First Sunday of Lent, February 21
Lent Is a Time of Transition, a Time When We Look within Ourselves and Reflect upon All That Needs to Be Renewed, All That Needs to Be Transformed Interiorly, and How Truly Dependent We Are Upon God’s Immeasurable Love and Limitless Mercy.
The final verse we read in today’s Gospel is, “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” – words which many of God’s faithful children heard spoken over them as they were blessed with ashes this past Wednesday.
On this First Sunday of Lent, as you and I have now entered into our spiritual pilgrimage through our Lenten journey for forty days, we read in today’s Gospel how our Lord began the process of preparing Himself for the mission to which His Father was calling Him – the purpose for which He took our flesh upon Himself.
In the desert, our Lord was tempted by the Evil One. And even though we do not read the details in Mark’s Gospel about Satan inducing Him to succumb to the temptations of material needs, power and pride, our Lord humbles Himself to the will of His Father and renounces all that is of this world. And we read that “…angels ministered to Him” strengthening Him for the ministry for which He came, “…proclaiming the gospel of God.”
Where did Jesus find the strength to survive the desert’s harsh conditions and the tempter’s seduction after forty days of fasting? Our Lord fed on God’s word and found strength in His Father’s Love.
Satan will surely tempt each of us during this time of Lent, and he will try his best to have us choose our will over God’s. If he cannot make us renounce our faith or to sin grievously, he will then try to influence us to make choices that will lead us, little by little, away from what God wants for us.
Our Lenten practices – whether they be fasting in one form or another, whether they be forms of charity and spiritual or corporal works of mercy which we exercise in our lives for the benefit of others, or whether they be a renewed practice of personal prayer – no matter what form our Lenten practices may take, they are meant to strengthen us in holiness.
They are meant to draw us ever closer to God in our relationship of love which you and I are called to live with Him. And they are also meant to give us the grace and the virtue we need to resist temptation which may confront us in our daily life.
This Lent, rather than focusing on what more we can do – the more penances, the more activity, the more things we are going to give up – instead, may this Lenten season afford us the opportunity of focusing on how we can live our penitential observances better.
Saint Leo the Great, one of the early Church Fathers stated long ago that what Christians should be doing at all times should be done now, during the season of Lent, with a greater focus and with a greater devotion!
So rather than focusing on doing more, let us focus on doing better – our prayer life, our daily communication with God, our personal penances and offerings, our daily works of charity. Whatever we would normally be doing during this Lenten season, enabling us to live in closer communion with our God, let us prepare ourselves for doing everything with greater focus and with greater devotion, so that all of our efforts may be more pleasing to our God.
Lent, for each of us, can be seen as a long retreat, an opportunity during which we look within ourselves, observing what needs to be pruned and what needs to be nurtured and cultivated. For it is that special time of the year which allows us to focus on what our relationship with Jesus Christ is truly like, and what it could become.
Long ago, God established with His children a covenant of Love, in which He would always watch over and care for us as a loving parent cares for his or her children. And we see this covenant established between God and Noah in our First Reading today. Some two thousand, three hundred years later, God renews this covenant in a truly profound way through the Birth of His Only-Begotten Son, the Eternal Word taking our flesh, our human nature upon Himself.
All that our Lord experienced and endured in this life, including His suffering and death on the Cross, was for the sole purpose of teaching us about God’s indescribable Love and limitless Mercy, and mending our broken relationship with God and bringing us to His Father, so that we may have a share in His Divinity for all eternity in His Heavenly Kingdom.
For as Peter tells us in today’s Second Reading, “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” But without Jesus Christ, without this renewal of God’s covenant with His children – the New Covenant – our life would be empty.
I cannot even imagine what life would be like if Jesus had never been born! His coming amongst us taught us about the unfathomable Love which His Father has for all of His children. And the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ – His indescribable suffering, culminating with His Death upon the Cross and His Glorious Resurrection – has given us a new hope in the life which awaits each of His faithful children!
During this season, you and I are called to meditate upon the sufferings and Passion of Jesus Christ, as well as upon our own sufferings, and how we might become a better beneficiary of the graces which God wishes to bestow upon each of us.
Lent is a time of transition, a time when we look within ourselves and reflect upon all that needs to be renewed, all that needs to be transformed interiorly, and how truly dependent we are upon God’s immeasurable Love and limitless Mercy.
And for us to be renewed, for us to be transformed, we must first realize the importance of opening our hearts and returning to the God who has given to each of us the gift of His Son, who calls us today to follow Him, to come close to Him, to live in Him and make Him present in our world.
He stands by us to strengthen and nourish us with His own Body and Blood, giving us the gift of His own Divine Life, shaping us and molding us, washing us clean – so that we may truly be His now and forever.
Last Wednesday, you and I entered into the desert with our Lord for forty days, so that we might be strengthened, renouncing whatever temptations may separate us from His Divine Love, so that we may know and feel His Loving Presence in our lives.
May our walk of faith during this Lenten pilgrimage, as well as all the days of our life, truly echo the words of today’s psalmist, “Good and upright is the LORD, thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way.”
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “…Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14b-15)
- “God said to Noah and to his sons with him: ‘See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you…I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature – every mortal being.’” (Genesis 9:8-9, 15a)
- “See, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will place my law within them, and write it upon their hearts; I will be their God, and they shall be my people. They will no longer teach their friends and relatives, ‘Know the LORD!’ Everyone, from least to greatest, shall know me, says the LORD, for I will forgive their iniquity and no longer remember their sin.” (Jeremiah 31:31, 33b-34)
- “In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:9-10)
- “For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)
- “Is this not, rather, the fast that I choose: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; Setting free the oppressed, breaking off every yoke? Is it not sharing your bread with the hungry, bringing the afflicted and the homeless into your house; Clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own flesh?” (Isaiah 58:6-7)
- “Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your wound shall quickly be healed; Your vindication shall go before you, and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer, you shall cry for help, and he will say: ‘Here I am!’” (Isaiah 58:8-9a)
- “Good and upright is the LORD, therefore he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble in righteousness, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:8-9)
Prayer for the Day
“Creator of my life, Father of all Mercies,
renew me and bring me to new life in You.
Touch me and make me feel whole again
through Your Loving Presence within me.
“Help me to see Your Love
in the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Your Son.
Help me to observe Lent
in a way that allows me to celebrate this Love.
“Assist me with Your grace,
that I may better serve You in all my brothers and sisters.
Send me Your Holy Spirit,
so that I may live Your Love in others.
“Prepare me for these forty days of LentAnonymous
as I feel deep sorrow for my own sins and weaknesses.
Help me to recognize within myself my own failings,
always trusting in Your profound Mercy and Compassion. Amen.”