I Sunday of Lent

I Sunday of Lent

Fri, 19 Feb 21 Lectio Divina - Year B

(Genesis 9:8-15), (Psalm 25),(1Peter 3: 18-22),(Mark 1: 12-15)

 

 

Today is the first of the Sunday of the Lenten cycle, which began with ashes on our forehead and ends water, bowing our heads in service to the other symbolized in washing of the feet. So, let's embark on the Lenten journey, suspended between ash and water; ash on my head and water on his/her feet. It is between these two rites (Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday) that Lent unfolds. A road, apparently, just under two meters but, in truth, much longer and more tiring. It is about starting from your own head to get to the feet of others. Of course, forty days are not enough to travel it. It takes a whole life, of which the Lenten season wants to be cutting short the distance between I and I; I and YOU; I and GOD.

The sign of the rainbow (Genesis 9:8-15)

The passage we read today proposes the first key word of the Liturgy of the word, the "covenant" of which the rainbow is the sign. The word that we translate as rainbow, in the Old Testament is also used to indicate the war arc of the archers. By placing his bow in heaven as a sign of covenant, God transforms him from an instrument of death into an instrument of life for his creatures.

Despite man's sin, God always reveals his mercy and his salvation. Therefore, the rainbow can be considered a sign of Christ's death and resurrection, where darkness and chaos are assumed by God in his Son for our salvation.

The ways of the Lord are truth and grace (Psalm 25)

The psalm is a confident supplication of an innocent man who confidently appeals to God's justice. It is Christ and his Church who, redeemed and regenerated by his grace, place himself before the Father to praise, bless and adore him because he knows that only He is truth and grace.

Much more than Noah (1Peter 3: 18-22)

These verses of the first letter of Peter, which today the liturgy offers for our reflection, are considered by most to be a baptismal catechesis; the sign of the ark that saves from the flood is the key to the reading of this passage. The ark, the figure of baptism that saves, is the means by which the one who "was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit" gives salvation, perennial salvation not momentary but eternal. Salvation is destined for all the just, of all times and all places. Now that Christ has risen and is no longer visible to us, but he is at the right hand of the Father, there is his baptism that purifies us from all imperfections to lead us to salvation. Noah with the ark saved only himself, his family, the animals. Christ, with his blood, his baptism, saves all.

In the silence of the desert (Mark 1: 12-15)

With Jesus we go into the desert for forty days to check where we are going and to reprogram the path behind him. We too enter the desert to listen to the Word of him, of ourselves, to (re) discover silence and to give a hierarchy to our many commitments. Let's create a bit of emptiness and silence around us to find the way to our heart, escape the frenzy. The world, friends, is already safe, let's be calm. In short, we enter the desert to choose Jesus of Nazareth again and prepare for Easter because Lent is not oriented to Good Friday, but to Easter of Resurrection! Lent is not a time of mortification, but of vivification because, as he said, "I want mercy and not sacrifices" (Mt 12:7). Mercy directs us towards the other. Sacrifices and penances orient us towards ourselves, towards our spiritual perfection.

We are at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. After having experienced the closeness of God with Baptism, Jesus has a new experience: forty days in the desert. Jesus is driven by the Spirit on a journey towards his heart. That's where everything about life is decided. That's where our choices are made, because every temptation is always a choice between two things we love. From the Gospels it is clear that the experience of the desert and the confrontation with one's demons is essential. Let's be honest: We always try to avoid crises, while today we are reminded that God wants us to meet our dark sides, behind every crisis there is God who challenges us. We cannot avoid the desert in our life. The crisis is healthy because it pushes us to change even if it is always accompanied by pain, and by our resistance to not wanting to progress, to move forward. If we face the crisis, however, we become more real, more capable of loving, freer, more human! Difficult moments force us to bring out determination, will to live. The desert is merciless because it shows us what we are for this we try to avoid it, for this we try not to go there.

Unlike the other evangelists, Mark does not say what the temptations were, but he reminds us of the essential: temptations are not avoided, but crossed! Temptations are necessary because choice would not exist, freedom would disappear, man himself would end. Jesus too had to deal with evil. Temptations, in all the Gospels, precede the public life of Jesus as if to remind us that we cannot make any true Christian journey without this terrible confrontation. It will be only after this intense encounter with inner fears that Jesus will acquire all the strength to leave. From here on, no one will be able to stop him. It will be precisely after this tremendous experience of the desert that Jesus will become aware of his own strength. Why? Because it is the confrontation with suffering that matures us, which makes us stronger. Joyful experiences make life beautiful but it is the painful ones that make us grow, that put their finger on that part of us that has yet to grow.

In the desert, Jesus had to choose which face of God to announce (the easy one of a master God, the impossible one of a servant God, or the insane one of a crucified God) and which man's face to proclaim (that of a rival or brother).

In short, Jesus had to choose in the desert what kind of Messiah he would be and he chose to be a Messiah different from what people expected. It will be difficult to make him understand, he knows it, but he accepts the challenge. He does not give in to the temptation of an easy path, perhaps performing miracles in series to grab the easy consensus. He will speak of a God who is love, only love, totally love who loves everyone regardless of their behaviour because they are loved children.

Here is the question that springs from the heart of Jesus in the desert: Will he understand humanity? Will he understand that God does not ask man for anything but it is He who gives himself? Jesus accepts the risk! Here is his choice in the desert, a seemingly losing choice.

In forty days, in Gethsemane, he will be tempted again. Perhaps he was deluded, he was about to die in indifference, a great failure. Maybe... Jesus, just out of the desert, acts. He goes to Galilee, to the north! He preaches the kingdom of God and tells everyone to convert, change their lives and believe in the gospel.

There are four pillars of the announcement:

- The time is up. The wait is over. The time is over when man had to do things for God, to win his benevolence and his mercy. The time has begun of what God does for us and with us.

- The kingdom is near. God is close to you, with love. You do not have to strive any more to reach God because He has come to meet him, he has shortened the distance.

- Convert. It is not a command but an invitation, a prayer. The evangelist does not use the verb that indicates a return to God because God is here, he is only to be welcomed. The verb calls for a change

mentality that deeply affects behaviour. “Please”, Jesus seems to say, “change your way of thinking about God, about yourself and about others”.

- Believe the gospel. Believe the good news. It is a good announcement for everyone, not only for the "good ones" but for everyone. The good news of this Sunday? It is that Lent begins with good news! God is love! He is the answer to the desire for fullness of life that every person carries within.

- Are we willing to abandon our patterns, our habits to devote a little of our time with God?

- How many times do we succumb, out of weariness, to the trials of life forgetting our baptismal commitments?

- Are we willing to dirty our hands and bend our heads in the service of the other or are we contented with doing a few convenient sacrifices so that we may feel good, so that others think good of us?