Sunday Sermon for February 26, 2023, the First Sunday of Lent, Year A

Readings: Gen 2:2-9, 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19; Mt 4:1-11

In the first reading we hear about the temptation and the Fall of Adam and Eve.  We know that God told Adam he could not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  It is interesting that when the serpent tempted Eve, the Scriptures do not say she was seeking knowledge.  Rather, it says she saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food, it was a delight to the eye, and it was desirable for gaining wisdom.

This is interesting because knowledge comes from learning, but wisdom comes from experience.  Certainly, there is knowledge that is gleaned from experience, but wisdom is the primary fruit of such experience.  Eve was not merely interested in knowing the difference between good and evil, which is what the vile creature tempted her with, but she wanted somehow to experience the difference between good and evil.

Adam and Eve, up to that point, had experienced only what was good.  How sad to think that they would want to experience evil!  Endowed with a mind and given the commandments God laid out for them in the Garden, our first parents already had some knowledge of the difference between good and evil.  Even the fact that they hid themselves from God after they had disobeyed His command, shows there was clear knowledge they had done something wrong.

God always brings good out of evil, so perhaps one could say that the wisdom we gain from this experience is the realization of the harm we do to ourselves, and to others, when we sin.  One would hope that from our own similar experiences we would have gained the wisdom to know that we cannot trust and should not listen to the enemy of our souls.  Unfortunately, it appears that most of us have not obtained that wisdom, even after countless experiences.  The knowledge is there, that is, we know that Satan hates us, that he lies, that he does not want our good, etc., yet we still lack the wisdom to reject him and his nonsense.

When we look at the consequences of the sin of our first parents, we can readily see the horrible impact this had, not only on them, but on all those who would follow.  Suffering, concupiscence, and death are the lot of humanity because of this one act of disobedience.  Of course, we cannot blame everything on Adam and Eve because we have all contributed substantially to our own problems through the sins we have committed.

Thankfully, as St. Paul tells us in the second reading, through the obedience of Jesus, many will be made righteous.  This is a gift from our Lord.  St. Paul, in several striking statements in this reading, makes clear that the gift is not like the transgression.  Similar to the tree in the middle of the Garden, we have to make a choice to reach out to the fruit of the tree on which our Lord was crucified.  We have no choice about Original Sin, it is received through inheritance.  But we do have a choice with righteousness; the offer is there, but we must choose it.

Similar, but opposite, to what Eve sought, the fruit of the Cross is good for gaining wisdom.  It is the wisdom of righteousness.  We all have plenty of knowledge of good and evil and we all have plenty of experience with both good and evil.  So, the knowledge should not be an issue, the issue is whether or not we have gained the wisdom to reject the temptations of the one who wants only evil for us.  Because of his envy, Satan brought us death; because of His love, Jesus brought us life.  If should not require a lot of wisdom to reach out in the right direction, but we frequently prove that we still lack the necessary wisdom to choose life.

Satan tempted our Lord the same way he tempts us.  Jesus had the wisdom to reject his advances.  Our Lord did not act out of selfishness, pride, or falsehood.  Instead, He showed us how Adam and Eve should have handled things when they were they were tempted and, by extension, He shows us how we should deal with Satan.

We know we will be tempted in a variety of ways.  Do not carry on a conversation with the vile creature; he is way smarter that we are.  Try not to entertain the temptations because our minds and will weaken if we do not reject them quickly.  Ultimately, what we need to do is come back to our love for God.  If we love God, we want to do His will; His will is what is best for us.  Obedience to Satan is slavery; obedience to God is freedom.  Reject Satan!  Worship God alone!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit