Monday, February 24, 2020

Our Choice: A Reign of Death or To Reign in Life

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, March 1, 2020, via our parish blog

We made an impromptu date night of it -- put the kids to bed early, enjoyed a quiet dinner at the kitchen table, and read through this Sunday's scriptures. Here's what we came up with:

As Lent begins, our readings this week present a choice. Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, describes two options -- a reign of death or a reign in life:
"For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ." (Romans 5:17, emphasis added)
In our reading from the book of Genesis, we see a reign of death begin as Satan tempts the first humans in the Garden of Eden: seeing "the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom," Eve ate the fruit and gave some to her husband, Adam, who was with her (Genesis 3:6).

How can we tell if we're living under a reign of death?

1. We're more easily tempted away from God's best for us; like Adam and Eve, we are easily sidetracked by things that appear filling, beautiful, or powerful.

2. We're more likely to bring others down with us, as Eve did with Adam, offering him the fruit after she ate it.

3. We're more likely to have poor moral support around us, as Adam was for Eve as he stood by, silent and inactive, during Satan's attempt to pull them away from God.

This Sunday's Responsorial Psalm 51 mourns our choices that lead to death; we pray with the scripture, committing ourselves to God's grace: Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.

Then, in our Gospel reading from the book of Matthew, we see Satan tempt Jesus in a similar way that he deceived Adam and Eve. Will hunger, a beautiful view, and an invitation to immediate power distract Jesus, as it did the first humans? On the contrary, Jesus recalls God's Word and uses it to dismiss Satan's manipulation of Scripture; Jesus' choices lead to a reign in life.

How can we tell if we're reigning in life with Jesus?

1. We hold onto God's Word; if someone tries to twist God's words, as the serpent did with Adam and Eve --

"Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees…?" (Genesis 3:1, emphasis added)
-- we can respond like Jesus, with the accurate words of God, and command him to leave:  
"Get away, Satan!" (Matthew 4:10) 
2. We hold onto God's goodness; we believe that God desires the best for us, and we won't be distracted by Satan's suggestions that anything is more filling, more beautiful, or more powerful than God.

3. We hold onto God; our ultimate Source and Summit, the One who created us and desires good for us, will care for us with tender compassion in times of temptation and distress, just as in Jesus' weakness, angels came to minister to him. (Matthew 4:11)

How can I use this Lenten season to help me better hold onto God's Word, hold onto God's goodness, and hold onto God? How can God's "abundance of grace and gift of justification" help me reign in life with Jesus?

Photo by Daniel Leeves (2016) via Freely, CCO Public Domain.

*Also published 2/23/20 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church

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