Thursday, February 15, 2018

First Sunday of Lent Year B

Readings: Genesis 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

A time of fulfilment; a time of spiritual surgery; a time to turn around; a time to change; a time to be renewed by Christ. At the beginning of each Lenten Season, we are called to renew our response to God's covenant with us, the promise that God made with each of us at Baptism. Lent is meant to be a time for our spiritual surgery and tune up; a time of getting closer to the Lord. It is a time to prepare for what lies ahead. Noah's story in the first reading fits perfectly with this understanding of the Lenten season. The image of Noah building the ark and the deluge destroying humanity and all creation opens a window into the drama of human struggle with evil. The flood was the result of humankind's desire to seek security in pleasure and wickedness, despite God's warning. The people of Noah's time turned a deaf ear, and even laughed at Noah building the ark. Since they did not listen to God's invitation to conversion, God used a language people could understand best - a catastrophic deluge. The saving of Noah, his family and part of creation, points to God's salvation in Christ through the New Ark of the Covenant- the Church, in the waters of Baptism.

The Gospel continues with the same theme of repentance in the words of Jesus: "This is the time of fulfilment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel". Jesus had just returned from the wilderness where he had been fasting and in the end tempted by the devil and was able to overcome all those temptations. Jesus is convinced that it is possible to overcome temptations no matter how strong they might be; it is possible to turn away from sin and turn to God. By overcoming those temptations, Jesus gives us his own example of putting up a good fight. We too can face our temptations and put up a good fight. That is why Jesus makes such an urgent appeal. "This is the time of fulfilment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel." The time has come for us to make a decisive turn around, and to enter into right relationship with God. The idea of repentance in the Old Testament is summed up in the Greek term "metanoia", a turning way from sin and returning to right action. Jesus' call comes out of this background appealing for repentance and "a change of heart"; a total spiritual transformation. This is a call for a radical change in our way of seeing life and the world. It involves a total transformation and assuming a new perspective in life based on the values Jesus teaches.  As we begin Lent, it is important that we sharpen our understanding of this wonderful season. Lent is a time of inner spiritual surgery, a time when we search deep within our souls and personality to see where and how we have offended God, in order to amend, to change and transform our lives in readiness for the Paschal mystery of Easter. Lent is a time we try to be what we should be (perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect), in order to set the world on fire through our witness of life. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) At the beginning of each Lenten season, we are called to take to heart the message of Jesus in today’s Gospel “Repent and believe in the Gospel”. 2) Lent is therefore a call for a radical change of heart in response to Jesus’ call for repentance and for spiritual transformation of our lives. 3) Lent is a decisive turn around in order to enter into a deeper relationship with God. In so doing we become one with God.
©2018 John S. Mbinda

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