As we begin this Deacon of Lent, our readings in Cycle A all involve the Fall of Humankind into its Original Sin – placing one’s own will over the will of God. The story of Adam (everyman) and Eve (everywoman) in today’s 1st reading graphically illustrates the choice that each of us make in life. God lays before human beings the opportunity to level in a glorious garden created for their happiness. The only thing that God asks of them, for their own good, is to avoid eating from the one tree in the middle of the garden, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Humankind’s decision to eat from the tree of temptation – has lead us, and generations before us, to experience the same pain and hardships that Adam and Eve experienced when they gave into the temptation and choose to do what God had warned them against doing.
We see in the tiniest infant the continuation of that Original Sin as children begin life by “selfishly” putting their needs and wants over the needs and wants of their parents (need for sleep). And we hear it in the first word that most children speak – “No!”
The Sacrament of Baptism celebrates that while it is “natural” for children to “want what they want when they want it,” God and parents what more for their children. For they know that the self-centeredness of childhood must be washed away by the constant formation of love and example so that the child can grow into a person who is capable of living in a loving and respectful relationship with others.
The Baptismal symbol of water (especially when sprinkled or gently poured over the child’s head) could be illustrative of “washing away” original sin. But, in many parishes, the act of full (or even partial) emersion into a pool of blessed baptismal water,(especially in adult baptism), more completely symbolizes the deeper meaning of the Sacrament. For in full emersion Baptism we enter the waters as Christ entered the tomb on Good Friday, and rise from those waters a new and resurrected person. We have died to our Original Sin in the waters of Baptism so that we can one day follow Christ into Eternal Life.
This link between Baptism and our Funeral ritual is visible in the signs and symbols that both celebrations share: water, a white garment. the Easter Candle, one or more reading from Sacred Scripture and the Gospels, and the use of incense reminiscent of the anointing with sweet smelling Sacred Chrism.
Our Gospel today recounts the decision that Jesus made in early adulthood, to reject the temptations of using his gifts and divine powers in selfish ways, but instead use them for the betterment of the world. We as adult Christians, empowered by our new life free from our “Original Sin” are likewise equipped, if we choose, to reject those very same temptations and take our place as essential members of the Body of Christ.
Lent is a good time to personally renew the promises that our parents made for us many years ago on the day of our own Baptism – to “reject Satan, and all his works and empty promises,” and to “refuse to be mastered by evil, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children”- a Grace filled life.