Adam and Eve were the first of us. Beyond and greater than anything science can teach of our human origins, Adam and Eve are the first of whom God said, you alone are like me, created in my image. Science reveals what we are; God reveals who we are. In Adam and Eve, the first of us made in God’s image, who we are is very good.
Besides being the first of us, Adam and Eve were the best of us. They were created directly from the will of God, without procreation, shaped out of the dust of the earth. They were shaped for life in God and for one another. Good and evil were not a part of them, from the beginning. Our first parents were beautiful, as God is; noble, as God is; light, as God is.
But being the best of us would not last. Sin and death seeped into our first parents and was passed onto us. Yet, God did not abandon the best of his creation; he did not deny his own image, seen in the mirror of our faces. Humanity would be offered the path to re-creation. Our original creation was God’s first gift of grace; and what God gives, he does not withdraw. Our re-creation, then, would be God’s abiding gift of grace renewed. God did this by giving us his Son, Jesus Christ—one of us, yet fully him—to restore what we had lost.
‘If,’ as St Paul wrote, ‘it is certain that death reigned over everyone as the consequence of [Adam’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 [we] do not deserve, of being made righteous.’
To do this, Jesus needed to enter fully into that which we had lost. A gift cannot be made new if it is not repaired at the original point where it is broken. The one who tempted Adam and Eve to fall needed to be confronted and contended with again. Therefore, God, in the Holy Spirit, sent his Son into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. Jesus had to experience for himself all that was broken in us, and his 40 days of fasting and temptation would be the foretaste of that experience, to be fully confronted on the cross. Life needed to contend with death, if death was to be overcome by life.
All of this has happened for us. The trajectory of Adam was reversed by Jesus Christ. The gift has been restored, and the wound of sin and death has been healed. God did this for us. Now it is for us to live accordingly, to learn to live in Christ, who holds our transfigured selves in himself. But how might we do this?
The questions asked of sponsors about catechumens who will soon receive the Easter sacraments will point us in the right direction.
These are the questions that define a disciple of Jesus Christ; they reveal someone who is open to being re-created in Christ.
If Lent is only about giving up some things we like, then Lent will be lost on us. Lent seeks to point us towards Christ on the cross, and Christ in his resurrection. It points us to Easter, and to our re-created life. In all our human weakness to sin and death, embrace this: knowing that Christ holds us to himself in his own life, given on the cross.
Banner image: The Temptation of Christ by the Devil, fresco from San Baudelio de Berlanga, c.1129–34, now housed in the Cloisters Museum, NYC. Photo by Fr Lawrence Lew OP.