Here we are, at the starting line for the Church’s annual retreat. Over these next forty days, we’ll have the opportunity to renew our faith by prayer, by fasting, and by giving. So as we dive in to this first Sunday of Lent, take some time to pray with the readings before you head to Mass. The readings (Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7; Romans 5:12-19; and Matthew 4:1-11) can be found in your own Bible, or online via the USCCB website.
There’s a (true) story I often tell my students or on retreats of a devoted father who, following the December 1988 earthquake in Armenia, spent 38 hours digging through the rubble of his son’s school. He did so in spite of hunger, exhaustion, mockery from bystanders, and what must have been a growing sense of dread that there were no survivors to be found – but he dug anyway. He dug, recalling the promise he’d made to his son, over and over again, that no matter what had happened, he would always be there.
What he found at the end of 38 hours was an answer to his hope – they pulled his son and thirteen surviving classmates from the rubble. After the rescue, the son was overheard saying to his classmates ‘See, I told you my dad would come for us.’
In many ways, this is story our story. We’re the ones buried in rubble – but it’s not a broken building… it’s our own sin. And we’re the ones who have a Father who has promised over and over again that, no matter what happens, He’ll always be there for us. This first shows up a little while after our first reading (when humanity gave in to temptation and sin entered the world) – as God promised in Genesis 3:15 to always be there for us – to make things right.
The entirety of the Old Testament demonstrates God’s enduring faithfulness while at the same time building to a critical moment: the moment where Christ steps into the story to set aright what we couldn’t fix on our own. And so you have the Gospel from this Sunday where once again man is tempted – but this time it is Jesus who succeeds where we’ve failed in resisting the devil over and over again.
As you head to Mass this Sunday, it’s important to consider both sides of this coin. We are the ones who fail when faced with temptation, and as a result we are the ones who find ourselves helpless in the rubble of sin. But the love of God is such that not only does He not leave us in a mess of our own making – He digs in to rescue us, subjecting Himself to the same temptations AND showing us a way out.