By appointing this Gospel for the beginning of Lent the Church proclaims that this victory should be ours also.
The first reading is from the Book of Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7 and is about the creation and fall of man.
The second reading is from St. Paul to the Romans 5:12-19. He is speaking of some of the immediate effects of Christian salvation, as brought to mankind by Christ. St. Paul stresses the fact that Christ through his death not only conquered sin but poured out divine grace so abundantly and lavishly on mankind, making them his brothers and therefore sons of God, that there is no comparison between the world redeemed by Christ's death and the world of sin which prevailed up to then.
The Gospel is from St. Matthew 4:1-11. This incident in our Lord's life, his forty days and nights of fasting followed by temptations, has been chosen as a reading for this first Sunday of Lent for our edification and encouragement. Lent is a period of preparation for the central Christian events of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. Christ, the Son of God in human nature, died the excruciating death of crucifixion on Good Friday, because of the sins of the human race. By this supreme act of obedience to his heavenly Father, he made atonement for all our disobedience and set us free from the slavery of Satan and of sin. In his resurrection, his human nature was glorified by God the Father, and in that glorification, we are all offered a share and given the right to an eternal life of glory, if we follow Christ faithfully in this life.
For every sincere Christian therefore, who appreciates what Good Friday and Easter Sunday mean for her or him, this period of preparation should be a welcome opportunity. The Church no longer imposes on us any obligatory daily fasting from food, but it urges us to find other means of mortifying ourselves, so as to show that we realize what Christ has done for us and what he has earned for us through his passion, death, and resurrection. The example of Christ fasting from food for forty days should move even the coldest Christian heart to try to do something to make reparation for past negligence and sins. Christ had no sin to atone for; it was for our sins that he mortified himself. We all have much to atone for. If, because of the demands of our present way of life, we cannot fast rigorously as our grandparents did, we can find many other less noticeable, but maybe nonetheless difficult, ways of subduing our human worldly inclinations. Where there is a will there is a way; the willing Christian will find ready substitutes for fasting.
The temptations, to which our Lord allowed himself to be submitted, are for us a source of encouragement and consolation. If our Lord and master underwent temptation, we cannot and must not expect to live a Christian life without experiencing similar tests and trials. The three temptations Satan put to our Lord were suggestions to forget his purpose in life--his messianic mission of redemption. He was urged to get all the bodily comforts of life, all the self-glory which men could give him, and all the possessions and power this world has to offer.
Our basic temptations in life are the same: bodily comforts and pleasure, the empty esteem of our fellowman, wealth and power. There are millions of men and women on earth today—many of them nominal Christians—who have given in to these temptations and, are wasting their lives chasing after these unattainable shadows. But even should they manage to catch up with some of them, they soon find out that they are empty baubles. They will have to leave them so very soon.
Today, let each one of us look into his heart and honestly examine his reaction to these temptations. Do we imitate our Savior and leader, and say "begone Satan"? Our purpose in life is not to collect its treasures, its honors or its pleasures. We are here for a few short years, to merit the unending life which Christ has won for us. Would we be so foolish as to swap our inheritance for a mere mess of pottage (see Gen. 25:29-34)?
Lent is a golden opportunity to review our past and make sensible resolutions for our future.
Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.