Thursday, March 10, 2011

First Sunday of Lent Year B: Reflections- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo

First Sunday of Lent Year B:  Reflections- Fr. Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Gen 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Pet 3:18-22; and Mark 1:12-15

Strengthening Our Covenant with God

On As Wednesday, a universal day of fast we all received ashes. This introduced us into a new liturgical season of Lent, appointed for purification and repentance. Lent in a way commemorates the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert praying and fasting. Besides being a time of active prayer, fasting and spiritual renewal, it is a time we learn obedience to God and how to manage trials and temptation in life. Jesus the new Adam and the Moses is the best teacher in this case.  Unlike Israel who gave in to temptations in the desert, Jesus, did not (Matt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-15 and Luke 4:1-13). Lent is a time we reconcile with ourselves; our neighbors and with God.  It is also a time we re-focus on the Kingdom of God by our works of mercy and charity, re-charging our spiritual batteries and we contemplate our baptism promises..  Above all, it is a time we strengthen our covenant relationship with God and remain open in obedience and humility to be nourished by the word of God and the examples of the saints.

Today’s first reading narrates God’s covenant with Noah when he was delivered from the flood, and with the rain bow affirms his abiding presence among us. But this goes back to the early chapters of the Book of Genesis (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; 4). Here we read about the fall of our first parents, who disobeyed God by eating the, eating from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, forbidden by the creator God. We also read about the jealousy and the killing of Abel by his brother Cain. With this, God thought of wiping out the old creation and making a new creation in us through the  saving Ark of Noah (Gen 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 10), which foreshadows the baptism of Christ and his saving mission, well testified in the Second reading 1 Peter 3:18-22.

In Baptism we die and resurrect with Christ. Lent provides an opportunity for us to rethink our commitment to our Christian vows and values. Values to imitate Christ our Lord who went about doing good, comforting, healing, teaching, forgiving, and resisting temptations, especially of abuse of power.

In the temptation episode in today’s Gospel Mark 1:12-15 recorded also by the other Evangelist Matthew and Luke with minor variations, Jesus resisted the temptation for power, wealth, prestige and idolatry.

Satan is in doubt if our Lord has such power to turn stone into bread. Of course, he does, but uses it appropriately for the glory of God, for compassion and love for everyone, men, women and children. In Matthew 14:15-21, 15:32-38 Jesus miraculously multiplied a few fish and bread feeding 4, 000-5,000 people. Jesus never exercises his divine power for his own glory without the will of the Father.  He was unquestionably obedient to his Father. He conquered Satan when he said, “man does not live by bread alone but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, emphasizing his deep relationship with the Father.

As a new Israel, a new creation after Noah’s flood, Lent would be time to reconsider the truth of the Gospel. The message is that none of us is above temptations and trials of doing something contrary to the will of God (examples abounds), or seeking our personal glories rather than the Glory of God in our vocations and positions of power, meant for the service of our brothers and sisters. We have also heard about tyrants, bullies and political dictators round the globe. Recently, our government is running No Bully.Com, program. We also do see assorted acts of injustice on the Televisions, and we read them on the newspapers. As we journey through this Lent let us as a new creation pray for increase in grace, to imitate Jesus by overcoming trials and temptations,  strengthening our relationship with Christ.  And may nothing separate us from the love of God.