Matthew 4:1-11, First Sunday of Lent
Many, many Roman-Catholics still take it for granted that the Adam and Eve story literally happened as it is narrated in Genesis. But if that were the case, we would run into many problems. First, if the whole human race issued from only two parents, then we would have to presume that their children had relations with each other—for them to eventually populate the earth. After all, taken literally, Genesis didn’t say that God created any other humans besides an Adam and an Eve. Second, if all creatures God created were good, then we would have to concede that the snake was a good creature because God created it. But we don’t have second thoughts about thinking it evil, do we? Third, if sin “began” with Adam and Eve’s disobedience, then how do we account for the evil in the snake before Adam and Eve actually committed the “first” sin? Besides, are we to believe that once upon a time, snakes could talk? So see, that’s just a few of many other problems we need to deal with if we are to maintain that the Adam and Eve story happened exactly as Genesis tells it.
But if we understand the story as myth, ah, then we’re off to a better start. A myth is an old, old story that uses many, many symbols. When you take the symbols together, they begin to tell a very familiar story about reality, our reality. Sure, the characters in a myth may never have existed. But regard them as symbols of us, then they speak like us, and tell of who we are, our relationships, our lights and shadows, dreams and nightmares. That’s why myths stick around for centuries precisely because their message is timeless. So, coming back to Adam and Eve, if this myth tells the story of how sin began, then we should be able to recognize it in them, and see how it’s still so true in us…
…Because, sisters and brothers, Adam and Eve had everything. They had all they needed, and much more besides. In fact, the whole universe was created especially for them. They didn’t have to fight for anything. Everything God created was there for the taking. But…they… wanted…more. And they got at that “more”, they grabbed for that “more”, they entitled themselves to that “more” no matter what it took. Nasa kanila na ang lahat. Pero gusto pa nila, higit pa. At para makuha ang higit na ‘yon, hinamak nila kahit ang Diyos na may-kaloob ng lahat.
And that, my dear sisters and brothers, forms the core of many of our serious sinning. For aren’t we gifted with creation, and also with incredible human capabilities: freedom, intelligence, human power, relationships. We human beings truly are mikro-kosmos, a “tiny universe,” each of us! But for some reason, even that isn’t enough. We’re not happy with enough or with more than enough. No, we want more than that. And, my God, we will get at that “more” no matter what it takes. And not just money or power. We demand more respect, for instance; we expect more honor, we itch for more affirmation, we self-entitle for more privilege. We want gratification to be more intense, excitation to be more sensual. All this, even if we already have more than enough to be truly happy. Kung tutuusin, hindi kailanman nagkulang sa atin ang Diyos. Pero hindi tayo masiya-siyahan sa kung ano nang nariyan, sa kung sino nang nariyan. Kailangan dagdag pa, mas marami pa, buhos pa. There’s a bizarre logic somewhere in there that goes: if I cannot have more, then I have nothing. So, we feel naked like Adam and Eve. Now, isn’t that the core of our more serious sinning, sisters and brothers? It’s really Adam-Eve-snake all over again.
“Turn these stones into bread! Use your miracles to feed yourself more than your will power to fast. Throw yourself over the cliff and see more proof of your authority as God’s Son. Worship me and get more honor and power in the world!” As we can see, evil hasn’t changed its tune even before the Lord himself. It’s the same temptation trying to win Jesus over by luring him to have more and get more and be more than what’s already been abundantly bestowed. But Jesus answers Satan: “No. I have enough nourishment in my life, and by more than just bread alone. I have a Father who has never let me down. I have enough angels in my life on earth to protect me and to love me. I already am richly blest. So no. Thank you, but no.”
Should we stop striving for more? No, surely not. In fact, God wants us to have more compassion, to be more generous, to love more people, to forgive and apologize, and all that. That’s not the “more” we’re talking about here. What forms the core of our sinning is that disordered, distorted, egocentric drive to have more, no matter what it takes, or whom we hurt, or the damage it does on our souls. Sometime, somewhere in the beginning, humanity sinned not because of dearth, but because being abundantly blessed just wasn’t enough.
So, as we move more deeply into the “desert” of Lent, dear sisters and brothers, maybe we can ask: “How have I taken God’s blessings for granted? What is that more that I obsess over and why must I get it at all cost? What does the temptation promise me in exchange for my reckless pursuit of my more? And is it really worth it all? Is it really worth it at all?”