The first thing we need to remember about the story of Adam & Eve (1st Reading : Gen 2:7-9.3:1-7) is that we must look for the truth within the story, & not waste our time asking if the story is true. Perhaps you know the story of the Hare & the Tortoise having a race? If you were to ask did this really happen, you would have completely missed the point of the story. So what is this story of Adam & Eve trying to tell us. What is the truth within the story?
What the writer is trying to do, is to explain what is basically wrong with us humans and our relationship with God and with the beautiful world he has given us. The garden therefore is an image of the world before we messed it up. In the world there are all sorts of lovely things that are good for us, but we can easily be led into desiring the wrong kind of things. Things that appear pleasant but are actually bad for us.
A classic example is addictive drugs. Cocaine in the form of Morphine is a wonderful help for people in severe pain, but taken for pleasure, it ends up enslaving people. What seemed such a nice sensation as the drug takes away our worries and sadness ends up enslaving us and destroying our life. We could say the same about pornography, about the wrong kind of sex.
If you were to read on from the passage we have today, you would see that the story goes on to say that Adam & Eve then hid from God. They became ashamed of their nakedness. Thus the story shows us that if we go after our own desires, without working out which desires are good for us and which are not good for us, we end up living a life in which our desires dominate our thoughts and hide us from God.
Our Gospel (Mark 4:1-11) shows us how Jesus, the one Christians sometimes describe as the Second Adam, also faces temptations but is able to resist them. Here too the Devil suggests things that we humans desire. The first desire is described as “bread”; but bread here is a symbol for all the food and drink that we might want to consume. The second desire is to throw himself from a tower and be saved by angels. It is the desire to do things to make us admired or noticed by others. The third desire is to rule the kingdoms of the world. It is the desire to make other people do what we want.
In each case Jesus defeats the desire with an appropriate text from the Bible. If we humans think all we need is enough food, then we have forgotten our important need for spiritual things : goodness, care for others and love. If we simply base our life on doing whatever it takes to please others, we are forgetting our need most of all to do what is good, to do what God wants whether people like this or not. If we do not resist our desire to control others, to make them do what we want, then we will turn ourselves into a horrific and monstrous imitation of God.
One of the principal ways we resist these wrong desires is through prayer, through constantly opening our lives to God. This is the heart of prayer, not us asking God for things we want, but us opening ourselves up to God’s guidance and support. Prayer helps us to stop and think, instead of jumping into whatever we next FEEL like doing. I often feel like eating more cake. God helps me realise it is not good for me. I often feel like getting angry with people. God helps me control my anger, to turn my strong feelings into something that does good not evil. So we need to share with God all we want to do, to stand naked before God admitting our wrong desires, so that he can help us to resist what we cannot resist by ourselves.
In other words, we have to admit that we are Adam and Eve in the story, helpless innocents so easily led to think something is good when it is actually bad. And we have to turn to Jesus who has resisted evil even to the point of dying on the cross, and whose saving strength we need so much. The final temptation for Jesus is, of course, not in the Desert at the beginning, but in the Garden just before he is arrested. He did not desire pain and suffering. None of us do. We prefer things that seem to make us instantly happy. Jesus chose a different way, and calls us to link ourselves to his way, which saves us from the terrible mess we humans have got ourselves into, as we follow our own wrong desires.