When we went with our children and grandchild for what would be our last visit to their godmother, she was confined to a hospital bed with her neck, broken in a tragic fall, supported by a cylindrical brace. Clearly in pain yet alert and attentive to us, she slowly asked every godchild about their lives and aspirations, seemingly oblivious to the precarious state of her own well-being. When we quietly left her room, each of us was absorbed in the sense that we had just been in the presence of a great soul about to pass. She always had been a faithful person, thoughtful and gracious. Yet we had just witnessed a reality beyond the sum of the parts of a lifetime, a summing up of profound goodness and attention directed at others. It was as if we had glimpsed the fullness of who God intended her to be.
In this Lenten turning, this anticipation of being washed and cleansed, of having broken hearts laid open to receive the unspeakable mercy of divine goodness, something goes well beyond what our senses can perceive: It is a slow growing into God’s own intent for each of our lives. We glimpse something of this mystery of fullness in Paul’s contrast between the creation account of Adam’s disobedience and Jesus’ obedience to God in his death. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyon, a second-century church father, developed that Pauline insight and called Christ the “Second Adam,” whose work undoes the work of sin wrought by the first man. The bishop’s insight was far-reaching. In his view, the reversal of Adam’s work was not merely a return to the original garden of paradise. Christ models the transformed human being, resplendent in the fullness of what God intends redeemed humanity to be. Thus we, women and men who turn toward the divine love that beckons us, gradually are remade into the unique fullness that God intends for each of us.
Reflect on this passage from Paul: “Through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (Gal. 5:5, niv).
In this first week of Lent, we prepare our hearts for a period of reflection. We think about areas of our lives in which we might be falling short of God’s desires. The problem of sin enters the human story at the very beginning, for Adam and Eve choose to follow their own wisdom rather than guidance from God. The psalmist highlights the importance of recognizing our sin and asking for forgiveness, which God is quick to give. In Romans, Paul argues that we all partake in the broken human condition because we all have sinned as Adam did. The story of Jesus in the desert admonishes us to be on guard against the deception of our fleshly desires and our pride.
Read Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7. How might this story help you turn from superbia to humilitas throughout your Lenten journey?
Read Psalm 32. What seeming dichotomies comprise the full picture of your life of faith?
Read Romans 5:12-19. How do you sense the differences Paul draws between Adam and Christ prompting you to turn toward God?
Read Matthew 4:1-11. What are your own temptations? How does Jesus’ response to his temptations guide you in responding to yours?
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