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The First Sunday of Lent, Year A

Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So now with that in mind, with that context in mind, what then is the nature of these particular temptations?  Why does the devil tempt Jesus in this way and are they real temptations?  That is one of the questions my students often have.  Well if Jesus is divine, if he's the son of God, then can he really be tempted?  I mean he is God after all, so are are these real temptations?  So let's look at each one of them here.  The first temptation is the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread.  Well why does he do that and is that a real temptation?  We will take the latter question first.  If you ask the question is it a real temptation, you can simply answer it very easily by saying was Jesus fully human?  The answer is yes, right, so he was fully human and he experienced the desires of the human body and, as Matthew said here, he's fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, so would he have been hungry?  The answer is yes, especially when he's fasting not like we do, maybe in an air-conditioned home, but in the desert, right, he’s out in the desert in the heat and he's giving up food here and so his natural desire of his human nature would be to satisfy his hunger with food.  So the devil tempts him precisely in that regard and says “if you are the son of God then just change the stones into bread and fill your belly, eat your fill.”  Jesus resists that temptation by saying “man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  So although he would've experienced a real desire for food, he overcomes that desire by quoting the Scriptures, by quoting the Old Testament.  So that is the first point.

Another temptation here — I’ll skip down to the third one here — this one is interesting, it says “the devil took him to a high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all of their glory; and he says ‘I'll give this to you if you just worship me.’”  Now you might ask, “is that a real temptation?”  Well yes I think it is because if you think about it, what the devil is basically showing Jesus is all of the souls of all humanity.  In other words, all the kingdoms of the world is all the people of the world.  And as the devil says in Luke's account of the temptation, “all these kingdoms have been given to the devil and he can give them to whoever he wills.”  In other words, the devil is, in a sense, the prince of this world.  That is what Jesus calls him elsewhere.  So the devil is saying “look, I can give you all the kingdoms of the world.  All you have to do is worship me.”  Now why would that be a temptation for Jesus?  Well because if you look at Jesus’ mission in the Gospel of Matthew, what is he coming to the world to do?  He has come into the world to take back all of the souls of all of humanity from the power of the devil.  He's come into the world to deliver them from the dominion of Satan.  And what Satan is saying to Jesus here is “you can have all kingdoms of the world.  No problem.  One small price.  Just take a knee, just genuflect, just bow before me and worship me and I'll give them to you; and all with no cross.”  In other words, “you don’t have to go to Calvary, you don’t have to suffer, there is no suffering involved, just worship me.”  So what the devil is appealing to here is Jesus’ desire to take the kingdoms of the world back from the devil — which is what he's come to do — but to do it without the cross, to do it without suffering.  And what does Jesus respond to him?  Once again he just quotes the Bible, “you should only worship the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve.”

And then finally, the third one I will look at here is when the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and says “if you're really the son of God then throw yourself down because ‘he will give his angels charge of you.’”  Now I have to say something real quick here.  This is a really interesting temptation because in it, the devil quotes Scripture also.   We have seen that Jesus is quoting Scripture, so the devil gets into the game and he quotes Psalm 91, which does in fact say that “God will give his angels charge of you and they will bear you up less you strike your foot against a stone.”  But what is interesting about this Psalm in a first century Jewish context, is that the Psalm was also the Psalm of exorcism.  So in other words, Psalm 91 was the Psalm that Jewish exorcists would sing when they were casting out demons.  They used this Psalm to cast out the devil.  So it is kind of funny.  I like to tell my students sometimes that “the devil knew this Psalm really well,” he had heard it before in other words.  So he takes a couple of the verses out of context and then he throws them back at Jesus.  So is this a real temptation?  Well I think yes because what the devil is basically doing is trying to tell Jesus to commit the sin of pride.  In other words, he's trying to say “if you're really the son of God then why don’t you just prove it.  Go to the top of the Temple where everybody can see you and show everyone your power.  Leap off the Temple and levitate in midair.  Let the Angels bear you up and then you will be able to show the whole city of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people, that you are in fact the son of God, that you are in fact the Messiah.”  But what does Jesus say, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In other words, Jesus has not come into this world to prove his power by the grand display of a miracle that would force everyone to recognize he's the divine son of God.  Instead what he is going to do is use signs, parables, riddles and then finally the most mysterious riddle of all, which is the riddle of the cross, to reveal that the way this Messiah reigns is through the love of his passion, through suffering and his death, and then finally his resurrection.  So Jesus takes the path of humility in following the father's plan, rather than the devil's temptation here to prove to everyone publicly that he is the son of God.

So with all that in mind, there is one other thing I want to say here about it.  For a first century Jew, the three temptations of Jesus in the desert would've also called to mind another episode in which a person was tempted with three temptations.  That is the fall of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, which just so happens to be the first reading for the first Sunday of Lent in Year A.  So let's go back to the first reading in the book of Genesis and we will correlate it with the temptations of Jesus in the desert here.  So for the First Sunday of Lent, the Church has us read from Genesis 2 and 3, and here what we have is an account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve.  This is what it says, Genesis 2, verses 7 and following says:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now it skips ahead to the account of fall, Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?"  And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Okay, pause there for one second because we are about to get an important point, but I want to highlight a couple things.  First, what we just saw described here was the creation of man.  In the Hebrew, the word for man is ‘adam, that's where we get the name Adam from.  So this is the account of the creation of Adam.  Secondly, it's also the account of Adam in Paradise.  So when the Hebrew word here says that “God planted a garden in Eden,” the actual Greek word for garden is paradeisos.  It literally means an orchard or a garden, so that when we say the word paradise, we are actually using the Greek word for garden or for orchard.  So this is an account of man in paradise, which contains these two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.  Thirdly here, notice, the lectionary moves us into the account of the serpent who is going to tempt the woman, later known as Eve, while they're in the garden (paradise) to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Now as the book of Revelation 12 makes clear, the serpent is none other than Satan, the devil, appearing under the form of a serpent in Genesis 3.  So once you have those three key elements in mind, the context is of Adam and Eve in Paradise being tempted by the serpent, now look at the next verse, because the next verse is going to show us something really fascinating.  It's going to show us what any first century Jew would've known, but what many modern Christians forget.  Namely this, that there were three reasons for the fall, there were three temptations that Adam and Eve experienced in the book of Genesis chapter 3.  So why did they fall?  What were the reasons for the fall?   A lot of times people like to speculate on that, like “how could they possibly have fallen if they were in the paradise in a state of grace” and things like that.  Well Genesis tells you.  It says the reasons for the fall were threefold and here it, Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was [number 1] good for food, and [number 2] that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be [number 3] desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

That is the end of the first reading.  So what's important about the first reading for us in this particular Sunday is those three reasons for the fall.  That the fruit was “good for food,” that it was “a delight to the eyes,” and that it was “desirable to make one wise.”  Why is that important?  Well because ancient Jews recognize those three reasons for the fall as kind of like the three root causes of all of the sins in the world.  They actually had a concept of what later was going to be called the triple concupiscence, or the threefold lust, this idea of these three disordered desires to go all the way back to Adam and Eve and to the fall in the book of Genesis 3.  We actually see this idea of a triple lust in the letter of 1 John.  This is not one of the readings for the week, but I think it will help you understand the readings for the week.  So in 1 John 2:16, John describes this triple lust or this triple concupiscence, in other words, a threefold disordered desire, and he says this:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.

So that's the threefold lust: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  Well what do those mean?   So if you correlate these three with the three temptations of Adam and Eve, you can see that they go together.  The lust of the flesh is the disordered desire for pleasure, so like when Eve sees the fruit, she saw that it was “good for food.”  That's the lust of the flesh, her desire to eat of that fruit even though it had been forbidden, so the desire for the pleasure of eating.  Second, the lust of the eyes, goes back to Eve seeing the fruit, that it wasn't just good for fruit, but that it was a “delight to the eyes.”  In other words, it was beautiful, it was some good-looking fruit.  So she saw it and even though it didn’t belong to her, she wanted to possess it.  So the lust of the flesh is the disordered desire for pleasure and the lust of the eyes is a disordered desire to possess things that don't belong to us.  And then finally, the pride of life, St. John describes, goes back to the third reason.  Eve took of the fruit because it was “desirable to make one wise.”  What does that mean?  In other words, to make one wise like God.  Because what the devil said to her was “you will not die when you eat of it, the day you eat of it you will become like God,” or in the Hebrew literally like Elohim (plural), you will become like gods.  So there's a temptation there to be like God but apart from God.  So this is what we call the sin of pride or vanity.  So those are the three temptations: pleasure, possessions and pride or vanity.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

If you pause and think about that for a second, St. John here is really profound in his insight because any sin — just think of any sin — you can imagine can be traced back to those three root desires, those disordered desires.  So the lust of the flesh or desire of pleasure, that can deal with gluttony, with sexual sin (adultery, fornication, rape, you name it),  or drug abuse.  Any kind of abuse where a person gives himself over to disorders for pleasure, that's the lust of the flesh.  Secondly, the lust of the eyes, a disordered desire for possessions.  Think of all the theft that goes on in the world.  Every time someone steals or robs someone else, that's the lust of the eyes.  You see something that belongs to someone else and you desire it so you take it from them, whether by force or by stealth, or whatever it is.  So that desire for possessions leads to a host of sins: money-laundering, corruption, you name it.  Lust of the eyes is the desire to take from others.  And finally, the pride of life, the sin of vanity, the sin of pride.  That's really the deepest of all the sins, because all the other sins are rooted in a disordered self-love whereby we would desire power over others, whether to harm them or hurt them, to rule over them or to abuse them.  Whatever it is, pride is the root cause of all the other sins, and it's really ultimately a disordered love of self where we put ourselves in the place of God.  When we act like we are God and he is not.  This was of course the devil’s great sin and the fall of the angels.  So any sin in human experience goes back to these three that are given to us in the first reading for this day in the book of Genesis.

So what does all of that have to do with Jesus?  Well if you look now back at the Gospel, what is Jesus doing in the desert?  He's not just the new Israel out in the wilderness, he's also a new Adam.  So whereas Adam was tempted in the garden of paradise, now Jesus, the new Adam, is tempted in the desert, because that's what our sin has done, it's turned the paradise of creation into a desert.  And just like Adam was tempted by the devil in the book of Genesis, now Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert in the Gospel.  And just as Adam had three temptations: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life; so too now the devil hits Jesus with the same three temptations.  The stone into bread is the lust of the flesh, but unlike Adam, Jesus conquers it and says “man doesn't live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  The lust of the eyes is the desire to possess all the kingdoms of the world.  How many people want to possess all the wealth and all the kingdoms of the world?  What does Jesus say to that?  He rejects the temptation, unlike Adam, he passes the test.  And then finally, the temptation to pride, to prove that he is really the son of God.  So the devil says “well if you're really the son of God, go to the Temple and show every body.  Forget this humility stuff, fasting alone by yourself in the desert where nobody can see your power and nobody can see your glory, go up to the top of the Temple and prove it.”  And Jesus says “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  So each  one of those temptations is overcome, and Jesus, in a sense, mortifies the triple lust, the triple concupiscence, the disordered desire for pleasure, for possessions and for power or pride.  So the new Adam succeeds where the old Adam fails, the new Adam conquers the devil where the old Adam was conquered by the devil, and he does it during these 40 days in the desert when he's tempted at the beginning of his ministry.

So what does all this have to do with the season of Lent?  Well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraphs 538 - 540, that during the 40 days of Lent, what the Church is actually doing — and I am actually going to quote it here— is this:

By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

So what are we really supposed to be doing during Lent?  Well we are going out into the desert with Jesus to do battle with the devil, to fight against temptation, to be tested through a time of trial and be purified.  And so the question becomes, how do we do that during Lent?  Now for most of us, if you are like me, and you grew up in the United States in a contemporary context, Lent tends to be simply reduced to a time of abstinence; like I am going to give up chocolate for Lent or I am going to give up coffee for Lent, or I am going to give up alcohol for Lent or whatever it is, or even sometimes people tend to make it into a time to lose weight and start exercising for Lent.  Those can be noble goals, they can be good things.  Abstinence is a great way to do penance, but actually what the Church calls us to do during Lent is three things: to pray, to fast and to give alms.  And if you remember if you went to mass on Ash Wednesday, the readings for Ash Wednesday, the very beginning of Lent, were Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount about fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  This is in Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus’ teaching on “when you fast, don’t tell everybody you're doing it…when you give alms, do it in secret…when you pray, go in your room and do it in secret.”  So those three directives: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, were the commands for the season of Lent.  Well why did the Church give that to us on Ash Wednesday?  Because that's what we are supposed be during during Lent, because those three commands correlate to Jesus's three temptations in the desert.

Think about it for a second.  Jesus fasted during 40 days, so he calls us to fast.  Why?  To overcome our disordered desire for pleasure.  So if you have a problem with addiction to pleasure, whether it be food or drink or sexual pleasure, whatever it might be (like pornography addiction for example), what's the remedy for that?  Fast, because fasting helps you to control and to mortify, to put the death that disordered inclination to pleasure.  Secondly, if you have a disordered desire to acquire money or possessions, what do you do?  Give alms, give to the poor, because it mortifies, or puts to death, that disordered desire to possess things.  So lent should be a season where we are particularly intentional about giving to the poor, giving to the Church, giving to those in need.  So if you have too much money, if you have too many things, if you are attached to them, give them away and it will help you grow in freedom from that particular sin.  And then finally, if you have a disordered love of self, the sin of pride or vanity, what should you do during Lent?  Pray, because prayer is like poison to pride.  It kills pride at the root by helping us to grow in humility, because whenever we get on our knees and pray, we are by definition recognizing that God is God and we are not, that we are his creatures, that we need his help and that we need his grace.  So if you correlate the readings for Ash Wednesday with the readings for the first Sunday in Lent, the Church is giving us Jesus's directives here during Lent.  It is very simple.  What do we want to do?  We want to pray more, we want to fast more and we want to give alms more to the poor, so that we can unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.  And I promise you that if this Lent you take on the challenge of not just abstaining from something you like, but really commit yourself to maybe one day of fasting during the week, or even two days or more, whatever it is that you need to do, to giving alms and to praying more frequently with more intensity, I promise you will see that this Lent will be a different Lent.  It  will be grace filled, it is going to be a time where you really are united in a closer way to Jesus and to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So for the first Sunday of Lent in Year A, the Church chooses the Old Testament reading that describes the fall of Adam and Eve—the first sin that leads to sin and death in the world. And then it chooses the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the dessert, where Christ is revealed as a new Adam who comes into the world to undo the effects of the fall. With those two texts in mind, the Church gives us today the second reading, which is Paul’s famous text about original sin, in which he describes sin and death coming into the world through Adam and then Christ coming into the world as a new Adam who is going to undo the effects of the fall.

So this is an extremely important text. It’s one of the most complicated and theologically rich passages in all of Paul’s letters, which is saying a lot for the apostle Paul. We’re going to try our best to do it justice by focusing on, in particular, how this passage lays the foundation for the Church’s doctrine of original sin—which is extremely important, essential, for understanding the Gospel according to the Paul. Think about it. What is the Gospel? It’s the Good News of salvation. Well, you can’t really appreciate the Good News of salvation if you don't appreciate the bad news of sin and damnation and sin and death. And that's really what the Church lays before us today on this first Sunday of Lent. So let’s read through the second reading for today. It’s from Romans 5:12-19. This is Paul’s great letter to the Romans, his most theologically sophisticated letter. And this is what he says:

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

I hope you can see that there’s a lot going on there, that this is a very, very rich text. So let’s take a deep breath, and then we’ll walk through it and try to at least shed a little bit of light on this consequential text.

So the first point we want to highlight there, the first term that should leap out at you is the word “sin.” In Greek, the word is hamartia. It literally means to “miss the mark.” It also can be used to describe a transgression of one of God’s commandments or one of God’s laws—a failure to love God or to love neighbor. Think about the Ten Commandments. The first tablet of the Ten Commandments is love of God—not having other Gods, not breaking the Sabbath, not taking His name in vain. To break one of those is to fail in love of God, to miss the mark.

The second tablet of the Ten Commandments—honor your father and mother, don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet. These are sins against love of neighbor. They miss the mark, the standard of love that God calls human beings to in the Decalogue, in the Ten Commandments.

So what Paul is saying here is interesting. He’s not talking so much about sin as a particular transgression, but more as a power. So that he says that…

...sin came into the world through one man…

Of course, here Paul is alluding to Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam—which literally means “man” in Hebrew...the one man, the first man, the first parent of the human race. So Paul here is reflecting the typical Jewish idea that God—this is important—creates Adam and Eve (in Genesis 1 and 2) good. In fact, He says they’re very good. He doesn’t create them in a state of sin. He doesn’t create them in a state of death. He creates them in a state of righteousness, of goodness, where there is not yet any sin. And it’s only when Adam violates the commandment against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge that he brings sin...and through sin, death, into the world. In Genesis3, after Adam eats of the fruit of the tree, what does God say?

...you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19c)

So the punishment of death falls upon Adam, Eve, and their descendants. So Paul here is just, in a sense, summarizing Genesis 3, but he’s describing the entry of sin into the world, and through sin, death coming into the world.

Second point here that’s interesting is when Paul describes death here, he’s not just talking about physical death—the separation of the soul and the body and the decay of a human corpse. He’s actually personifying death itself as kind of a king. Notice what he says here. After that fall, after sin comes into the world through Adam, and after death comes into the world through his sin, death spreads to all human beings, and he even says that death reigned from Adam to Moses.

And the Greek word there for “reign” is basileuō. It’s the same verb that’s the root of the noun that Jesus talks about when He talks about the kingdom of God, basileía of God. So just as God reigns through His kingdom, so too death reigns as king over humanity, over human beings, after the commission of that first sin by Adam. You could say in a sense that Adam brings the kingdom of death into the world. He gives death power over humanity, and so Paul says death therefore reigns as king all the way from Adam to Moses, and this is interesting:

...even over those [human beings] whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam…

So think here, for example, of Adam’s children or his grandchildren— all human beings who were descended from the first parents. They didn’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They didn’t break the explicit commandment of God not to partake. Adam is the only one who commits an actual transgression, a violation of that initial commandment. And yet, through his transgression, death is going to come and it’s going to reign over those even who have never sinned at all. For example, children who die in the womb or children who die in infancy or children who die even before they reach the age of reason—they’re not actually even able to commit a transgression. The Greek word there is parabasis. It literally means “to walk over” the line, to cross a line, to deliberately violate a law of God. Well, obviously there are billions of human beings and billions of souls that have come into this world that died before they were ever able to commit a transgression like Adam did. And yet, Paul says, death reigns over them. That’s their inheritance, so to speak, from their first parent—from Adam.

And that this Adam—number 3, here’s the key point—the Adam who brought sin and death into the world was a type of the one who was to come. Now the Greek here is tupos, and it’s the root word from which we get the theological term  of “typology.” Which if you’ve watched any of my videos, you’ll know the Church does very frequently in the lectionary. She will often look at how Old Testament types, or prefigurations, point forward to and are fulfilled in New Testament realities...whether it be persons or events. This is called typology. It’s the science or the study of how the Old Testament prefigures the New, and how the New Testament fulfills the Old. And Paul here is one of the first proponents of an explicit typology in which the one man Adam prefigures and points forward to the one man Christ, who is a kind of new Adam—a new and greater Adam. Paul doesn’t use the exact language of new Adam. He’s going to call Christ the “last Adam” in another letter (1 Corinthians 15), but he is definitely engaging in typology. Adam and Christ are related to one another. They parallel one another. They’re both similar and different, and that typological connection helps you understand who Jesus is—this is important—and how He comes into the world to save humanity.

How exactly does Jesus save the whole human race? Have you ever thought about that? Why does this particular man, this Jew from Galilee, from Nazareth, from a little village in Nazareth...how does He, through His life and death, have the power to save every human being who has ever lived? If you’ve grown up Christian, you’ve just kind of assumed, “Well, of course, yeah, Jesus has the power to save all of humanity.” Well, how exactly does that work? Paul here gives us a clue by looking at the typology of Adam and Christ.

So one helpful way to do this is to set up a chart of the various parallels—similarities and dissimilarities—between Adam and Christ. So if you look at this outline here for just a moment...if you look on the left hand side here, you’ll see the one man Adam. And then on the right hand side, we see the one man Jesus Christ.

So there are parallels between the two. On the one hand, Adam commits a trespass (a sin) that brings death and condemnation into the world. On the other hand, Christ gives us the free gift of grace that brings life into the world...and through His life, gives justification or acquittal (forgiveness) as opposed to condemnation. Again, on the one hand, it’s through Adam’s disobedience (taking the fruit of the tree) that many—which literally means “all” here, it’s just a multitude of people—were made sinners...hamartoloi in Greek. In other words, people who miss the mark. On the other hand, Christ the new Adam, through one act of obedience—namely, obedience to His Father and going to the cross—makes many people to be righteous...dikaios or just.

So, what do these parallels show us? They help us understand the reason (one reason) Jesus is able to save all of humanity through His act of obedience is because He is recapitulating the fall of Adam. He is taking that up into Himself, through His words and His actions—and above all through the cross—and He is undoing the effects of the fall. And you can actually see this in the Gospel for this week in an anticipatory way, because the Gospel describes Jesus going out into the desert and being tempted three times by the devil. And unlike the first Adam who gives into temptation, Christ the new Adam in the desert overcomes temptation. He defeats the devil, so that—here, this is very important—He can give humanity the power to do the same, to engage in the spiritual battle against Satan and to overcome and to obey rather than disobey.

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Gospel, First Reading & Psalm


Second Reading


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GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So now with that in mind, with that context in mind, what then is the nature of these particular temptations?  Why does the devil tempt Jesus in this way and are they real temptations?  That is one of the questions my students often have.  Well if Jesus is divine, if he's the son of God, then can he really be tempted?  I mean he is God after all, so are are these real temptations?  So let's look at each one of them here.  The first temptation is the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread.  Well why does he do that and is that a real temptation?  We will take the latter question first.  If you ask the question is it a real temptation, you can simply answer it very easily by saying was Jesus fully human?  The answer is yes, right, so he was fully human and he experienced the desires of the human body and, as Matthew said here, he's fasting for 40 days and 40 nights, so would he have been hungry?  The answer is yes, especially when he's fasting not like we do, maybe in an air-conditioned home, but in the desert, right, he’s out in the desert in the heat and he's giving up food here and so his natural desire of his human nature would be to satisfy his hunger with food.  So the devil tempts him precisely in that regard and says “if you are the son of God then just change the stones into bread and fill your belly, eat your fill.”  Jesus resists that temptation by saying “man doesn't live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  So although he would've experienced a real desire for food, he overcomes that desire by quoting the Scriptures, by quoting the Old Testament.  So that is the first point.

Another temptation here — I’ll skip down to the third one here — this one is interesting, it says “the devil took him to a high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and all of their glory; and he says ‘I'll give this to you if you just worship me.’”  Now you might ask, “is that a real temptation?”  Well yes I think it is because if you think about it, what the devil is basically showing Jesus is all of the souls of all humanity.  In other words, all the kingdoms of the world is all the people of the world.  And as the devil says in Luke's account of the temptation, “all these kingdoms have been given to the devil and he can give them to whoever he wills.”  In other words, the devil is, in a sense, the prince of this world.  That is what Jesus calls him elsewhere.  So the devil is saying “look, I can give you all the kingdoms of the world.  All you have to do is worship me.”  Now why would that be a temptation for Jesus?  Well because if you look at Jesus’ mission in the Gospel of Matthew, what is he coming to the world to do?  He has come into the world to take back all of the souls of all of humanity from the power of the devil.  He's come into the world to deliver them from the dominion of Satan.  And what Satan is saying to Jesus here is “you can have all kingdoms of the world.  No problem.  One small price.  Just take a knee, just genuflect, just bow before me and worship me and I'll give them to you; and all with no cross.”  In other words, “you don’t have to go to Calvary, you don’t have to suffer, there is no suffering involved, just worship me.”  So what the devil is appealing to here is Jesus’ desire to take the kingdoms of the world back from the devil — which is what he's come to do — but to do it without the cross, to do it without suffering.  And what does Jesus respond to him?  Once again he just quotes the Bible, “you should only worship the Lord your God and him alone shall you serve.”

And then finally, the third one I will look at here is when the devil takes Jesus to the pinnacle of the Temple and says “if you're really the son of God then throw yourself down because ‘he will give his angels charge of you.’”  Now I have to say something real quick here.  This is a really interesting temptation because in it, the devil quotes Scripture also.   We have seen that Jesus is quoting Scripture, so the devil gets into the game and he quotes Psalm 91, which does in fact say that “God will give his angels charge of you and they will bear you up less you strike your foot against a stone.”  But what is interesting about this Psalm in a first century Jewish context, is that the Psalm was also the Psalm of exorcism.  So in other words, Psalm 91 was the Psalm that Jewish exorcists would sing when they were casting out demons.  They used this Psalm to cast out the devil.  So it is kind of funny.  I like to tell my students sometimes that “the devil knew this Psalm really well,” he had heard it before in other words.  So he takes a couple of the verses out of context and then he throws them back at Jesus.  So is this a real temptation?  Well I think yes because what the devil is basically doing is trying to tell Jesus to commit the sin of pride.  In other words, he's trying to say “if you're really the son of God then why don’t you just prove it.  Go to the top of the Temple where everybody can see you and show everyone your power.  Leap off the Temple and levitate in midair.  Let the Angels bear you up and then you will be able to show the whole city of Jerusalem, the capital of the Jewish people, that you are in fact the son of God, that you are in fact the Messiah.”  But what does Jesus say, “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  In other words, Jesus has not come into this world to prove his power by the grand display of a miracle that would force everyone to recognize he's the divine son of God.  Instead what he is going to do is use signs, parables, riddles and then finally the most mysterious riddle of all, which is the riddle of the cross, to reveal that the way this Messiah reigns is through the love of his passion, through suffering and his death, and then finally his resurrection.  So Jesus takes the path of humility in following the father's plan, rather than the devil's temptation here to prove to everyone publicly that he is the son of God.

So with all that in mind, there is one other thing I want to say here about it.  For a first century Jew, the three temptations of Jesus in the desert would've also called to mind another episode in which a person was tempted with three temptations.  That is the fall of Adam and Eve in the book of Genesis, which just so happens to be the first reading for the first Sunday of Lent in Year A.  So let's go back to the first reading in the book of Genesis and we will correlate it with the temptations of Jesus in the desert here.  So for the First Sunday of Lent, the Church has us read from Genesis 2 and 3, and here what we have is an account of the creation and fall of Adam and Eve.  This is what it says, Genesis 2, verses 7 and following says:

Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Now it skips ahead to the account of fall, Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, `You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?"  And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, `You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

Okay, pause there for one second because we are about to get an important point, but I want to highlight a couple things.  First, what we just saw described here was the creation of man.  In the Hebrew, the word for man is ‘adam, that's where we get the name Adam from.  So this is the account of the creation of Adam.  Secondly, it's also the account of Adam in Paradise.  So when the Hebrew word here says that “God planted a garden in Eden,” the actual Greek word for garden is paradeisos.  It literally means an orchard or a garden, so that when we say the word paradise, we are actually using the Greek word for garden or for orchard.  So this is an account of man in paradise, which contains these two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge.  Thirdly here, notice, the lectionary moves us into the account of the serpent who is going to tempt the woman, later known as Eve, while they're in the garden (paradise) to eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge.  Now as the book of Revelation 12 makes clear, the serpent is none other than Satan, the devil, appearing under the form of a serpent in Genesis 3.  So once you have those three key elements in mind, the context is of Adam and Eve in Paradise being tempted by the serpent, now look at the next verse, because the next verse is going to show us something really fascinating.  It's going to show us what any first century Jew would've known, but what many modern Christians forget.  Namely this, that there were three reasons for the fall, there were three temptations that Adam and Eve experienced in the book of Genesis chapter 3.  So why did they fall?  What were the reasons for the fall?   A lot of times people like to speculate on that, like “how could they possibly have fallen if they were in the paradise in a state of grace” and things like that.  Well Genesis tells you.  It says the reasons for the fall were threefold and here it, Genesis 3:6

So when the woman saw that the tree was [number 1] good for food, and [number 2] that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be [number 3] desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.  Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

That is the end of the first reading.  So what's important about the first reading for us in this particular Sunday is those three reasons for the fall.  That the fruit was “good for food,” that it was “a delight to the eyes,” and that it was “desirable to make one wise.”  Why is that important?  Well because ancient Jews recognize those three reasons for the fall as kind of like the three root causes of all of the sins in the world.  They actually had a concept of what later was going to be called the triple concupiscence, or the threefold lust, this idea of these three disordered desires to go all the way back to Adam and Eve and to the fall in the book of Genesis 3.  We actually see this idea of a triple lust in the letter of 1 John.  This is not one of the readings for the week, but I think it will help you understand the readings for the week.  So in 1 John 2:16, John describes this triple lust or this triple concupiscence, in other words, a threefold disordered desire, and he says this:

For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides for ever.

So that's the threefold lust: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.  Well what do those mean?   So if you correlate these three with the three temptations of Adam and Eve, you can see that they go together.  The lust of the flesh is the disordered desire for pleasure, so like when Eve sees the fruit, she saw that it was “good for food.”  That's the lust of the flesh, her desire to eat of that fruit even though it had been forbidden, so the desire for the pleasure of eating.  Second, the lust of the eyes, goes back to Eve seeing the fruit, that it wasn't just good for fruit, but that it was a “delight to the eyes.”  In other words, it was beautiful, it was some good-looking fruit.  So she saw it and even though it didn’t belong to her, she wanted to possess it.  So the lust of the flesh is the disordered desire for pleasure and the lust of the eyes is a disordered desire to possess things that don't belong to us.  And then finally, the pride of life, St. John describes, goes back to the third reason.  Eve took of the fruit because it was “desirable to make one wise.”  What does that mean?  In other words, to make one wise like God.  Because what the devil said to her was “you will not die when you eat of it, the day you eat of it you will become like God,” or in the Hebrew literally like Elohim (plural), you will become like gods.  So there's a temptation there to be like God but apart from God.  So this is what we call the sin of pride or vanity.  So those are the three temptations: pleasure, possessions and pride or vanity.  The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

If you pause and think about that for a second, St. John here is really profound in his insight because any sin — just think of any sin — you can imagine can be traced back to those three root desires, those disordered desires.  So the lust of the flesh or desire of pleasure, that can deal with gluttony, with sexual sin (adultery, fornication, rape, you name it),  or drug abuse.  Any kind of abuse where a person gives himself over to disorders for pleasure, that's the lust of the flesh.  Secondly, the lust of the eyes, a disordered desire for possessions.  Think of all the theft that goes on in the world.  Every time someone steals or robs someone else, that's the lust of the eyes.  You see something that belongs to someone else and you desire it so you take it from them, whether by force or by stealth, or whatever it is.  So that desire for possessions leads to a host of sins: money-laundering, corruption, you name it.  Lust of the eyes is the desire to take from others.  And finally, the pride of life, the sin of vanity, the sin of pride.  That's really the deepest of all the sins, because all the other sins are rooted in a disordered self-love whereby we would desire power over others, whether to harm them or hurt them, to rule over them or to abuse them.  Whatever it is, pride is the root cause of all the other sins, and it's really ultimately a disordered love of self where we put ourselves in the place of God.  When we act like we are God and he is not.  This was of course the devil’s great sin and the fall of the angels.  So any sin in human experience goes back to these three that are given to us in the first reading for this day in the book of Genesis.

So what does all of that have to do with Jesus?  Well if you look now back at the Gospel, what is Jesus doing in the desert?  He's not just the new Israel out in the wilderness, he's also a new Adam.  So whereas Adam was tempted in the garden of paradise, now Jesus, the new Adam, is tempted in the desert, because that's what our sin has done, it's turned the paradise of creation into a desert.  And just like Adam was tempted by the devil in the book of Genesis, now Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert in the Gospel.  And just as Adam had three temptations: lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh and pride of life; so too now the devil hits Jesus with the same three temptations.  The stone into bread is the lust of the flesh, but unlike Adam, Jesus conquers it and says “man doesn't live by bread alone but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”  The lust of the eyes is the desire to possess all the kingdoms of the world.  How many people want to possess all the wealth and all the kingdoms of the world?  What does Jesus say to that?  He rejects the temptation, unlike Adam, he passes the test.  And then finally, the temptation to pride, to prove that he is really the son of God.  So the devil says “well if you're really the son of God, go to the Temple and show every body.  Forget this humility stuff, fasting alone by yourself in the desert where nobody can see your power and nobody can see your glory, go up to the top of the Temple and prove it.”  And Jesus says “you shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”  So each  one of those temptations is overcome, and Jesus, in a sense, mortifies the triple lust, the triple concupiscence, the disordered desire for pleasure, for possessions and for power or pride.  So the new Adam succeeds where the old Adam fails, the new Adam conquers the devil where the old Adam was conquered by the devil, and he does it during these 40 days in the desert when he's tempted at the beginning of his ministry.

So what does all this have to do with the season of Lent?  Well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us in paragraphs 538 - 540, that during the 40 days of Lent, what the Church is actually doing — and I am actually going to quote it here— is this:

By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

So what are we really supposed to be doing during Lent?  Well we are going out into the desert with Jesus to do battle with the devil, to fight against temptation, to be tested through a time of trial and be purified.  And so the question becomes, how do we do that during Lent?  Now for most of us, if you are like me, and you grew up in the United States in a contemporary context, Lent tends to be simply reduced to a time of abstinence; like I am going to give up chocolate for Lent or I am going to give up coffee for Lent, or I am going to give up alcohol for Lent or whatever it is, or even sometimes people tend to make it into a time to lose weight and start exercising for Lent.  Those can be noble goals, they can be good things.  Abstinence is a great way to do penance, but actually what the Church calls us to do during Lent is three things: to pray, to fast and to give alms.  And if you remember if you went to mass on Ash Wednesday, the readings for Ash Wednesday, the very beginning of Lent, were Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount about fasting, almsgiving and prayer.  This is in Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus’ teaching on “when you fast, don’t tell everybody you're doing it…when you give alms, do it in secret…when you pray, go in your room and do it in secret.”  So those three directives: prayer, fasting and almsgiving, were the commands for the season of Lent.  Well why did the Church give that to us on Ash Wednesday?  Because that's what we are supposed be during during Lent, because those three commands correlate to Jesus's three temptations in the desert.

Think about it for a second.  Jesus fasted during 40 days, so he calls us to fast.  Why?  To overcome our disordered desire for pleasure.  So if you have a problem with addiction to pleasure, whether it be food or drink or sexual pleasure, whatever it might be (like pornography addiction for example), what's the remedy for that?  Fast, because fasting helps you to control and to mortify, to put the death that disordered inclination to pleasure.  Secondly, if you have a disordered desire to acquire money or possessions, what do you do?  Give alms, give to the poor, because it mortifies, or puts to death, that disordered desire to possess things.  So lent should be a season where we are particularly intentional about giving to the poor, giving to the Church, giving to those in need.  So if you have too much money, if you have too many things, if you are attached to them, give them away and it will help you grow in freedom from that particular sin.  And then finally, if you have a disordered love of self, the sin of pride or vanity, what should you do during Lent?  Pray, because prayer is like poison to pride.  It kills pride at the root by helping us to grow in humility, because whenever we get on our knees and pray, we are by definition recognizing that God is God and we are not, that we are his creatures, that we need his help and that we need his grace.  So if you correlate the readings for Ash Wednesday with the readings for the first Sunday in Lent, the Church is giving us Jesus's directives here during Lent.  It is very simple.  What do we want to do?  We want to pray more, we want to fast more and we want to give alms more to the poor, so that we can unite ourselves to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.  And I promise you that if this Lent you take on the challenge of not just abstaining from something you like, but really commit yourself to maybe one day of fasting during the week, or even two days or more, whatever it is that you need to do, to giving alms and to praying more frequently with more intensity, I promise you will see that this Lent will be a different Lent.  It  will be grace filled, it is going to be a time where you really are united in a closer way to Jesus and to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.

SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):

So for the first Sunday of Lent in Year A, the Church chooses the Old Testament reading that describes the fall of Adam and Eve—the first sin that leads to sin and death in the world. And then it chooses the Gospel of Jesus’ temptations in the dessert, where Christ is revealed as a new Adam who comes into the world to undo the effects of the fall. With those two texts in mind, the Church gives us today the second reading, which is Paul’s famous text about original sin, in which he describes sin and death coming into the world through Adam and then Christ coming into the world as a new Adam who is going to undo the effects of the fall.

So this is an extremely important text. It’s one of the most complicated and theologically rich passages in all of Paul’s letters, which is saying a lot for the apostle Paul. We’re going to try our best to do it justice by focusing on, in particular, how this passage lays the foundation for the Church’s doctrine of original sin—which is extremely important, essential, for understanding the Gospel according to the Paul. Think about it. What is the Gospel? It’s the Good News of salvation. Well, you can’t really appreciate the Good News of salvation if you don't appreciate the bad news of sin and damnation and sin and death. And that's really what the Church lays before us today on this first Sunday of Lent. So let’s read through the second reading for today. It’s from Romans 5:12-19. This is Paul’s great letter to the Romans, his most theologically sophisticated letter. And this is what he says:

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned— sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the effect of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

I hope you can see that there’s a lot going on there, that this is a very, very rich text. So let’s take a deep breath, and then we’ll walk through it and try to at least shed a little bit of light on this consequential text.

So the first point we want to highlight there, the first term that should leap out at you is the word “sin.” In Greek, the word is hamartia. It literally means to “miss the mark.” It also can be used to describe a transgression of one of God’s commandments or one of God’s laws—a failure to love God or to love neighbor. Think about the Ten Commandments. The first tablet of the Ten Commandments is love of God—not having other Gods, not breaking the Sabbath, not taking His name in vain. To break one of those is to fail in love of God, to miss the mark.

The second tablet of the Ten Commandments—honor your father and mother, don’t commit adultery, don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet. These are sins against love of neighbor. They miss the mark, the standard of love that God calls human beings to in the Decalogue, in the Ten Commandments.

So what Paul is saying here is interesting. He’s not talking so much about sin as a particular transgression, but more as a power. So that he says that…

...sin came into the world through one man…

Of course, here Paul is alluding to Genesis 3 and the fall of Adam—which literally means “man” in Hebrew...the one man, the first man, the first parent of the human race. So Paul here is reflecting the typical Jewish idea that God—this is important—creates Adam and Eve (in Genesis 1 and 2) good. In fact, He says they’re very good. He doesn’t create them in a state of sin. He doesn’t create them in a state of death. He creates them in a state of righteousness, of goodness, where there is not yet any sin. And it’s only when Adam violates the commandment against eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge that he brings sin...and through sin, death, into the world. In Genesis3, after Adam eats of the fruit of the tree, what does God say?

...you are dust, and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19c)

So the punishment of death falls upon Adam, Eve, and their descendants. So Paul here is just, in a sense, summarizing Genesis 3, but he’s describing the entry of sin into the world, and through sin, death coming into the world.

Second point here that’s interesting is when Paul describes death here, he’s not just talking about physical death—the separation of the soul and the body and the decay of a human corpse. He’s actually personifying death itself as kind of a king. Notice what he says here. After that fall, after sin comes into the world through Adam, and after death comes into the world through his sin, death spreads to all human beings, and he even says that death reigned from Adam to Moses.

And the Greek word there for “reign” is basileuō. It’s the same verb that’s the root of the noun that Jesus talks about when He talks about the kingdom of God, basileía of God. So just as God reigns through His kingdom, so too death reigns as king over humanity, over human beings, after the commission of that first sin by Adam. You could say in a sense that Adam brings the kingdom of death into the world. He gives death power over humanity, and so Paul says death therefore reigns as king all the way from Adam to Moses, and this is interesting:

...even over those [human beings] whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam…

So think here, for example, of Adam’s children or his grandchildren— all human beings who were descended from the first parents. They didn’t eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge. They didn’t break the explicit commandment of God not to partake. Adam is the only one who commits an actual transgression, a violation of that initial commandment. And yet, through his transgression, death is going to come and it’s going to reign over those even who have never sinned at all. For example, children who die in the womb or children who die in infancy or children who die even before they reach the age of reason—they’re not actually even able to commit a transgression. The Greek word there is parabasis. It literally means “to walk over” the line, to cross a line, to deliberately violate a law of God. Well, obviously there are billions of human beings and billions of souls that have come into this world that died before they were ever able to commit a transgression like Adam did. And yet, Paul says, death reigns over them. That’s their inheritance, so to speak, from their first parent—from Adam.

And that this Adam—number 3, here’s the key point—the Adam who brought sin and death into the world was a type of the one who was to come. Now the Greek here is tupos, and it’s the root word from which we get the theological term  of “typology.” Which if you’ve watched any of my videos, you’ll know the Church does very frequently in the lectionary. She will often look at how Old Testament types, or prefigurations, point forward to and are fulfilled in New Testament realities...whether it be persons or events. This is called typology. It’s the science or the study of how the Old Testament prefigures the New, and how the New Testament fulfills the Old. And Paul here is one of the first proponents of an explicit typology in which the one man Adam prefigures and points forward to the one man Christ, who is a kind of new Adam—a new and greater Adam. Paul doesn’t use the exact language of new Adam. He’s going to call Christ the “last Adam” in another letter (1 Corinthians 15), but he is definitely engaging in typology. Adam and Christ are related to one another. They parallel one another. They’re both similar and different, and that typological connection helps you understand who Jesus is—this is important—and how He comes into the world to save humanity.

How exactly does Jesus save the whole human race? Have you ever thought about that? Why does this particular man, this Jew from Galilee, from Nazareth, from a little village in Nazareth...how does He, through His life and death, have the power to save every human being who has ever lived? If you’ve grown up Christian, you’ve just kind of assumed, “Well, of course, yeah, Jesus has the power to save all of humanity.” Well, how exactly does that work? Paul here gives us a clue by looking at the typology of Adam and Christ.

So one helpful way to do this is to set up a chart of the various parallels—similarities and dissimilarities—between Adam and Christ. So if you look at this outline here for just a moment...if you look on the left hand side here, you’ll see the one man Adam. And then on the right hand side, we see the one man Jesus Christ.

So there are parallels between the two. On the one hand, Adam commits a trespass (a sin) that brings death and condemnation into the world. On the other hand, Christ gives us the free gift of grace that brings life into the world...and through His life, gives justification or acquittal (forgiveness) as opposed to condemnation. Again, on the one hand, it’s through Adam’s disobedience (taking the fruit of the tree) that many—which literally means “all” here, it’s just a multitude of people—were made sinners...hamartoloi in Greek. In other words, people who miss the mark. On the other hand, Christ the new Adam, through one act of obedience—namely, obedience to His Father and going to the cross—makes many people to be righteous...dikaios or just.

So, what do these parallels show us? They help us understand the reason (one reason) Jesus is able to save all of humanity through His act of obedience is because He is recapitulating the fall of Adam. He is taking that up into Himself, through His words and His actions—and above all through the cross—and He is undoing the effects of the fall. And you can actually see this in the Gospel for this week in an anticipatory way, because the Gospel describes Jesus going out into the desert and being tempted three times by the devil. And unlike the first Adam who gives into temptation, Christ the new Adam in the desert overcomes temptation. He defeats the devil, so that—here, this is very important—He can give humanity the power to do the same, to engage in the spiritual battle against Satan and to overcome and to obey rather than disobey.

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