OFFICE FOR LITURGY

of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salford

First Sunday of Lent (Year A)

In the Cycle of Sunday Readings, the oldest are those of Year A in Lent – these Gospels have accompanied the Church for many centuries. We must realise why: Lent was originally the time of immediate preparation of candidates for Baptism at Easter (something which has been reintroduced to the Church by RCIA): those already baptised used it as a time to prepare for the renewal of Baptismal promises. This is why so much of the Scripture in Lent is about Baptism, New Life and Salvation. What is the new life of Baptism? What are we set free from? What is sin?  We begin Lent by hearing about sin and temptation; the Gospel will tell us of Jesus’ own temptations, something he shares with us, though he did not sin. The other Scripture readings prepare us for the Gospel, in which Jesus, the new Adam, triumphs over temptation.

Notes for Readers

From the Catechism

The temptation of Jesus
CCC 394, 538-540, 2119

“Lead us not into temptation”
CCC 2846-2949

The Covenant with Noah
CCC 56-58, 71 

Noah’s Ark prefigures the Church and baptism
CCC 845, 1094, 1219

Covenant and sacraments (especially baptism)
CCC 1116, 1129, 1222


God saves through baptism
CCC 1257, 1811

CCC 538-540
The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him "until an opportune time".
The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel's vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God's Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil's conqueror: he "binds the strong man" to take back his plunder. Jesus' victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.
Jesus' temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning." By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. 

First Reading: Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7.
 
The reader is telling a story - so be a storyteller. This story from Genesis will be familiar, which makes it harder to read to a congregation: when we are familiar with a story we can tend to ‘switch off’ slightly. The reader will have to make a special effort to engage the congregation. For example, without ‘acting’, try to make the voice of the serpent sound different from the rest of the reading - remembering that temptation is meant to be attractive! Also try to emphasise the ‘goodness’ of the Lord God in the first two paragraphs. Slow down for the last lines, where Adam and Eve realise what they have done: “Then, the eyes of both of them were opened / and they realised that they were naked.”
 
Second Reading: Romans 5:12-19.
 
This is a very complicated reading: it will need careful preparation. Some sentences are very long - make sure you think about where to breathe and pause. For example, there’s one very awkward sentence you might decide to read like this:
   “If it is certain /
   that death reigned over everyone as a consequence of one man’s fall /
   it is even more certain that one man, Jesus Christ, /
   will cause everyone to reign in life /
   who receives the free gift /
   that he does not deserve /
   of being made righteous.”
 
Saint Paul explores the concepts of sin and the justification brought about by the righteousness of Jesus. Paul uses the technique of balancing two ideas: the sin of Adam and the righteousness of Jesus. Use the voice to create a rhythm in reading these balanced ideas: rise on the first half (e.g. “as one man’s fall brought condemnation on everyone...”) and fall away again on the second (“so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified.”). Identify each contrast, and bring them out strongly in reading.  This reading acts as an important pivot between the story of Adam’s sin in the first reading, and Jesus’ rejection of sin in the Gospel.

Gospel Wordsearch