[Note: I'm not yet happy with this. The homily tries to do a bit too much, and gets a bit heavy/confused. Come back here later to see if I have tidied it up]
Why is there such a thing as evil? If God is so good, why do bad things happen?
Questions like these often trouble us, either in general, or in our reflection on the lives of others – at the hospital bedside, as we listen to the news. Why?
Lent is a journey which explores this mystery.
We are gathered here together because we believe. But it does not mean that we have all the answers.
We worship together because we share a hope: but this does not mean that we ignore the pain and suffering and imperfection of the world.
Today's readings begin to give us an answer.
Firstly, we hear the story of the first sin, the sin of Adam and Eve, the account of what is called 'the Fall'. The Church does not expect us to believe that this is some kind of historical account. It is clearly a kind of story, a legend, a myth, or parable. But the Church does expect us to believe the basic truth which this story teaches. The fundamental sin of humanity, the basic betrayal, is not to disobey an arbitrary command, a vague instruction – the sin which makes all the difference is to think that if we free ourselves from the service of God, then we make ourselves like him. 'Eat this fruit,' the serpent says, 'and you will be like gods'.
We look at the world, and say 'If God is so good, if He made the world, why is it not perfect'. But we might also ask, why do human beings think that they have no need of God; that we can determine what is right and wrong; that we can solve all problems and answer all questions, at least given time. Man has no bounds, the serpent says, the world says. This is basic arrogance, a fundamental flaw, original sin. Not the work or creation of God, but the decision , the choice of Humanity. The imperfection of the world starts here. This is the Fall, which taints us all. This is Original Sin, which we have all been born into.
So what can we do about it? We are responsible. Human faults require human correction. But if we think we can correct our own sin, then we just add to our arrogance. Only God can create, surely. ....
The Gospel gives us the answer. The man sent from God, the Son of the Father, the Word made flesh. He comes to us, free from sin, yet like all of us, afflicted by temptation.
Temptation for us can be so difficult to resist, often impossible. We pray to be delivered from temptation, but in a world which is fallen, temptation is all around us. It cannot be avoided. It is the power the devil has, to tempt us to leave the path of goodness. Even Christ – especially Christ – the man entirely free fron sin – is afflicted by powerful temptation.
And Only humanity can finally destroy the serpent. Only God can create anew. This is the mystery of Christmas, the Incarnation. It is the mystery of the Fall and the Rising. It the promise made in baptism, received in the Eucharist, celebrated in the sacraments. It is also the mystery of this journey of Lent.