Sunday, February 26, 2023

Let's talk about the transgression and the gift (homily for first Sunday of Lent)

Ask me in the comments -- or tell me -- why this image is here.

The first reading is one of the most familiar passages of Scripture – 

it shows up in TV ads! -- and yet so misunderstood.

This account is given to us to illuminate 

one of the most profound mysteries of human existence: 

what is the fundamental flaw that seems to spoil everything? 

And that flaw is sin; to be precise, Original Sin.

When we reflect on evil, the most disturbing aspect of it 

is what we find in human beings. In ourselves!

This account of man and woman and surrendering to evil – just once! – 

cracks open that mystery.

Sin isn’t just a miscue; it isn’t a mere “mistake.” 

Writing “two plus two equals five” on a test is a mistake; 

it doesn’t poison life and turn it to death, as sin does. 

Sin isn’t merely something God is offended by – 

as if to say, if God had more forbearance, he’d let it go. 

This is obviously bigger than a piece of fruit.

Sin is corruption, decay; it is anti-life. 

It is the reason that even prior to creating Adam and Eve, 

knowing what they would do, God planned their salvation. 

He already intended to become human, 

to walk the path of human suffering to the full, 

all the way to death on the Cross and to resurrection.

The episode in the Gospel is paired with this first reading, 

to show Jesus is new Adam 

who renovates all that Adam wrecked, and more! 

Who turns death to life – and as Saint Paul emphasizes, 

those terms are not equal in weight. 

“The gift is not like the transgression.” 

This short sentence should cause us to blow the roof off with joy! 


Sin is decay, corruption – rust, if you will. 

Take big hands full of rust, and put them on a scale. 

Now on the other side of the scale, put God’s Gift. 

This is not to trivialize sin and evil; they are the worst of all things!

Rather, the point is the love of Christ, the grace Jesus pours out to us, 

is so vast and immense that all evil of history is as nothing!

And if you say, that is a lot to absorb, how right you are!

That’s why we have Lent, and Holy Week 

and Good Friday and Easter, and Pentecost!

Back to the first reading. 

Adam was entrusted with the care of all Creation, above all, his wife. 

Adam is present as the enemy attacks Eve. He is silent and passive.

The enemy wasn’t just cunning, he is dangerous. 

What happened to Jesus when he confronted the same enemy?

He was murdered! 

Adam abandons his wife to save himself.

And he points the finger. She did it! You put her here! 

The enemy tricked us!

There is a four year alive in each of us: 

You and I blame everyone else before we admit our own fault. 

Jesus chose to go out into the desert and face the enemy; 

But central to this is a confrontation with self.

Of course Jesus didn’t need this for himself. 

He had no sinful habits or pride to overcome. 

He didn’t need baptism. 

He went to the desert both to show us the way, 

and to walk with us along the way, that leads to life. 

The desert, here, meaning, dying to our appetites and self-will. 

The opposite of what Adam did, and what you and I prefer to do.

There isn’t a one of us who wouldn’t be fine with Lent 

as long as we didn’t have to change anything!

So, here’s your homework: 

Take advantage of this Lent to confront the old Adam in yourself 

and pray for me that I will do the same in myself. 

There is no appreciating the cure 

without first acknowledging the disease. 

The Cross isn’t for someone else, it is for me and for you. 

The joy of being a Christian is:

Part A, knowing the death that was injected into the human race; and

Part B, realizing we have the healing of Jesus 

who absorbs all the poison, and gives us, instead, Infinite, Endless Life!

Which is Resurrection; which is the Eucharist! Which is Heaven. 

So much to absorb!

Let us walk together this 40-day journey 

of confession, conversion and glory!


Doug said...

Why is the image of the tree here? Does it have some reference to the tree of good and evil? Or perhaps a reference to the greatest gift that we have ever received?

Fr Martin Fox said...


Exactly right! The Christmas tree originated over a thousand years ago as a prop in "mystery plays" in Germany, telling the story of both the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad, and the story of the Tree of Life. The trees were decorated with fruit and disks of bread.