1st Sunday of Lent

Sunday, February 18, 2018

First reading: Gn. 9:8-15

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: the birds, the tame animals, and all the wild animals that were with you—all that came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”

God said: “This is the sign of the covenant that I am making between me and you and every living creature with you for all ages to come: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and every living creature—every mortal being—so that the waters will never again become a flood to destroy every mortal being.”

Second reading: 1 Pt. 3:18-22

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Gospel: Mk. 1:12-15

At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, 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.”

In other words Fr. Edwin Fernandez, SVD (Divine Word College, Laoag City)

Almost a week after my arrival in Chile (my first mission assignment), I visited the amazing desiertoflorido (flowery desert). A desert turned into a garden of flowers is a rare phenomenon, but it happened when there was extraordinary and consistent abundance of rain in July 1997. I felt that God was welcoming me to the place to which He had sent me. My unique experience of awe at the sight of nature’s wonder in desiertoflorido carried a message of hope that , with God’s over abundant grace, my life and mission in Chile would flourish in the midst of challenges and adversities.

We have now entered into the season of Lent. Our Gospel reading today presents Jesus being led by the Spirit into the desert where he remained for many days. The desert is not a place where many people would like to go and stay. But, what good was it for Jesus to stay for forty days in the desert? As his disciples, why are we being led also by the Spirit into a kind of “desert?”

First, it is in the desert that we are confronted with the truth of our poverty and nothingness—a privileged place that challenges us to live in humility and radical simplicity. The barren desert strips us of the things we attach ourselves to so obsessively and even violently. It is not easy to stay in the desert. Our inner struggles tempt us to go back to our life’s securities and comforts.

Second, the desert helps us to acquire clarity and wisdom concerning the real value of things and the profound meaning of life, where we can more clearly understand the true purpose of wealth, power, and God’s gifts and talents, be grateful for what we have, and generously share it with others. Aware of our own poverty, we learn to respect, appreciate, and love all people, no matter how different they are from us.

Third, the desert invites us to hear the “beating of God’s heart.” In the desert’s silence, we listen to God, be loved by Him, know His will and follow it with humility, courage, and fidelity. It is when we have drawn our hearts so close to the Lord (communion) that we know it is the right time to begin or continue our mission.

Like Jesus, we do not always stay in the desert. We leave it to carry out God’s mission—Jesus’ message of repentance and faith—in situations and places where His Spirit leads us. As we continue to make the world a living sign of God’s kingdom, it is important to constantly remind ourselves of the necessity to keep on going back to our desert. Like Jesus, may we always find the time and that quiet yet challenging place in which to pray, so that we can truly serve with love and make our world flourish like the desiertoflorido in Chile.

Tags: Bible reflection, Witness to the Word