Had a Great Fall

(March 5, 2022)

Bottom line: God has formed our bodies and given us the breath of life. Yet we fell and are broken. Jesus came to make us whole again. He can use our humility to heal and restore us.

To figure out where we are going, we have to know where we came from. Here's what our first reading says:

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

You and I are strange creatures. Like all the other animals, God formed us out of the earth. He could have even used an evolutionary process to form our bodies. But we have something different. God blew into our nostrils the breath of life. Because of that, you and I are never really at home in this world. We were created by God - and for God.

And we are broken. Like Humpty Dumpty, we've had a great fall. The Bible describes how Satan tempted our mother Eve: But the serpent said to the woman: "You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods..." In the garden our first parents had everything: Labor, Love and Leisure. Labor - they had a job to do caring for the plants and animals. Love - they had the affection of all the animals and they had each other. Leisure - Creation culminates with the sabbath, a day of rest, renewal and worship. But instead of worshipping God, they wanted to become little gods.

"The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it..."

Some people blame the woman but you have to ask, Where the heck was Adam? God had created the woman from the man's rib - part closest to his heart. They were meant to walk side by side. It evokes a picture of the man with his right arm over the woman's shoulder, protecting her. But where was he?

He may have simply been afraid. The word for serpent can also mean dragon, but to me snakes are bad enough. I've been to Reptile Zoo twice, each time with families who had daughters. The owner offered to drape large snakes over their shoulders. The girls had no problem, even holding foot long lizard in their laps. Me, I kept my distance. Maybe Adam was like me, a bit afraid. At any rate, he was AWOL at the crucial moment.

So began an unravelling of relationships. First between the man and his wife. Then the man hid from God. Since the first sin, we humans hide from God, try to run away from him, set up idols to take the place of God. As C.S. Lewis said, "Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy..."

We had a great fall, but who can put us back together again? We've tried to do it on our own. Our country has had utopian schemes. All of them eventually flop. The attempts in the Soviet Union and China turned out bad. One of the good things in our country was that our founder recognized original sin and set up a system of checks and balances. But no system can protect us from human greed and malice.

Today we have something new. Someone who entered our history and himself faced all our temptations: "At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil." Why does God allows temptations? Temptations are meant to stretch us. If a person resists a temptation, he takes power from it. When we fall, the temptation takes power from us. I knew a girl who prayed for her future husband. She hadn't met him yet, but she knew he would be facing temptations - porn, drugs, alcohol, etc. If he resisted those temptations, he would be a strong, faithful husband and father.

Too often we simply give in to temptations. That can lead to rationalization and despair. But it can also lead to humility. When someone asked St. Augustine what is the most important virtue, he responded "humility". Then the person asked what is second. Augustine said, "humility". And the third? You know the answer.

AA, Alcoholics Anonymous has this famous step: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. This step sometimes happens in the context of confession. This is followed by the willingness to ask God to remove ones shortcomings. This takes humility.

Humility makes us beautiful to God and to each other. One of the things gone wrong in our culture is we have started having pride months. I think we should have humility months.

Anyway, we need God. We need Lent 2023. Next weekend we will hear about Jesus' Transfiguration. Today take home these three points: 1) God formed our bodies and gave us the breath of life, 2) We fell and are broken, 3) Jesus came to put us back together - and he requires our humility to restore us. Amen.


Other Homilies

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

2021 (Year A): The Battle Keeps Raging
2020 (Year A): Immersed in the Scriptures
2019 (Year C): Him Alone
2018 (Year B): Finding Hope When Life Hurts Week 1: Boundaries
2017 (Year A): Best Lent Ever: Prayer Changes Everything
2016 (Year C): First Things: Prayer
2015 (Year B): New Mind and Heart Week 1
2014 (Year A): Prayer and Spiritual Combat Week 1
2013 (Year C): Do Not Talk to the Devil
2012 (Year B): The Convenant with Noah Today
2011 (Year A): The Purpose of Temptation
2010 (Year C): Who Is Like God?
2009 (Year B): Knee Mail
2008 (Year A): The Devil is a Logician
2007 (Year C): More Powerful than Satan
2006 (Year B): Sir, Go on the Other Side
2005 (Year A): The Temptation of Sloth
2004 (Year C): Temptation of Spirituality
2003 (Year B): Lent with C.S. Lewis
2002 (Year A): First Signs of Spring
2001 (Year C): How Satan Operates
2000 (Year B): The Rabbit's Foot
1999 (Year A): Original Sin & Temptation
1998 (Year C): Hidden Sin of Gluttony
1997 (Year B): Jesus' Temptation & Ours

Are these homilies a help to you? Please consider making a donation to St. Mary of the Valley Parish.

Other Priests' Homilies, Well Worth Listening:
Fr. Frank Schuster
Fr. Brad Hagelin
Fr. Jim Northrop
Fr. Michael White
Fr Kurt Nagel (and deacons of St. Monica)
Bishop Robert Barron

Bulletin (St. Mary of Valley Parish)

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MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru