1st Sunday of Lent Year B

Dear all,
How about Camels that live in a zoo. Enjoy the reflection for this coming Sunday.
Fara Wo Milan

1st Sunday of Lent Year B
First Reading: Genesis 9:8‑15
God spoke to Noah and his sons, “See, I establish my Covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; also with every living creature to be found with you, birds, cattle and every wild beast with you: everything that came out of the ark, everything that lives on the earth. I establish my Covenant with you: no thing of flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood. There shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.” God said, “Here is the sign of the Covenant I make between myself and you and every living creature with you for all generations: I set my bow in the clouds and it shall be a sign of the Covenant between me and the earth. When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the Covenant between myself and you and every living creature of every kind. And so the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all things of flesh.” The word of the Lord.

Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18‑22
Christ himself, innocent though he was, died once for sins, died for the guilty, to lead us to God. In the body he was put to death, in the spirit he was raised to life, and, in the spirit, he went to preach to the spirits in prison. Now it was long ago, when Noah was still building that ark which saved only a small group of eight people by water, and when God was still waiting patiently, that these spirits refused to believe. That water is a type of the baptism which saves you now, and which is not the washing off of physical dirt but a pledge made to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand, now that he has made the angels and Dominations and Powers his subjects. The word of the Lord.

Gospel: Mark 1:12‑15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him. After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. “The time has come” he said “and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.” The Gospel of the Lord.

1st Sunday of Lent Year B
Gen. 9:8-15; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mk. 1:12-15
The start of a new humanity
The first words of the main character of a story are always important; they set the stage for the whole drama. Apart from the fact that today is the first Sunday of Lent which should set the stage for the days that lie ahead, in the gospel of today we read the first words of Jesus: “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News”. These first words of Jesus set the stage for his ministry, they are words of invitation to change our lives and believe in the Good News which he brings. In fact, this will be the challenge throughout the forty days of Lent, and in fact, throughout the whole of our lives. The number “forty” is symbolic and indicates that the period must be long enough for a radical change to happen. Temptations will always be present in our lives, anyway, but if we want to choose what God wants then we have to listen to the Spirit of God who leads everyone personally into the desert of his life. And so the call to repentance is a very important call. But are we aware of the fact that there is a desert in our lives?

A mother camel and her baby are talking one day and the baby camel asks, “Mom why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “To enable us trek across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert” replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the boy replies, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo and not in the Sahara desert?”

Modern life sometimes makes one feel like a camel in a zoo. And like camels in a zoo we need sometimes to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are and should be. Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience.
The desert was the birthplace of the people of God of the first covenant. The Hebrew people who escaped from Egypt as scattered tribes arrived the Promised Land as one nation under God. It was in the desert that they became a people of God by covenant. In the course of their history when their love and faithfulness to God grew cold, the prophets would suggest their return to the desert to rediscover their identity, their vocation and their mission as a way of reawakening their faith and strengthening their covenant relationship with God. The great prophets Elijah and John the Baptist were people of the desert: they lived in the desert, ate desert food and adopted a simple desert lifestyle. The desert is the university where God teaches His people.

In today’s gospel we read that after Jesus was baptized “the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him”. Where else but the desert could you have such a meaningful encounter of the Holy Spirit as well as of Satan, of the wild beasts as well as of the holy angels? And there stands Jesus at the centre. The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which he should follow and the voice of Satan which is temptation. How many voices do we hear from the moment we get up in the morning till the moment we go to sleep at night? Which do we follow? The countless voices in the daily newspaper, the soliciting voices on the radio and the television, the myriads of voices in the internet, the voices of those who live and work with us, the voices in the market square, not forgetting our own unceasing inner voices.

In the desert we leave most of these voices behind to focus on distinguishing between the guiding voice of God and the tempting voice of Satan.
In the desert we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our divine calling. In the desert Jesus encountered beasts and angels. There are wild beasts and angels in the many voices we hear every day, even in everyone of us. Sometimes, owing to our superficial knowledge of others and of ourselves, we fail to recognize the wild beasts in others and in us and give in to vainglory, or we fail to recognize the angel in them and in us and give in to hatred. But in the silence and recollection of the desert we come to terms with ourselves as we really are, we are reconciled with the beasts and the angels in our lives and then we begin to experience peace again for the first time.

Lent is the time for desert experience. We cannot all afford to buy a camel and head off for the desert. But we can all create a desert space in our overcrowded lives. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God, a time to say yes to God and no to Satan as Jesus did.

When we emerge from the desert, we do so as new people. Baptism is precisely the rite that makes us into new creatures – people who emerge from sin as Noah and his sons emerged from the ark. As we begin the season of Lent, the Church invites all her sons and daughters to join Christ in the forty-day journey of fasting, penance and almsgiving. These Lenten exercises help us to know that suffering, even when we are not paying the debt for our misdeeds, has an atoning value not just to sinners in our world today but also to those who have gone before us but are still held up in Purgatory, keeping them from beholding God face to face.

In the second reading of today, Peter mentions baptism, comparing it to Noah’s ark which saved those who had recourse to it. In the course of history, Christians have debated with one another over the amount of water required for baptism. Is baptism to be done by sprinkling, pouring, or total immersion in water? Peter reminds us that the amount of water is inconsequential since it is not a body bath designed to remove dirt but a matter of conscience. “And this is a picture of baptism, which now saves you by the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Baptism is not a removal of dirt from your body; it is an appeal to God from a clean conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). Lent is a time of retreat for the whole church in preparation for the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter. Let us pray for the grace to observe the Lenten season in such a way as to purify our consciences and join Christ in the suffering of atonement for the good of all sinners living and dead. And so today the liturgy of the words addresses us in these words: “Welcome to Lent! Welcome to the desert!” What an invitation!

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