Many peoples have “origin stories.” Origin stories are told because, it seems, centuries ago humans asked questions we still ask. How did the world begin? How did we humans begin? Who controls what happens in the world? Are those “controllers” friendly or hostile? Why do bad things happen to us?
Today our first reading is part of the Hebrew origin story from Genesis. This story developed over many centuries, first in oral form. Then during the centuries when it was being written, it also was edited several times. Today’s reading is about Adam and Eve being tempted to turn from God. It is paired with our Gospel account of the temptations of Jesus, as he prayed and fasted in the desert. Colorful details in these Scriptures can distract from their basic message: that Adam and Eve, Jesus, and we ourselves, can and must choose. We are able to judge things, to recognize the good and to reject evil. But while we are attracted by God’s goodness, we are fickle friends. People and things, and even more our own unruly desires and drives, make us vulnerable to temptation. Jesus of Nazareth was a fully human man, so he experienced all the temptations we do. I can imagine campfire chats between the Twelve and Jesus about their temptations! Years later, Matthew selected three temptations that Jesus faced to write about, temptations the Jewish people also had faced in their history. They are still with us today.
The first temptation was wanting “bread,” never being satisfied with the “mana” we already have; the second was wanting adulation or acclaim — our “10 minutes of fame.” The Hebrews had demanded that God give them kings like other people had, so they also could be known as a great people. The third temptation was idolatry, to make something other than God first in our lives, to have our own “golden calf.” As we begin Lent, these powerful Scriptures invite us to look within at our desires and impulses, to become more aware of them and how they are drawing us toward goodness and love, or away from it.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia; painting by Ivan Kramskoi