• Immersed in Christ

Entering Discipleship: the Recognition of Sin

Updated: Mar 9

The First Sunday of Lent: March 6, 2022

Genesis 9:8–15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18–22; Mark 1:12-15

by Fr. David M. Knight


Genesis 2:7 to 3:7 is a story God told to answer one of the basic questions in life — like the questions little children ask their parents — “Why is there pain and suffering in the world?” The Genesis story is intended to make it clear that God didn’t will this. God does not want people to suffer. The world God gave the first human beings to live in was like a garden, lush with beautiful trees and tasty fruit. A paradise.


But God made humans free, as we are free. He knew they might abuse their freedom and mess up the world for themselves and others. So he gave instructions: he told them what they must avoid and what they must do if they wanted to keep their living conditions, their environment — including their interaction with one another — pleasant, beautiful and enjoyable for all. These instructions have come down to us as the “Ten Commandments.”


But in the story there is only one command, because the point of the story is that there is only one cause of all the pain and suffering in the world. The cause is sin — the choice people make to use freedom, not to obey God, but to disregard God’s instructions and do what they themselves think will make them happy. We might think it is some particular sin that is messing up the world, some particular way of acting. But God says the problem is sin as such. Any time we choose not to do what God says, we “miss the mark” and we mess up the world for ourselves and others.


When we choose to live by our own light, our own guidance system, instead of God’s, the results are disastrous. When we recognize this, our “eyes are opened” and we realize we are blind. Then there is hope.


“If You Are…”

Matthew 4: 1-11 shows us Jesus confronting his call to be the Messiah, the Savior of the world. He is being tempted to falsify his mission, to disobey God, not overtly and explicitly, but by adopting as the goal of his mission something that looks good to human eyes but “misses the mark” established by God’s wisdom.


The devil urges him to give people what they think they want: prosperity, protection from enemies, a just and peaceful society; in other words, a pleasant, pain-free life on this earth. Basically, the devil is urging Jesus to make the earth a garden without God.


Jesus is not asked to exclude God; just to make God marginal. God can be a player, but don’t let him call all the plays. God will be allowed to speak to those who want to listen, but listening to God is not what will save the world. Society believes salvation consists in what people have, not in what they hear.


Jesus’ first answer is a call to discipleship — to listening and learning. The way to live fully is to live “by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Is this an answer I have accepted? Will I accept to be the one who saves society around me by preparing myself through reading and reflecting on the words of God? Is my failure to do this the place where I am “missing the mark”? Can I recognize this as “sin”?


“Through One Man”

The RESPONSORIAL PSALM is a meditation on the first reading. The response to which it guides us is: “Be merciful, Lord, for we have sinned.” When we realize we are blind, we call out to God. And God will always save us. The “definition of God” that God himself gave us when he showed his “glory” to Moses is: “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (EXODUS 34:6). God will never turn away from us when we sin.


But for us to turn to him we have to recognize our sin: Jesus said to the Pharisees, who refused to do this, “Because you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains”(READ JOHN, chapter9).


Romans 5:12-19 shows us the form God’s mercy took when he acted to save us from our sins. And it gives the answer we asked for in the OPENING PRAYER “Father, help us understand the meaning of your Son’s death and resurrection.”


But just as the first human act of disobedience to God began a chain reaction that filled the world with sin, so Jesus’ unique divine-human act of obedience began a chain reaction of graced responses to God that continues to reverse the destructive effects of sin on human society. Through the obedience of “one man” we were saved. But through the obedience of many that salvation takes flesh in society to turn wasteland into gardens, alienation into acceptance, selfishness into service and indifference into love. For this to happen, however, each one of us has to be that “one man” or “one woman” in whom it begins.


But just as the first human act of disobedience to God began a chain reaction that filled the world with sin, so Jesus’ unique divine-human act of obedience began a chain reaction of graced responses to God that continues to reverse the destructive effects of sin on human society. Through the obedience of “one man” we were saved. But through the obedience of many that salvation takes flesh in society to turn wasteland into gardens, alienation into acceptance, selfishness into service and indifference into love. For this to happen, however, each one of us has to be that “one man” or “one woman” in whom it begins.


This may be the conversion to which God calls us during Lent.


Initiative: Pray over these questions and talk to Jesus about your answers.

To what do I attribute the evils in our society? Do I blame them on bad politics? Bad business practices? Inadequate education? Unenlightened ministry in the Church? Disintegrating family life?


What do I think is the root cause? Could the root of it all be sin? Do I believe the answer to society’s problems is to call on God? How often do I do it? And what do I call on him for?


Do I really believe that if I want to relieve pain and suffering in the world, the first thing I should do is read and reflect — seriously and consistently — on the words of God? Should this really be my first priority?


What “conversion” will I work toward during Lent?


What would it mean for me to convert to being a disciple. How could I begin?











Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry

www.ImmersedinChrist.org

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