Many a man curses the rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance to drive away hunger. [St. Basil]
Yesterday's first reading (Genesis 2:7-9, 3: 1-7) details the Fall of Adam and Eve and the story of original sin. What we see in Adam and Eve is a focus on what God withheld from them and not the abundance of creation that He gifted them. They were given "...every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food..." They narrowed their focus to the one thing that they did not have access. Their failure to joyfully accept the incredible amount of blessing God had bestowed on them led to humanity's downfall.
We still sin in the same way even today. We don't trust God to provide for our needs. We want to control our circumstances. We want to know what the future holds. We ponder the difficult question of why bad things happen in our lives or why evil exists in the world; herein lies our poverty of spirit as humans. Faith is the need to place our trust in a persistent and consistent God, to choose life over death.
The beginning of a lifestyle change or a Lenten sacrifice can also feel like a time of depravity. We focus on what is missing, what we are "giving up." When we eat healthfully though, we actually feel more nourished and full and energized. When we sacrifice, we loosen the chains of anything with power over us and become more free, while gaining meaningful focus. The same becomes true during this "desert" of Lent where we can come to experience true spiritual richness and joy.
Yesterday's Gospel (Matthew 4:1-11) detailed the story of Jesus' temptation by the devil in the desert. The devil attempted to point out the ways where Jesus seemingly had "poverty": bread to fill his hunger, trust in God's saving power and earthly glory. Jesus showed that He only had eyes for God's will and providence in his resistance of temptation. The tree of life should be our spiritual focus, meaning the tree of the cross. This is exactly where God enters into our world and redeems - at the cross - where death is resurrected to life. Our spiritual abundance is realized at Easter with the Resurrection.
Where is your focus? On those places in your life where you feel that God "withholds" things from you ...or on the sheer abundance of blessings that God showers upon your life? Surely God has filled your life like a flourishing garden as He did for Adam and Eve, even if you struggle to notice or cannot recognize it. Remember, a grateful heart is a loving heart. Ask God to show you the places in your life where you can show more gratitude.
In this season of Lent, let us fast from all that controls our lives, that we might live by God's word alone. May we always turn away from sin, from the tendency to only see what is withheld from us and place our trust in Him instead. Let us choose life over death, the life of abundance that God alone offers.