Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15
We have now entered the season of lent, a forty day period of time to prepare ourselves for the feast of Easter or the Resurrection of our Lord. Lent is a time of preparation. It is designated for the preparation of candidates for baptism and confirmation. This season is specifically set aside for examination, instruction, penitence and prayer for these candidates. This season is also one of preparation for all the people of God. It is also a time to reflect on Christ’s journey to the cross ending at the Resurrection. Ash Wednesday and Lent began as a way for Catholics to remind themselves to repent of their sins in a manner similar to how people in the Old Testament repented in sackcloth, ashes, and fasting. During this season all Christians are invited to fast and pray and be prepared for the suffering and death of Jesus and to wait for his suffering and death. Lent is a time for penitence and discipline. It is the time for mourning for Christ who is suffering, sadness over the death of Jesus and the solemnity of the ultimate victory. Personally however, during the Lenten season, self-examination is crucial. An individual’s response to the call for purposeful reflection on one’s need for God is an important factor in choosing a discipline with which to actively observe Lent. During lent we spend six weeks preparing to celebrate the high point of our faith: the Paschal Mystery, the suffering, death and resurrection of the Incarnate God. Formerly it was a time of severe penance as a way of purifying ourselves from our sinful habits and preparing ready to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with a renewed commitment to follow him.
The message we have in today’s readings is one of triumph. It tells us that because of the triumph of Jesus by His death on the Holy Cross, through Him and with Him, we can also be triumphant in our battle against evil. The first reading tells us the story of deluge, the floods during the time of Noah. God sees that the world had become very evil, practicing all kinds of abominations that offended the Lord God. God tells Noah to build an ark and to gather his family and some living creatures of all kinds and God saves them. This flood water that saved them symbolizes our baptism and the rain bow that we see in the sky is telling us that God will never again disturb the people with such drastic measures.
In the Second Reading taken from the First Letter of Peter, we heard the author speaking to the believers about their suffering and the sufferings of Jesus. Peter tells them that since Jesus had triumphed, they would also triumph. Their Baptism was the pledge of their triumph for it gave them a share in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He also tells the Gentile community that Jesus suffered for our sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring us to God. The sacrifice of Jesus was not just for a few, but for all of us, from the beginning of time until the end of time. He, who was sinless, took upon Himself the weight of our sins and allowed Himself to be crucified in our place so God the Father may be appeased. Christ died for us!
In the Gospel of today, mark tells us that after his baptism, Jesus goes into the desert for forty days. And, during that time, he is tested by the Evil One. Mark does not say how he was tested or tempted but Matthew and Luke do. These tests are really examples of the kind of tests that Jesus was to face in the course of his public life and how we are going to be tempted in our life. There is the temptation to change stones to bread so that Jesus satisfies the hunger, to jump down the pinnacle of the temple and present himself as messiah, and finally to worship the Satan and receive the universe as a reward. These temptations can be summarised to say that it was an invitation to be unfaithful to the Mission of the Lord. Satan shows the easy way but the Father wants Jesus to be faithful to his mission of suffering and death to rise again.
The second part of the Gospel tells us that Jesus began his public life. He takes over from John the Baptist who has been arrested, literally “handed over”. In time, Jesus too will be “handed over”, as will his disciples, and thousands of other followers down to our own day. The Gospel also tells us about the Message of Jesus: The kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe and listen to the good news. Jesus calls us to “Repent!” This call is not just to feel sorry about our past; it is not just to stop the bad things we are doing now. Jesus is calling for a radical change in our whole way of seeing life and the world. It is a call to a change of heart, metanoia, which involves a total transformation. The Christian in Paul’s words is a “new person”; in Christ, we undergo a personality change.
He tells us of the urgency that is involved. It is immediate and a person cannot afford to delay or waste his time. This is the opportune moment given by the Lord and the person is called upon to act and if he doesn’t, the opportunity will be lost forever. Thus person has to have single minded determination to listen to the lord and to follow him
Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is at hand. His kingdom is not a political kingdom but a spiritual one. That is why when Pilate questions Jesus says that his kingdom is not of this world. This kingdom is God’s rule in the heart of the individual. This was established with creation and man lost it through his disobedience and God wants to restore it in Jesus. This will be fully realised at the end of times when Jesus restores all things to the Father. How are we to achieve this kingdom? We can achieve this by “believing in the Gospel”. Not just believing that the Gospel is true; but believing IN the Gospel. There is a world of difference between believing something and believing in something, or, even more significantly, believing in a person. Where the Kingdom is concerned, this involves a total commitment of ourselves to the way of life presented in the Gospel and a sharing of its vision of life. This will mean a turning upside down of many of the values we take for granted and which prevail in our world.
As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.
First Sunday of Lent March 1, 2009 Year B
Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15