- Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7. Despite the beautiful garden where the Lord God made a home for the first couple, they disobeyed and lost their innocence.
- Romans 5:12-19. “Just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.
- Matthew 4:1-11. Jesus, while fasting in the desert is tempted three times by the devil.
Thoughts for your Consideration:
The lectionary readings for this week remind me of one of my favorite original Star Trek episode appropriately titled, “The Apple.” In it the crew of the Enterprise stumble upon an amazing paradise like world where the inhabitants live an innocent, peaceful and care free life so long they serve a mechanical unit that regulates every aspect of their existence. In one of their usual disagreements Bones and Spock argue back and forth to Captain Kirk over the moral implications of altering the lifestyle of these people. The concern that Bones has is that there is absolutely no growth or moral development for these people and they seem to have almost no purpose except to service the machine. As Bones puts it “This isn’t life. It’s stagnation.” Captain Kirk chooses to liberate them from this stagnant but peaceful existence and offers the people a litany of new found freedoms and responsibilities after the destroying their mechanical regulator. Towards the end of the episode Spock reminds Kirk of the Genesis passage which is the first reading for us this weekend and tells him that for good or ill they have played the role of the serpent by offering the people “the apple” of their own self awareness.
The account of our “original sin” in Genesis reminds us of our own lost paradise. We strive for a perfect union between ourselves and God, a union that God had originally designed for us and which God had hoped that we would accept. However, it does not seem that God wanted us to merely exist in this perfect union. He wanted us to be aware and to freely engage in this union of right relationships. The fruit (Scripture never names the fruit “an apple”) which brought awareness and moral consciousness to the human person is itself a gift from God.
Temptation plays a central role in both the first reading and the Gospel. In and of itself temptation does not seem to be a bad thing. Through temptation our moral consciousness is able to freely discern each and every moral action. In the Gospel Jesus allows himself to be tempted. It is important to know that Jesus, while imbued with both a divine and human nature, was very much capable of falling into temptation. Jesus has just become aware of his great dignity and power having been publically anointed by both John the Baptist and the Holy Spirit. The trials of self interest and domination are offered to him just as he has entered into this awesome state of awareness. Temptation caused our first parents to freely discover themselves independent of God with the disastrous consequence of leading them away from God. Temptation however also caused Jesus to further discover his own dignity and power in relationship with God’s plan of salvation thus leading him towards a greater and intimate union with us as he shares God’s hope for the free redemption of all humanity.
In the third temptation it seems that Jesus was offered the possibility to bring about the reign of God through his own power and might. Imagine, establishing the perfect social order and correcting all the injustice of the world without the messiness of having to deal with every human foible. But God the Father is not looking to share His reign with a bunch of mechanical automatons. Redemption will be slow and arduous, but in the end we will freely engage in this mystical union that we are designed for. The Kingdom of God’s vision of social justice will not follow a particular ideological social platform or economic system. Instead it will be built on our mystical relationship to God and one another. This is what God wills for us and Jesus chose to obey God. This was the righteous act of Christ through which we have been justified as St. Paul suggests in the second reading.
Individually and in groups we may all have our own conception of what model may best bring about a society built on our ideals of justice and peace. Jesus may have himself considered what such a model would look like under his direction as he looked upon the corrupted social order of his day from on top of the mountain. But the “Kingdom of God” model is not a prefab system that can be superimposed on us all. It is a system that is built by our free collaboration with God and one another, a system where we look upon each other with compassion and mercy as we strive to build a just society that is based on our free and responsible awareness of being in right relationship with God and all of creation. Christ justified this vision for us through his own example and we are invited to share in this holistic but long term social project.