As we begin Lent, the Church invites us to reflect on the human condition. Let's see what today's readings have to tell us about this important topic.
1. Human beings are both body and spirit. God made us out of the clay of the ground, but He also blew His own breath into us to give us life. We humans, therefore, are more than just natural beings. We also have a supernatural element and a supernatural end.
2. In the beginning, human beings lived in a perfect world. Eden was ideal. There were no diseases, no natural disasters, no conflicts. Everything was peaceful and good, just the way God intended it to be.
3. God created human beings in His image and likeness, with reason and free will. He wants us to choose Him freely. He will not force us to love Him. God gave Adam and Eve one prohibition as a test to their free will and to allow them to actively make their choice.
4. Adam and Eve freely chose to disobey God. They allowed the enemy to tempt them, and they gave in to the temptation. They had no one to blame but themselves. They wanted to be like God. In fact, they tried to usurp God's position and make their own choices regardless of His law. That is the underlying nature of sin: human beings trying to be God. We, too, often freely choose to sin and to give in to temptations around us. We, too, have no one to blame but ourselves. We, too, want to be like God. We, too, try usurp God's position of authority and make our own choices regardless of His law. We, too, sin.
5. With Adam and Eve's first sin, things changed for humanity. Our first parents became fallen creatures. They lost the sanctifying grace that God had given them at their creation. His indwelling presence left their souls, for they had rejected Him. That is why we have all been born with original sin, which is really the deprivation of God's presence in our souls. Original sin is a gap in the goodness that God created, a gap caused by the sin of our first parents. Baptism fills the gap as God's indwelling presence flows into our souls through the channel of the sacrament. We still feel the effects of our fallen nature, however, for we experience concupiscence, which is a tendency toward sin. Humanity's original innocence is gone.
6. Even the natural world we live in changed due to that first sin. Its perfection was gone. Gaps in the goodness of God's creation began to appear. Conflicts emerged. Natural disasters began to happen. Pain and disease arose. God didn't create these things. Human beings opened the door for them through sin. Thankfully, though, God uses even these gaps for the good of His people who trust in Him.
7. Human beings are sinners who need God's mercy. God calls us to admit our sins with a repentant heart and then bask in the forgiveness that He pours over us. He stands always ready to give us the joy of salvation and to open our lips that we might proclaim His praise.
8. Sin brought death. It is because of sin that human beings die physically and are exposed to the danger of spiritual death. However, Jesus Christ died and rose again to offer us the gift of justification. Through His sacrifice and our entrance into that sacrifice, we can become right with God. We will still die physically, but if we are right with God, if we have His indwelling presence, that sanctifying grace, inside of us, we will not experience spiritual death. Instead, we will enter into the eternal life of Heaven when our earthly lives are complete.
9. Human beings need time alone with God. Jesus went into the desert to spend time with His Father in prayer and fasting. We need that, too, for it helps us grow in our relationship with God and gives us the strength to recognize and fight temptation.
10. Human beings tend to be tempted most by material things, risky behaviors, fame, wealth, power, and honor. The enemy tried to tempt Jesus with all of these things, but He refused temptation on every count.
11. We can fight temptation. We can say a firm “No!” to the whisperings of the enemy. We can turn our back on sin. We don't have to imitate Adam and Eve. With God's grace and Jesus' example, we can make a free choice to reject sin and live for God. We can make the enemy flee.
12. Our guardian angels cheer for us when we resist temptation and refuse to sin. Angels ministered to Jesus after He won His battle in the desert. Our angels, too, are ready to give us a special pat on the back when we follow God's will. By God's blessing, they are always beside us to help us and encourage us in all our battles.
Lord Jesus, we know that we are sinful human beings who fight temptation every day. Give us Your strength and You grace so that we can imitate You and firmly reject sin. Amen.