1st Sunday of Lent Year – B – 2015
Gen 9:8-15; 1Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
A long line of men stood at one of Heaven’s gates, waiting to be admitted. There was a sign over the gate which read, “For men who were dominated by their wives while on earth.” The line extended as far as the eye could see. At another of Heaven’s gates, only one man was standing. Over this gate there was a sign that read, “For men who were not dominated by their wives.” St. Peter approached the lone man standing there and asked, “What are you doing here?” The man replied, “I don’t really know. My wife told me to stand here.” It could be the other way too.
This is the temptation to dominate. Today is the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is a 40-day period which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends before the celebration of the Paschal Triduum excluding Sundays. ‘Forty’ is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences. God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Gen. 7:12).
The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years. Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex.34:28) and Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (1Kgs 19:8). Today’s gospel passage, St. Mark narrates that Jesus is baptized in the Jordan River and after fasting for forty days and forty nights, He is tempted by the devil in the desert.
But Jesus is able to resist the temptation because of His determination to be faithful to the mission entrusted to Him by His Father. Then He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel.” This cry of Jesus summarizes the challenge for all Christians during this season of Lent. And so on this First Sunday of Lent, we are invited to reflect on the urgency of the call for repentance.
The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration recalling Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to “repentance.” It is a type of conversion – the reordering of our priorities and the changing of our values, ideals and ambitions – through fasting, prayer and mortification.
Temptation is a struggle, strife, a contest, a dispute, and an argument. It is a physiological, political, psychological, spiritual crisis in the church, in the Parish, in society, in organizations, in persons and in individuals. Temptations are so strong especially when we feel depressed, deprived and frustrated because we don’t know what to do and we are in a state of emotional instability.
Temptations are always there because there is God and there is the devil; body and soul; spirit and flesh; love and perverted sex; good and bad angels; good and evil; virtue and vice; sacred and profane; Christ and anti-Christ. So it is good for us to begin this First Sunday of Lent by remembering, who are the enemies that declared war against us and against whom we declared war too.
In the question and answer portion of a Miss Universe contest, a candidate was asked: “If you are to choose a man for a husband, what kind of man would you prefer, a smart man, a wealthy man or a powerful man?” She replied, “I would choose a smart man because if he is a smart man, he would also become wealthy and powerful.”
Her answer appeared witty and she got a high score from the judges. And yet we wonder, can a smart man guarantee her happiness in life? If being smart is the end-all of everything, why is it that Christ did not give in to the temptation and yet it was the easiest way for His mission? If being wealthy is the key to happiness, why Christ was born to a poor family? He can be born to a royal family?
That is why the church gives us some form of discipline for the purpose of strengthening ourselves. A reflective way of looking at life is to see it as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness. Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin and try to live by the grace of God. Today’s Scriptures show two contrasting reactions to temptation.
Temptation in one form or another is an unavoidable part of life. If we honestly examine our daily experience, we can find many aspects of temptation: impulses or tendencies counter to the right way of doing things. Our real growth to Christian maturity comes by acknowledging and accepting the vocation of struggling against temptation, to achieve the kind of behavior and attitudes Jesus expects.
So when Lent approaches we begin to ask ourselves, “What can I do for Lent?” “I’ll give up smoking.” Sometimes this becomes more of a sacrifice for those we live with than for ourselves. “I’ll give up candy.” Here we start by imitating a squirrel’s storing nuts for winter. When Easter arrives we partake of our savings of candy and make up for lost time.
“I will pray an extra hour each day.” What good is that if I can’t make it through my workday because I’m so tired from lack of sleep? I would like to propose a new look at, “What can I do for Lent?” How about doing nothing for Lent? What I mean is, during Lent do what we normally do, but do it better.
Outside of Lent, I may act like a very inconsiderate and insensitive person. During Lent I will become more Christ-like with others. What a sacrifice! Outside of Lent I am always so busy or preoccupied with my work that I have no time to waste with anyone else. During Lent I’m going to spend quality time with others. What a hard thing to do!
Lent is a personal journey in which we follow Christ to His death and then experience the greatest of all hope in His Resurrection. During Lent, instead of adding more items to our already busy schedule, why not just live normally and become more conscious of how we are doing things and improve on them?
Ask the questions: “How would Christ do this? How would Christ say this?” And then do it as Christ would. Wouldn’t it be great if we did improve our lives during Lent and were still improving by Lent in 2016? Wouldn’t it be great if we had grown closer to Jesus by Easter through seeing what it means to be a real Christian? Let’s all pray for the grace to be more like Christ.
Let us make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer. Lent should be a time for personal reflection on where we stand as Christians accepting the Gospel challenges in thought, word and deed. It is also a time to assess our relationships with our family, friends, working colleagues and the other people we come in contact with, especially in our parish.
Let us convert Lent into a time for spiritual growth and Christian maturity, may be by: 1) participating in the Mass each day or at least a few days in the week; b) setting aside some part of our day for personal prayer; c) reading some Scripture, alone or, better still, with others.
d) Setting aside some money we might spend on ourselves for meals, entertainment or clothes and giving it to an organization which takes care of the less fortunate in our society; e) abstaining from smoking, alcohol and other evil addictions; f) receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Lent and participating in the “Stations of the Cross” on Fridays.
Let us use Lent to fight daily against the evil within us and around us by practicing self-control relying on the power of prayer and Scripture. Amen.