The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil. Then he breathed into his nostrils a breath of life, and thus man became a living being.
The Lord God planted a garden in Eden which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.
Now the serpent was the most subtle of all the wild beasts that the Lord God had made. It asked the woman, ‘Did God really say you were not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?’ The woman answered the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees in the garden. But of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden God said, “You must not eat it, nor touch it, under pain of death.”’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘No! You will not die! God knows in fact that on the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.’ The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was desirable for the knowledge that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She gave some also to her husband who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they realised that they were naked. So they sewed fig-leaves together to make themselves loin-cloths.
Sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin existed in the world long before the Law was given. There was no law and so no one could be accused of the sin of ‘law-breaking’, yet death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even though their sin, unlike that of Adam, was not a matter of breaking a law.
Adam prefigured the One to come, but the gift itself considerably outweighed the fall. If it is certain that through one man’s fall so many died, it is even more certain that divine grace, coming through the one man, Jesus Christ, came to so many as an abundant free gift. The results of the gift also outweigh the results of one man’s sin: for after one single fall came judgement with a verdict of condemnation, now after many falls comes grace with its verdict of acquittal. If it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of one man’s fall, it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, will cause everyone to reign in life who receives the free gift that he does not deserve, of being made righteous. Again, as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was very hungry, and the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.’ But he replied, ‘Scripture says:
Man does not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
The devil then took him to the holy city and made him stand on the parapet of the Temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’ he said ‘throw yourself down; for scripture says:
He will put you in his angels’ charge,
and they will support you on their hands
in case you hurt your foot against a stone.’
Jesus said to him, ‘Scripture also says:
You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Next, taking him to a very high mountain, the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. ‘I will give you all these’ he said, ‘if you fall at my feet and worship me.’ Then Jesus replied, ‘Be off, Satan! For scripture says:
You must worship the Lord your God,
and serve him alone.’
Then the devil left him, and angels appeared and looked after him.
“One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”
After the past few months of merriment and feasting, it is now time for Lent – a time for abstinence, reflection, reconciliation and preparation to receive God. There are essentially three pillars of Lent: prayer, fasting and charity. To mark our first week of Lent, today’s theme touches on fasting.
We read a lot about people fasting in the Old Testament, usually after some sin has been committed and that person is repentant (Jonah 3:6), or when a person needs deliverance or prayers heard (Esther 4:16). There are also examples of fasting before one receives God in the form of guidance and direction (Deuteronomy 9:9). There was, of course, fasting in the New Testament; with the most well-known fast being Jesus, who fasted for 40 days in the wilderness after being baptized, where he was later tempted by the Devil.
Fasting is still relevant today for reasons very similar to our ancestors in the Bible. Admittedly, repentance is personally my main reason for fasting. But reading today’s Gospel has opened my eyes to the answer that I have perhaps been looking for – that fasting enables one to be prepared to receive God.
Let’s try to put this in a modern context: we have heard a lot about the benefits of doing a detox or cleansing diet to eliminate toxins in our bodies and restoring nutrients to our systems. Most of these diets involve some form of fasting either via a total fast for a short period of time, or avoidance of certain foods. The idea is to ‘reset’ our bodies and rejuvenate it by eliminating waste that could potentially harm us. In a similar vein, what we put into our bodies may not just affect our physical body, but also our minds and state of being. If, by fasting, we can restore our bodies to good health, why not fasting in all aspects (including refraining from negative habits) to restore balance in our minds and God in our lives? When we fast, we are meant to pray and look to God for strength. As such, though our physical body may be weakened, our will is not for we have sustenance from God.
In the Gospel reading, the first test that the Devil tried was to ask Jesus to prove that He is the Son of God by commanding the stones to be turned into bread. But Jesus responds by saying that “One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God”. Likewise, Jesus was able to rebuff the Devil’s other temptations by relying on His spiritual strength. If we meditate on God’s Word while we eliminate the distractions from the outside world, we too, would gain spiritual strength to sustain us and perhaps, consciousness and clarity as to what God wants us to do.
Adam and Eve were tempted by the Devil to eat the forbidden fruit that was ‘pleasing to the eyes’ with the promise that ingesting it would make them like gods and open their eyes. Theirs was a quick fix with a sorry ending. Perhaps if they had restrained themselves from eating it, they might have had their eyes opened in a different way, according to God’s plan for them. Perhaps if they had focused on God and remembered His warning, they might have been more prepared to rebuff the Devil as Jesus had. But I suppose we will never know now.
(Today’s Oxygen by Annette Soo)
Prayer: Lord, during this Lenten period, we pray for strength when we fast and abstain in our dedicated ways to You. For the promises that we have made to You, may our will be strong to quieten the temptations that lie in wait for us that we may fulfill those promises successfully, that in the end, we may be able to praise and give You glory.
Thanksgiving: Thank you Lord, for Your sustenance in the most holy Word of God, that we can strive forward. Though our bodies may be weak, but our minds and spirit are not, for we have You to keep us going.