Liturgy of the Sunday

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First Sunday of Lent


First Reading

Genesis 2,7-9; 3,1-7

Yahweh God shaped man from the soil of the ground and blew the breath of life into his nostrils, and man became a living being. Yahweh God planted a garden in Eden, which is in the east, and there he put the man he had fashioned. From the soil, Yahweh God caused to grow every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, the snake was the most subtle of all the wild animals that Yahweh 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 snake, '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 snake said to the woman, 'No! You will not die! God knows in fact that the day you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good from evil.' The woman saw that the tree was good to eat and pleasing to the eye, and that it was enticing for the wisdom that it could give. So she took some of its fruit and ate it. She also gave some 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.

Psalmody

Psalm 50

Antiphon

Have mercy on me, O God.

Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness.
In your compassion blot out my offence.

O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin.

My offences truly I know them;
my sin is always before me.

Against you, you alone, have I sinned;
what is evil in your sight I have done.

That you may be justified when you give sentence
and be without reproach when you judge

O see, in the guilt I was born,
a sinner was I conceived.

Indeed you love truth in the heart;
then in the secret of my heart teach me wisdom

O purify me, then I shall be clean;
O wash me, I shall be whiter than snow.

Make me hear rejoicing and gladness,
that the bones you have crushed may thrill

From my sins turn away your face
and blot out all my guilt.

A pure heart create for me, O God,
put a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from your presence,
nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help;
with a spirit of fervour sustain me,

that I may teach transgressors your ways
and sinners may return to you.

O rescue me, God my helper,
and my tongue shall ring out your goodness.

O Lord, open my lips
and my mouth shall declare your praise.

For in sacrifice you take no delight,
burnt offering from me you would refuse,

my sacrifice a contrite spirit.
A humbled, contrite heart you will not spurn.

In your goodness, show favour to Zion :
rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Then you will be pleased with lawful sacrifice,
(burnt offerings wholly consumed),
then you will be offered young bulls on your alter.

Second Reading

Romans 5,12-19

Well then; it was through one man that sin came into the world, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned. Sin already existed in the world before there was any law, even though sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Nonetheless death reigned over all from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sin was not the breaking of a commandment, as Adam's was. He prefigured the One who was to come . . . There is no comparison between the free gift and the offence. If death came to many through the offence of one man, how much greater an effect the grace of God has had, coming to so many and so plentifully as a free gift through the one man Jesus Christ! Again, there is no comparison between the gift and the offence of one man. One single offence brought condemnation, but now, after many offences, have come the free gift and so acquittal! It was by one man's offence that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who receive the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice, through the one man, Jesus Christ. One man's offence brought condemnation on all humanity; and one man's good act has brought justification and life to all humanity. Just as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience are many to be made upright.

Reading of the Gospel

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Matthew 4,1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit out into the desert to be put to the test by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, after which he was hungry, and the tester came and said to him, 'If you are Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves.' But he replied, 'Scripture says: Human beings live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' The devil then took him to the holy city and set him on the parapet of the Temple. 'If you are Son of God,' he said, 'throw yourself down; for scripture says: He has given his angels orders about you, and they will carry you in their arms in case you trip over a stone.' Jesus said to him, 'Scripture also says: Do 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. And he said to him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.' Then Jesus replied, 'Away with you, Satan! For scripture says: The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, him alone you must serve.' Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels appeared and looked after him.

 

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Praise to you, o Lord, King of eternal glory

Homily

The ashes we received last Wednesday reminded us what we are: our pride, security, our desire to prevail, our putting ourselves in the centre, our fretting, all of that is dust. During the hour of his intercession Abraham asks the Lord: "Let me take it upon myself to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes." A prayer to save the city is born from those ashes. The Lord bent down to Abraham and listened to his prayer. Different is the story of Adam and Eve at the beginning of Genesis. God placed them in the garden that He himself had planted, so that they could live in joy and peace. But they forgot to be weak, like dust, and preferred to listen to the tempting snake who pushed them to take God's place. Their hearts filled with pride and they disobeyed God. And so they found themselves outside of the garden, alone, naked and scared.
This event is not relegated to the beginning of the world: indeed it is the same banal and sad story every time man chooses to follow his pride and satisfaction of self, forgetting God's company and His Word. One always finds oneself deprived of affection, friendship and the meaning of life in this case. And that garden which God had planted becomes life's and love's desert.
But the Lord does not abandon his people. Rather, he runs after them even in the desert. This is what the Gospel announces to us today. Jesus entered into the desert and stayed there for forty days. It was not Jesus' choice alone: "He was led by the Spirit" which he received in baptism. In any case, Jesus did not come to do his will but that of the Father. Jesus' obedience was needed in order to create a different path in the history of humankind which was marked by Adam's disobedience. Obedient to the Father, Jesus comes close to us and asks us to accompany him in these forty days. The three temptations show the how relentless the tempter was and how indispensable Jesus' struggle was. The evangelist writes that the devil came close to Jesus when he was already weakened after forty days of fasting. And he drove Jesus to transform stone into bread. Jesus would have had very plausible reasons for falling into temptation. Shouldn't we think of ourselves first before others? But Jesus-who will even multiply bread for five thousand people-does not think of fulfilling his own hunger. Rather, he responds to the tempter with the only true strength a believer has: that which flows from the Word of God. In fact, only that can truly fulfil our hearts' hunger. Only that can defeat the pursuit of our own wellbeing. "One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Mt 4:4).
Then Jesus allowed himself to be brought to the top of the temple: "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will command his angels concerning you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.'" It is the temptation to face life without the burden of walking with others. It is the temptation of putting yourself at the centre, that is, of not seeing anything other than ourselves. The Lord does not take away our responsibility of doing good works together with our brothers and sisters.
The tempter continues. After having brought Jesus to a mountain and showed him "all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour," he tells him, "All these I will give you." It is the temptation of power and possession. Jesus proclaims his freedom by affirming that he only worships God: "For it is written, 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.'" How many times instead do men and women accumulate things wanting to use them but ending up becoming slaves to them! In the desert of our world, Jesus comes to proclaim again the primacy of God and his kingdom of love. With the Gospel, offered unceasingly to us and to the world, we can defeat evil. Even today, if we live this time as Jesus lived those forty days, the desert will come alive within men and women who, like angels, come close to the weak and poor ones to serve them. This is a good time to stay close to the Lord, to imitate him in the battle against evil and to transform the desert into a garden of consolation and love.