Our first reading contains a symbolic story in which a kind of Everywoman and Everyman face a basic human question: How will I live — God’s way or my way? In the story, the woman and the man are presented with the option not just of committing a simple little sin but of going wrong in the most fundamental way.
They are tempted to decide for themselves, against God’s instruction, what will be good or bad for them. In that sense, they face the choice of whether to take on the role of God for themselves. And they do. They go their own way, away from God.
The story shows us ourselves. This is what all of us tend to do.
The Gospel then shows us the man who refused to go this way. Jesus is confronted with temptations to displace God as the center of his life. But he holds on to God. He prefers what God wants even if it is not what he wants. A hungry man wants to eat, but Jesus, even though he is very hungry, insists that God’s word is more important than bread.
Lent is an opportunity to ask ourselves the question raised in the Genesis story. Who is God in my life — God or me?
To answer this question, we can ask more specific ones. Where, in the way I live, the way I relate to people, am I choosing to determine what is good and bad for me apart from God? Where, despite God’s view, am I going ahead and doing what I want?
The presenting symptom of our departure from God may seem small. Looking back over his life, St. Augustine found it in his delight at stealing pears from an orchard as a boy.
Our inclination to go our own way is deep-rooted. Paul explains how Jesus has become our help for dealing with it: “Through the obedience of one, the many will be made righteous.” By “the one,” Paul means Jesus. “The many” are us. “Made righteous” means set right with God and straightened out within ourselves.
Jesus lived and died in obedience to God. His loving, trusting relationship with God has now become accessible to us, as we are united with him in baptism. With Jesus, we can learn to say, “The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”