First Signs of Spring

(Homily for First Sunday of Lent, Year A)

The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon lencten meaning "spring." Before we consider Jesus’ springtime, let’s ask why such a cold winter fell upon mankind.

God created our first parents for happiness. His plan for them centered on marriage and family. God placed man in a beautiful garden with virtually unlimited resources. The man lacked only one thing – a companion like himself. So God cast a deep sleep over him, removed a rib and formed a woman.* When the man awoke, he let out a joyful exclamation because she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. More beautiful than the mountains or streams, more beautiful than the entire night sky. He thought he would never take his eyes off her.

But what happened? The man was supposed to stand by his wife and protect her, but at the most crucial instant, the moment of the temptation, he was nowhere in sight. Where was he? Perhaps he gave in to laziness and was sleeping. Dr. Scott Hahn builds the case that the man got frightened and ran away. Whatever the reason, he was not there.

From this we can see that a lack of mutual support preceded the Fall. When they did the forbidden act, things quickly began to unravel. They immediately started making excuses, trying to duck personal responsibility. As we see in today's first reading, the man blamed his wife; she blamed the serpent. Trust disappeared. They could no longer be “naked” in each other’s presence. This nakedness, as Pope John Paul pointed out, refers to an innocence which was not just physical, but spiritual. In its place came concealment, duplicity, bullying. Thus a cruel winter fell upon our race.

After tripping our first parents, the devil had no difficulty with the rest of us. Like the Enron scandal indicates, he can pick out people who are on top of the world and bring them down in an instant. Others see them and say, “How could they be so stupid?” But those who ask the question do not know their own hearts. You and I have done foolish things. The only difference is that, unlike the Enron executives, we did not have billions of dollars - other folk’s money – to throw around. Nevertheless, considering our more limited opportunities, you and I have shown remarkable stupidity.

Knowing how readily humans fall, the devil thought he would have an easy time with Jesus. He offered the usual fare: sensual pleasure, quick wealth, comfort, popular esteem, authority without accountability. He even tried to draw Jesus into a kind of despair. “Throw yourself down.” (Mt 4:6) As God, Jesus could not have fallen. Still, as a man he carried in his human nature the full burden of our failures. By his resistance, something new entered our world.

It once seemed the dreary winter would never end, but even now there are tiny buds on the trees. Lent, lencten, springtime is upon us. In today’s Gospel we see the first signs of that new life.


*In discussing the Genesis narrative with engaged couples, I try to point out that God made woman from the rib to emphasize the two were meant to walk side by side. He did not take her from the man's feet so that he would step on her – nor from his head so that she would dominate him – but from his side so they would mutually support each other. )

Versión Castellana

From Archives (Year A homilies for First Sunday of Lent):
Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 1 (2014)
The Purpose of Temptation (2011)
The Devil is a Logician (2008)
The Temptation of Sloth (2005)
First Signs of Spring (2002)
Original Sin & Temptation (1999)

Complete List of Homilies for First Sunday of Lent ("Temptation Sunday"):

2014: Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 1
2013: Do Not Talk to the Devil
2012: The Covenant with Noah Today
2011: The Purpose of Temptation
2010: Who Is Like God?
2009: Knee Mail
2008: The Devil is a Logician
2007: More Powerful than Satan
2006: Sir, Go on the Other Side
2005: The Temptation of Sloth
2004: Temptation of Spirituality
2003: Lent with C.S. Lewis
2002: First Signs of Spring
2001: How Satan Operates
2000: The Rabbit's Foot
1999: Original Sin & Temptation
1998: Hidden Sin of Gluttony
1997: Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Ash Wednesday homilies:

The Purpose of Lent
Two Cheers for Catholic Guilt
Don't Waste This Crisis
When You Give Alms
Back to the Basics
Dealing With Guilt
Exercise of Holy Desire

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies

Podcasts of homilies (website of my niece, Sara)

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Bulletin (Penitential Practices, Ted Turner - anti-religious or new religion?)


Other Homilies

The U.N. and the "Morning-After Pill"

Brave New World of IVF Is Growing Darker

my bulletin column

40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)

Q&A about Planned Parenthood

Archbishop Dolan: Letting Crisis Pregnancy Centers Do Their Work

Parish Picture Album

Separated at birth? (March 2011)

40 Days for Life (Everett, WA)

Q&A about Planned Parenthood

Archbishop Dolan: Letting Crisis Pregnancy Centers Do Their Work



(A child in Peru who needs your help)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru