1st Sunday in Lent, Year A
Have you ever done something completely overindulgent and then regretted it afterward, like binge watched several tv seasons, or eaten too much of something, or done something which you know you shouldn’t have but did it anyway because it felt good? Almost immediately after the emotions and hormones subside, we reflect and regret. In our first reading we are given this image of the Garden of Eden, beautiful, lush, and abundant. Paradise, everything one could possibly need, humanity fully alive. This is what God wants for us. But what do we do? Do we cooperate with God’s goodness? No, we choose to violate what God wants for us. ‘Don’t tell me what to do God, I know what is best for me, I decide what is right and wrong, good and evil!’ We live in a relativistic world where we want to be our own God. This is where sin enters the world. Rather than accepting the goodness of our existence we find ourselves naked; from abundance and freedom to self-centredness and ego. We do not want to accept that God is God and we are not. We are tempted to think that things which are less than God will satisfy us.
What do I live for now, what is my desire? Is it food, sex, entertainment, pleasure? The comforts of life are not inherently bad things but when we value sensual pleasures more than God we run into problems. When we make our sensual desires our gods, we are left wanting. Only God can satisfy the human heart. Jesus’ response to the devil in the Gospel is ‘Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ Our priority is to desire God, and order our sensual desires towards what will give us life; that which will sustain and abide rather than fade and die.
Beyond merely sensual desires there are also other more profound temptations like honour, power and wealth. These are deeper desires which bring us closer to a crux of the human condition: we want to be known, we want to be in control and be secure. These are not necessarily bad things, but if our desire is misguided then it leads to destruction. Where can we find true and lasting satisfaction for these desires? In God alone. Some people live for and worship themselves. Our egos can make us think that we are our own God. Jesus says to us ‘do not put God to the test’ and ‘worship and serve God alone.’ Our value as human beings does not come from our own strength. Rather, true power, wealth and honour are in recognising our weaknesses and being convinced that it is from God all good things come. It is God who freely gives us our dignity as human beings and in whom we find our strength and home in the universe. Jesus invites us to honour God, call on His power in time of need and delve into the richness of His love and mercy, for that that is where we will find true and lasting satisfaction and peace.
Fr William Loh, O.P. Chaplain for Monash University.