The Bishops Homily – 1st Sunday of Lent

1st Sunday of Lent
Gen. 2:7-9;3:1-7
Rom. 5: 12-19
Mt. 4:1-11

INTRODUCTION: We enter this weekend the holy Season of Lent. Our 1st Reading from Genesis 2 and 3 gives an opportunity to revisit the Fundamentals of spiritual life. Lent is a season to go back to basics.

(1) “The Lord God fashioned man of dust from the soil.” Man is made of matter . . . God glories in our physicality. But we humans are more than just matter . . . for “God breathed into his nostrils a breath of life and thus man became a living being.” This “breath of life” is the ordering of our deepest selves to God as the absolute or unconditioned Truth, Beauty, Good, not just a particular truth, beauty, or good. The trouble of Secular Society is it denies these two dimensions of life: matter or physicality and the spirit or breath of God. St. Thomas Aquinas considers human beings as a kind of microcosm, containing both physics or matter and spirit/soul. Knowing and honoring both dimensions is the path to JOY!

(2) “The Lord God . . . put the man he had fashioned in the midst of a garden and gave them free rein to eat all.” Unlike in Greek Mythology, the God of the Bible is not a rival to human beings. St. Irenaeus says, “The glory of God is man fully alive. The Lord God caused to spring up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat, with the tree of life and tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.” All kinds of trees in the garden represents all that makes human life full and flourishing, including politics, science, and the arts. This is the deepest Humanism imaginable!

(3) The first men on earth were “to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden,” identified as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What is this tree? It is the act of arrogating to oneself what belongs in a privilege way only to God, not so much a particular sin like adultery or theft. To make the human will the criterion and arbiter of good and evil is to act like God. This is the basic, the original sin/mistake of man to deify the human will. The result of what Adam and Eve did is “the eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked.” This means not so much shame or hiya as a deep and pre-occupying self-consciousness when we recognize that our source of value is inside us whereas in reality it is outside of us. That is the picture of Adam and Eve scampering to cover themselves after the fall.
Application: On the issue of restoration of the death penalty in our Country, our Lawmakers are acting like gods keeping only drug addiction as the sole cause for death penalty, taking out plunder and others from the list to save them from the Capital Punishment just in case they fall into the same sin. When the self becomes the criterion of good and evil, even we ordinary mortals fall into the same mistake too, not just the politicians.
CONCLUSION: Go back to Genesis 3 and discover the basic, fundamental sin man falls into that makes him so unhappy!

Most Rev. Antonio R. Tobias, DD
Bishop of Novaliches

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