Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of 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 unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.
Prayerfully reflect on “understanding of the riches hidden in Christ.”
Blogs to Visit:
As we reflect upon Mary’s presence in the mysteries of the Rosary, we are blessed to know her. For her journey, a timeless trek, calls us to surrender, continuing conversion, humbleness and justice now.
Weekly lectionary reflections, for faith sharing groups, parish bulletins, newsletters or personal prayer, from the synergy of the Word we hear and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.
Catholic Social Teaching offers seven principles for upholding life in our thoughts, decisions and actions.
How we do Catholic Social Teaching.
Creation sustainability ministry resources in the spirit of the St Francis Pledge.
Social Ministry Resources Engaging Parishes: Monthly and liturgical seasons resources for use with parish websites, bulletins and newsletters
List one or two upcoming events, legislative action alerts or social justice websites
By Barb Born February 26, 2020 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.