God’s Graciousness is Abundant

Jesus Teaches Us the Power of Forgiveness

We Walk Together on This Journey

Jesus Invites Us to Take Up the Cross

Following the Example of St. Peter the Apostle

All are Offered Salvation Through Christ

Msgr. Joseph Prior

(Readings of the Holy Mass – First Sunday of Lent)

“O truly necessary sin of Adam, destroyed completely by the Death of Christ! O happy fault that earned so great, so glorious a Redeemer!” are two lines from the Exultet which is proclaimed at the beginning of the Easter Vigil. The hymn calls the Church to rejoicing as it proclaims the triumph of Christ over sin and death which brings healing, restoration, redemption, and salvation to mankind.

Christ is the focus, the poetic image here emphasizes the great gift Christ is to mankind. The Father’s gift of the Son, the Son’s gift of Himself, are freely given in love. The great damage to mankind brought on by sin is taken up by Jesus and through His death is healed.

That “happy fault” looms great in today’s celebration of the First Sunday of Lent.

Here we are in the beginning of our journey. Lent is a penitential season. It is a time where the communion of the Church, that is all of us, makes a concerted effort to repent of sin. Most of us heard the words “Repent and believe in the Gospel” on Wednesday when we received ashes. We embrace the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving as a way of expressing contrition for our sins and gratitude for He who delivers us from sin. The penitential season also helps us to be strengthened for the good, to help us to choose good and avoid evil, to be aware of temptation, and to be given the means to resist. Jesus shows us the way.

The “Forty Days” of Lent recall the period of time when Jesus was in the desert. During that time, He fasted and at the end of which He was tempted. Saint Matthew points out that at the end of this period, “He was hungry.” It is now that Satan enters the scene and tempts Jesus three times. Even though he is physically weakened by the fasting and time in the desert, He is spiritually strong. The cunning of the devil should not be underestimated. He is clever and is trying to trick or trap Jesus in his temptations. Jesus resists. He sees the temptations for what they are and where they would lead him (away from God the Father). He says “no.” He makes the choice to remain faithful to the Father and dismisses Satan.

Jesus’ rejection of the Tempter is contrasted with the fall of Adam and Eve recounted in the first reading for today’s liturgy. Adam and Eve are in the garden. God gave them life. He created them in love. He gave them the world and all that is in it. He gave them each other. Everything they need, they have. Satan temps them to think that there is something more that they don’t have; something God is keeping to Himself. As in Jesus’ temptation, the devil is clever and “cunning.” In this case, he tempts them with divine aspirations, becoming gods or like gods. They give in and sin; and as a consequence become less like the God they sought to be.

Satan tempted our first parents to shift their focus from God to themselves (and in doing this their focus also went to him who tempts). They turn away from God. This is the essence of sin. Choosing to look elsewhere has consequences. We see this in the story when Adam and Eve become embarrassed at their nakedness. The shame they now experience points to an inner peace and integrity that has now been seriously damaged.

As the Genesis account continues, we see their relationship with God, with each other, and with all creation are damaged. Another consequence of this fundamental sin, or original sin, is that sin increases which likewise is recalled in as the Genesis account continues.

Satan comes to Jesus and tempts Him as he did Adam and Eve. Jesus, however, resists the temptations and remains focused on God. Notice that in the three temptations, Satan is trying to get Jesus to take his reliance off God. First, by providing for his needs by Himself; second, by forcing the hand of God, or in other words, making God do what He [Jesus] wants him to do; and third, by taking power that properly belongs to the Father. None of these are successful. Jesus remains faithful to the Father. He makes the choice for the Father, he makes the choice for the Good.

Saint Paul, in the passage from the Letter to the Romans, summarizes the contrast between the Adam (and Eve) and Jesus. Through Adam sin comes into the world; righteousness comes through Jesus Christ.

He writes: “In conclusion, just as through one transgression condemnation came upon all, so, through one righteous act, acquittal and life came to all. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so, through the obedience of the one, the many will be made righteous.”

That “happy fault” of Adam has led to the gift of life in Christ Jesus, the gift of Jesus Himself.

Today He invites us to “go to the desert” with Him through the penitential acts of prayer, fasting and almsgiving so that we can continue our journey through life focused on His Gift, faithful to His Word and grateful for His life.


Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Join the CatholicPhilly.com family

CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.

By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.

Here is how you can help:

  • A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
  • A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
  • A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
  • A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.

Won't you consider making a gift today?

Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!

Make your donation by credit card here:

Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103

PREVIOUS: Love Your Neighbor As Yourself

NEXT: The tradition of ashes on Ash Wednesday

Popular this week

Pope Francis’ May 2023 Prayer Intention | Watch Video

Photo Feature: 8th Annual Padre Pio Festival

Three Archdiocesan Elementary Schools Named 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence

Confidant of Bishops and Colleagues, Kathy Kelley Caps 50-Year Career with the Archdiocese