Season of Lent. (b)
Sunday 18th February: 1st Sunday of Lent (b)
Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent. All over the world today, people of all ages are beginning their final preparation period for Baptism at the Easter Vigil.
The first reading from the Book of Genesis, introduces the theme of the covenant. It tells of the covenant that God established with Noah and his descendants after the flood It is the first in a series of covenants that move towards the establishing of the new covenant God made in the person of his son, Jesus Christ.
The second reading is from the first letter of St. Peter. The waters of the Flood of Noah’s time prefigure the waters of Baptism by which we are saved. It is through baptism we enter into this new covenant relationship with God.
After his Baptism, Jesus spent forty days in the desert during which time he was tempted by the devil. The Gospel tells us of his victorious struggle. Mark does not refer to fasting in his account.
Monday 19th February: Monday in the first week of Lent.
This short passage from the Holiness Code in the Book of Leviticus insists on the need to be a good neighbour. Speaking through Moses, the Lord gives what could be described as illustrations of the latter part of the Ten Commandments. The passage is summed up with ‘you must love your neighbour as yourself’ which Jesus himself was to use and link with our love of God.
In the Gospel, we have the scene of the Last Judgement. We will be judged on well we have lived out the Ten Commandments in our daily lives. We constantly need reminded that, when we reach out to another, we reach out to Christ.
Tuesday 20th February: Tuesday in the first week of Lent.
This passage from Isaiah provides us with a very effective image of the power of God’s word. It is compared to rain and snow that come to the earth, give growth, and then return to the heavens. The Word nourishes, challenges, and does not go back empty handed.
The prayer of Jesus’ followers must be linked with forgiveness. Jesus teaches us how to pray with the words of the Our Father and Matthew’s account adds in a little paraphrase at the end.
Wednesday 21st February: Wednesday in the first week of Lent
In the reading from the Book of Jonah, it is worth remembering that Jonah, a Jew, was a reluctant preacher and that he was preaching to the people of Assyria who had brought down the northern kingdom of Israel. Their response is all the more remarkable. They fasted and they repented.
Jesus constantly refused to work miracles or signs simply to satisfy curiosity. When he worked a miracle, it was always linked with a spiritual message e.g. the need for faith. Therefore, he reminds the crowd that all the signs they need are already there and they should follow the example of the Ninevites and turn away from sin.
Thursday 22nd February: Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle.
This is a very old feast, dating back to the 4th century. It has been kept on this date as a sign of the unity of the Church founded on the apostle Peter and his successors. The chair or cathedra of a bishop is a sign of his teaching authority and his responsibility for the pastoral well being of the Church in his diocese.
Friday 23rd February: Friday in the first week of Lent.
Often we blame the community or the system for the evils of society and for the sins we commit. This shrugging off of responsibility is timeless. Jesus dealt with it and so did Ezekiel before him. Ezekiel tells us: you are personally responsible for your sins and you must repent. If you do God will take you back into his arms. Jesus tells us it is our personal attitude and intention that counts most of all. True worship doesn’t consist in private, self-centred religious practice but in being committed to Jesus’ task of reconciliation and service. Let us pray that all of us will be able to take the first step to forgive others when others have hurt us.
Saturday 24th February: Saturday in the first week of Lent
To be chosen or singled out for a purpose implies responsibility. Israel is reminded of its responsibilities if the people are to be truly a consecrated nation, a holy people. If they live according to his word, they will be assured of God’s care for them.
In the Gospel, we have part of the Sermon on the Mount. The call to perfection is put before us. For the Hebrew, perfection meant wholeness, completeness. To be true children of our Father in heaven we must go a step further in our relationship with him and with each other than the non-believer does. Loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us – that is what we called to do in our daily lives.
‘Tell the children about God and His Saints.
During the holy time of Lent,
Speak to them of their suffering Saviour.
During Paschal time, of his glorious Resurrection.
During Christmas time, of His Birth.
You will see what a profound impression it will make on the minds of your children.’
(St. John Vianney)