Homily (2) 1st Sunday of Lent Year B: Fr. Michael UdoekpoReadings: Gen 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Pet 3:18-22; and Mark 1:12-15
Renewing Our Covenant with the Lord!On Ash Wednesday we all received the Ashes, and were introduced into a new liturgical season of Lent, a Church’s offering. Lent, knowingly, is a season of prayer, fasting, repentance, spiritual and covenant renewals. It encourages us to listen more and more, and of course, to break and share the Word of God with greater generosity.
With today’s Gospel, it is also a reminder of those 40 days Christ spent in the desert, fasting and praying. We are reminded during lent of the value of obedience to God and how to manage trials and temptations that we face in this life (Mark 1:12-15).
It provides us an opportunity to reconcile not only with ourselves, but with our “seen neighbors” who leads us to our “unseen God.” It provides us an opportunity to recharge our spiritual batteries of charity, clear consciences, works of mercies. During Lent, we recall our baptismal promises, and renew our covenant with God.
In my “The Pentateuch & Historical Books’” Class, I often, ask my students to share with the class the concepts or their basic understanding of biblical covenant. In their responses, I do hear: an alliance, contract, promises, identity, relationship, pact, faithfulness, trust, obedience, union, abiding presence, and our un-breakable bonds with God etc.
Lent provides us, an opportunity to review our covenant, our alliance, pact, our relationship with God. What about our identity, who we are call to be, as Christian- clergies, religious and lay faithful, while we remain opened in obedience and humility to be nourished by the Word of God, the Sacraments, and by the examples of the saints!
In the first reading, for example, we recall the spirituality of not only God’s covenant with Noah, and the theology of the sign of the rainbow, which affirms God’s abiding presence among us, but the centrality of covenant theology in our relationship with God.
Truly, after God’s benevolence creation (Gen 2:7-9; 3:1-7; 4) came the fall of man, first parents, Adam and Eve, the slaughter of Abel by Cain, and the preoccupation of humanity with pride of the Tower of Babel, threatening God’s creation.
God, therefore, prior to Abrahamic and Sinaitic (Gen 15-17; Exod 19-24) covenants, made unconditionally possible the saving Ark of Noah (Gen 6:5-8, 7:1-5, 10), which foreshadows the baptism of Christ and his saving mission, for those who keep the covenant. This, we hear from the mouth of the psalmist this day, “your ways O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant,” (Psalm 25:4-10), not matter the trials.
These, include, those promises we made on our day of baptism, confirmation, first holy communion, wedding, ordinations, vows and religious commitment, to randomly name, but a few. This is what the 2nd, (1 Peter 3:18-22) seeks to stress. Even though originally addressed to baptized Christian-communities in the Asia Minor, who were facing persecution, temptations and trials of all kinds, we too, today can relate to Peter’s exhortation, in the midst of today's trials and temptations.
In other word, today, we might be confronted, with poverty, economic crisis, diseases, Ebolas, loneliness, extreme secularism, modern slaveries, (listed by Pope Francis, in his New Year Message for peace), terrorisms, bokoharamism, isisism, unwarranted wars, and threats of nuclear wars, socio-political/geographical conflicts, rifts, divisions, racisms, and violent that need the soothing of the exhortation we hear from 1 Peter, today’s 2nd reading. Should we distrust God? No?
1 Peter takes us back to what we professed during Creed, our Credo. In Baptism we die, bury and rise with Christ as prefigured in Noah’s Ark. Baptism, among other things, washes away our sins, replenish, nourishes our spiritual deserts, and strengthens us in our imitation of Christ (of today’s Gospel Mark 1:12-15). It prepares us for the resistance of sins and numerous temptations of our modern day! In our sufferings, we must keep in mind that, Christ suffered and died for the sins of mankind- the unrighteous(1 Pet 3:18-22) ! He resisted Satan in the desert!
As we journey through this special season of Lent, let us as a new creation, facing new challenges, new sufferings, pray for increase in grace, to imitate Jesus by overcoming trials, sufferings, and temptations, strengthening our covenant relationship with Christ, whom we also worship through our relationship with our neighbors, and by the proper and charitable use of the gifts of God’s creation.