February 21, 2021 — First Sunday of Lent
GN 9:8-15; PS 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 PT 3:18-22; MK 1:12-15
As we celebrate our first Sunday of Lent, our readings today remind us why we partake in this 40-day Lenten journey — to prepare our hearts for the resurrection of Christ on the glorious Easter morning.
Many times throughout Scripture, God presents great blessings after 40 days of purification. We see an example of this in our First Reading from Genesis. In the story of Noah and the flood, Noah preserves his family and animals on an ark for 40 days and 40 nights. There is no doubt that this journey was filled with a great deal of sacrifice and prayer as those days dragged on and the earth was swallowed up by waters. Yet, after that time of trial, Noah and his family received a covenant from the Lord. God says, “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you… that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood.” And the sign of this covenant between God and man is a rainbow, “When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between men and you and all living beings.” Without the 40-day journey in the ark, Noah would not have been able to receive this covenant with a grateful heart. God presents great blessings to those who are prepared to receive them.
St. Peter reminds us in our Second Reading of the many blessings we receive from Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. He proclaims, “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous that he might lead you to God.” And again, “[Baptism] is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” These are the many blessings God has shared with us through the gift of His Son.
In order to more readily receive the blessings from Christ’s passion, death and resurrection, we too are called endure 40 days “in the desert.” In our Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where He was tempted by Satan. Jesus was called to face trials and to confront evil. During this time, He committed to intense prayer and fasting. It was not necessary for Jesus to go into the desert so that He might be purified. But it was necessary for Him to go into the desert to endure temptations of man for our sake. He was fully man, and experience temptations just like us, yet responded to them perfectly, never falling into sin. Once He was finished, He began proclaiming the Gospel, saying, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” The Good News of Jesus Christ was announced.
We should strive to fully participate in this Lenten season by mirroring Jesus, the model steward by Whom we are called to imitate. Through our time in the desert, we will confront evil by weeding out the roots of sin in our lives through fasting. And we will be sustained and nourished in the desert by prayer. If we willingly choose to spend this Lent like Jesus, we will be ready to receive the glorious gift of Himself and partake in the riches that pour forth from that Gift.
Let us strive to purify our hearts for the remainder of these 40 days so that we might be ready to receive all that God plans to bless us with on Easter.