Sunday of Week 1 of Lent (Year B)

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

We are now into the great season of Lent, when we spend six weeks preparing to celebrate the high point of our faith, the Paschal Mystery: the suffering, death and resurrection of the Incarnate God. Formerly it was a time of severe penance as a way of purifying ourselves from our sinful habits and getting ready to celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ with a renewed commitment to follow him.

Even though we are no longer asked by the Church to observe the severe penances of former times, it is surely fitting that we make some form of preparation. It should be a time for personal reflection on where we stand as Christians. Only a little reflection will convince us that, there are many ways in which we fail through word and action, through our thoughts and through our failure to be the kind of people that the Gospel challenges us to be.

But our reflections should not only focus on the negative. What are the positive things which should be part and parcel of my daily life? What kind of a person am I in relation to my family, friends, working colleagues and other people with whom I come in contact? How active am I as a member of my Christian community, e.g. my parish? What difference do I make to other people’s lives? What do I do, within my limitations, to help eradicate the abuses which are part of our society?  These are just some of the questions I can ask myself during these six weeks. And it is never too late to get started. Let us not rigidly think that, because Ash Wednesday has already come and gone, that I cannot start today. Remember that even those who came to the vineyard at the eleventh hour were paid the same amount. But the earlier I start the better.

Some of the things I can do are:

  • Celebrating the Eucharist each day or at least on a few days in the week.
  • Setting aside some part of my day for personal prayer.
  • Reflecting on some Scripture, alone or, better still, with others. The Scripture readings for each day in Lent provide excellent material.
  • Setting aside some money that I might spend on myself for a meal, entertainment or clothes and giving it to an organisation which takes care of the less fortunate in our society.
  • Deciding to abstain from some activity that I personally enjoy to spend more time with my family, or limiting my indulgence in a favorite food or beverage.

Jesus’ Lent
After his baptism, Jesus goes to the desert for forty days. And, during that time, he is tested by the Evil One. Mark does not say how – but Matthew and Luke do.

These tests are really examples of the kind of tests that Jesus was to face in the course of his public life. The meaning and symbolism of the passage is to be focused on, rather than its historical accuracy. Its purpose is to help us to understand the conflicts that were in Jesus’ own life – conflicts that will also be found in our own.

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