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  • Bill Miller

February 26, 2023, First Sunday of Lent

Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 Romans 5:12-19 Matthew 4:1-11

I had an enriching and enlivening experience recently, as I read today’s Gospel with “New Eyes”, courtesy of the Holy Spirit. In other words, I believe God opened my heart that I might receive some new (for me) revelation regarding how this reading pertains to my life. I’ll bet you have probably had similar experiences - perhaps with sacred scripture or perhaps with something else…where you revisit the topic and you have a breakthrough, coming to understand it in a way that you never understood it before.

Our gospel begins with Jesus being lead by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. I have always seen this as a story about how Jesus demonstrated that he was God by casting aside the temptations of the evil one. I was focusing on the divine nature of Christ. Today I am considering what it must have been like for the human nature of Jesus. Today, rather than seeing these temptations as something that Jesus easily dismissed, I am imagining that, in his humanity, Jesus must have been truly tempted to comply with the wishes of the evil one. This was no “piece of cake” for our Lord. As evidence that he had to endure everything that comes with being human, in order to claim to know both the joys and the trials of being truly human, Jesus was extraordinarily tempted. It was embarrassing, it was frustrating, it was certainly painful for him - just as it would have been for us. I think about things I have been tempted to do in my life…things that I knew were wrong, but that looked so good in the moment; because they might bring me wealth, or power or considerable momentary pleasure. Jesus had to go through this as well. He was SEVERELY tested!

There is a second, equally powerful revelation for me in today’s readings. It has to do with the concept of free will. Looking at both the reading from Genesis and the Gospel of Matthew, we see people making choices, because they were given the gift of free will. Adam and Eve made a poor choice, and had to suffer the consequences. Jesus made a good and holy choice, which yielded a good result. Can you imagine what life would be like if they…and we…did not have the power to make choices; if everything was prescribed for us, and we had no say in anything that we thought, said or did? That is not the type of life I would want to live.

Free will is a marvelous gift and tool when it is used to make good choices. It opens the door to happiness. There is great nobility - even heroism - in making good choices. There is the potential for great stories to be written by people people who live great lives of substance and meaning. There is the possibility, indeed the probability for great holiness and great love!

Spend a little time “praying” today’s readings, especially the Gospel of Matthew and see where they take you! It could be a very interesting journey.

by: Bill Miller

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