Psalms in the Lectionary
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1st Sunday of Lent Cycle A 2017

Psalms in the Lectionary
First Sunday of Lent  Cycle A  3/5/2017
Genesis 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Psalm 51:3-6, 12-13, 17; Romans 5: 12-19; 
Matthew 4:1-11


Psalm 51 is the premier psalm in the Psalter of sinfulness and contrition. It is prayed every Friday in the Divine Office, and it is the herald song of Ash Wednesday and the First Sunday of Lent. We are entering into one of the most beautiful seasons of the Church year. With Lent, we are all given the opportunity to dig a little deeper to examine our relationship with the Lord, as we prepare to reflect on the central mysteries of Christianity. Heading toward Jerusalem and Holy Week, the next several weeks guide us to penitence and sacrifice to prepare our hearts for those Easter alleluias. Psalm 51 is also a plea for healing and renewal. The readings this weekend remind us of our own story of salvation history and how it all began with the disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans that just as sin and death entered this world though one act of disobedience, life and redemption have also entered through the sufferings, death and ultimate obedience of Jesus on the cross for our sakes. The season of Lent affords us the time and space to reflect on our own failings and sinfulness, but also to investigate from where our particular temptations come in our lives. What in our busy, harried lives is pulling us away from God and his church? Easter is a Trinitarian gift. Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar tells us that at the heart of the Trinity is the Cross. This cross implies suffering, but it also implies service for others, for the world community. We are invited this Lent to enter into that Trinity, to locate and name what is keeping us from God, but then to reach out in service to the wider community to proclaim that we are indeed an Easter people. Through the words of Psalm 51, we beg God to “have mercy on us according to his abundant mercy and steadfast love" (that hesed) and "to create a clean heart for us". We implore God to place his Spirit within us and open our lips that our mouths may offer praise, grace us with repentance and a contrite spirit, and lead us to love one another in community and to proclaim the Good News.


The refrain is taken from verse one AND verse four of the psalm: 
 “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned.”

verses 3-4:

Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in the greatness of your compassion
wipe out my offense.
Thoroughly wash me of my guilt
and of my sin cleanse me.

verses 5-6:

For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is before me always:
“Against you only have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight.”

verses 12-13:

A clean heart create for me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.

verse 17:

Give me back the joy of your salvation,
and a willing spirit sustain in me.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Today’s first reading from Genesis (2:7-9; 3:1-7) recounts how sin first entered our world through the disobedience of our first parents.

The LORD God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being.

Then the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and placed there the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God made various trees grow that were delightful to look at and good for food, with the tree of life in the middle of the garden and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the animals that the LORD God had made. The serpent asked the woman, “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?? The woman answered the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, ‘You shall not eat it or even touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman: “You certainly will not die! No, god knows well that the moment you eat of it you eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some of it to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

The Gospel from Matthew (4:1-11) relates Jesus’ temptation in the desert by the devil, and his conquering of that evil one’s lures.

At that time Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was hungry. The tempter approached and said to him, “If you are the Son of god, command that these stones become loaves of bread.” He said in reply,

“It is written:One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city, and made him stand on the parapet of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written:

He will command his angels concerning you and with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against the stone.”

Jesus answered him, “Again, it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”


Then the devil took him up to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in their magnificence, and he said to him, “All these I shall give to you, if you will prostrate yourself and worship me.” At this, Jesus said to him, “Get away, Satan! It is written:

The Lord, your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.”
Then the devil left him and, behold, angels came and ministered to him.


The second reading from the Paul’s letter to the Romans (5:12-19) contrasts the activity of Adam and Eve with that of Jesus. During Holy Saturday’s liturgy, we will pray: “O felix culpa!” or “O happy fault!” Even though we do not often think of Adam and Eve’s disobedience as a happy event, it was through this disobedience that we received our Savior and our Incarnate God! O happy fault indeed!


Brothers and sisters: Through one man sin entered the world, and through sin, death, and thus death came to all men, inasmuch as all sinned – [for up to the time of the law, sin was in the world, though sin is not accounted when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who did not sin after the pattern of the trespass of Adam, who is the type of the one who was to come.

But the gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one, the many died, how much more did the grace of God and the gracious gift of the one man Jesus Christ overflow for the many. And the gift is not like the result of the one who sinned. For after one sin there was the judgment that brought condemnation; but the gift, after many transgressions, brought acquittal.] For if, by the transgression of the one, death came to reign through that one, how much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ. 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.


Psalm 51 is our heartfelt prayer this weekend and throughout much of Lent. Create a clean heart with us, O Lord. Put a new light and right spirit within us!