By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp
Homily for 1st Sunday in Lent - on the Epistle
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Now Is the Day of Decision

Genesis 2:7-9, 16-18, 25; 3:1-7 Romans 5:12, 17-19 Matthew 4:1-11

A story has it that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once captured a prince and his family. When they were brought before him, Cyrus asked the captured prince, “What will you give me if I release you?”
“The half of my wealth,” was his reply.
“And if I release your children?”
“Everything I possess.”
“And if I release your wife?”
“Your Majesty, I will give myself.”
Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned home, the prince said to his wife, “Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!” With a look of deep love for her husband, she said to him, “I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you—the one who was willing to give himself for me.” Lent is the time for us to remember Jesus, the one who was willing to give his life for us and the manner in which he did, in fact, give his life for us.

In today’s second reading from the Letter to the Romans, Paul talks about the two men who, more than anyone else, influenced the history of our salvation. The first is Adam, through whom sin and death came into the world and humankind fell from God’s favour. The other is Jesus, through whom humankind is once more reconciled to God and grace and eternal life restored to us.

Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19).

If you find Paul’s reasoning in this passage difficult to follow it is because Paul is speaking as a Jewish rabbi. As such he assumes popular Jewish beliefs and uses Jewish forms of reasoning.

One of such Jewish beliefs that Paul uses here is the belief that one person can act in the name of a whole group of people in such a way that the fate and destiny of that group hangs on the success or failure of that one person. This belief was at play in the famous story of David and Goliath. In it we see how the war between two nations, the Israelites and the Philistines, was settled by a one-on-one combat between David and Goliath. David won, and so the Israelites were victorious; Goliath lost, and so the entire nation of the Philistines was defeated. Paul presumes a similar viewpoint when he argues that all humankind stood condemned on account of Adam’s disobedience or that all humankind stands justified before God on account of Christ’s obedience.

Even so, there is a big difference between our sharing in Adam’s loss and our sharing in Christ’s merits. Since Adam is the father of all humankind, it can be said that all humankind was literally in Adam’s loins. Adam’s DNA is stamped in the DNA of all humanity. Original sin, therefore, is our genetic inheritance from Adam. But we cannot make the same argument for Jesus Christ. The DNA of Jesus has not been passed down to all humanity. Our belonging to Adam is by nature. We have no choice in the matter. But our belonging to Christ is by choice. That is why all humankind inherits Adam’s fallen human nature, whether we like it or not. But it is only those who choose to belong to Christ that will inherit the blessings that Christ has won for humanity.

Lent is the opportune time of the year when the church reminds us of what Christ has done for us and invites us all to make a conscious decision to belong to Christ.

So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. … Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! (2 Corinthians 5:20; 6:2).

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