Last week, I taught a class for students who are planning to receive the Eucharist for the first time this year. This particular class was focused on Biblical literacy and included the reading of various Scripture passages. One of the passages we read was Genesis 3, the same as today’s first reading. After we read the Scripture, the students shared their reactions. One student remarked that if Adam and Eve hadn’t sinned, nothing bad would have ever happened and we would not have lost Heaven. Another student quickly responded by saying: “Yeah, but then we wouldn’t have been born.”
On April 19 of this year, Catholics throughout the world who attend the Easter Vigil in the Holy Night of Easter will hear the Exsultet proclaimed, which contains the phrase: “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a redeemer!” This is the point that the second student was unknowingly making. Without the happy fault we would not have Christ. If we had not lost supernatural grace and our innocence, we would not have needed Christ to restore it. But God, who deeply desires us to know Him, love Him, serve Him in this world, and be happy with Him forever in Heaven, wanted more. He wanted more than the humanity he first created. He wanted us to be transformed through the loving gift of his own Son. For this reason, this fault of Adam was not only a happy one, but was also necessary. And it is this word, this idea of necessity, that I feel is worthy of more consideration.
For me, it is difficult to narrow down a list of things in my life that are truly necessary. There are many important things that I do, but I realize that they are not always necessary. I think this is one of the messages that we can take away from today’s readings. If we look also to the Gospel, we read in the first line that Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by the devil, and then to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. This moment in our salvation history, which mirrors the 40-day fast of Moses, and the 40-year wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness, is another example of God’s will being realized through necessary occurrences on earth. Jesus himself experienced fasting, trials, and temptation, not for his own sake, but so that we could become what God needs us to be. In the same way, we too must experience the necessary things from God. It is sometimes difficult to look around us and see so many challenges to our faith and our morality, but we must never stop trusting that God will be there for us. As St. Augustine tells us, when we face tribulation, we cannot know what to pray for, so we simply must pray. By the same token, we need to allow ourselves to be led into the desert because it is only then that we can experience the fullness of God’s mercy and salvation.
As we continue our Lenten journey, as we wander further into the desert, let us not merely remember Christ’s temptation, but, more importantly, his victory. A victory he won for us by his triumph over the devil and over death on a cross. Our wandering during the Lenten Season may last for 40 days, but the season of Easter lasts for 50.
May God bless you.