Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT: THE NEED OF CONSTANT REPENTANCE AND NOURISHMENT OF OUR FAITH

Mk 1:12-15

WE ARE NOW in the season of Lent and the gospel of the first Sunday of Lent leads us to reflect on the temptation of Jesus. The Markan version of the passage is rather short. The first paragraph shows Jesus being drawn to the desert for forty days. If we put this in relation to the second paragraph which is the preaching of the kingdom of God, then, we can say that his going to the desert marks the preparation for his public ministry.

Let us try to go over once again the contents of this short gospel and try to put that in the context of the Lenten expectations for us.

First, Jesus was drawn to the desert and spent forty days, praying and fasting. The duration of the Lenten season (as a preparation for the Feast of Easter) is also forty days and during this season we are called to relive Jesus’ experience in the desert.  But of course, our journey is something inward. The evil temptations in this world abound and like Jesus, we need to fight against all these. Our human tendency towards temptations is simply to give in. But Jesus’ response to temptation is different and this reminds us to follow his way. We can make this season holy if we are serious in our dealings with temptation. Also, just as Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert, we are also called to improve our relationship with God this season. We are called to be generous to God, but spending more time with him through prayer. Prayer can be seen as an act of generosity. Most of the time, we can be unkind to God because he has been seen as least in our priorities. We spend more time with families and friends, but not with God. Lenten season can be a good season to renew our relationship with Him through prayers.

Now, let us try to reflect on the content of his preaching. Jesus preached the kingdom of God and there are two requirements for entering it: conversion and faith. He says: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.” It is good to reflect on these two themes again because these are essential for our spiritual life during this season.

The second point that I want to bring up is the theme on repentance. Repentance may not appear as something appealing for us. Perhaps, we would be asking ourselves: “Is there a need to repent ourselves?” In order to see the significance of this theme, perhaps, we can talk about some areas in our life that need to be changed. Let me share with you the reflections of the late Holy Father, John Paul II. Once, Pope John Paul II mused that the world of materialism can be dangerous because the human tendency is simply to accumulate things which one does not actually need. In fact, in the face of the global financial crisis, the business analysts pinpoint that the cause of such a turmoil is greed. More people bought or built houses not out of necessity but out of greed. The Pope’s reflections and assessment is right. We have now learned how greediness can be globally generous. The situation calls for a conversion. And I think we are all learning. We now learn to buy only things that we need. Moreover, the Pope reflected that modern men and women want absolute freedom in their life. But unfortunately in aspiring to be free, people are actually enslaved by sins. True freedom shall be seen in the confines of what is morally good. Doing immoral things in the name of freedom does not actually make us free. This is also one area in our life that calls for conversion.

The third point is the theme on faith. Jesus says, “repent and believe” in the gospel. Is there such a relationship between these two? Well, St Paul, in one of his letters, says that there is such a relationship between conversion and faith. He says that if we believe in Christ, it is a natural consequence that we become a new being, a new creation. Our following of Christ can be questioned if we remain or cling to our old sinful life. Christ is the good news and this good news must have an effect in our day to day life. But the problem is, it seems we are comfortable living a dual or split spirituality. We can say to the world that we are Christians, but refuse to live a Christian and moral life. The calling is consistency between our identity and our way of life. Furthermore, there is also a problem these days in believing the gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ often would no longer appear as appealing to some. Like for instance, the respect for life is presented as the gospel of our time. But how many people or Christians believe in that. Supposedly, we should be “pro-life” in that sense, but on the opposite, we advocate the “culture of death.”

Brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, we need to examine once again our commitment to Christ and Christian life. On the one hand, repentance is a continuous calling for all of us. Repentance is an all-time calling necessary of a “holy Church.” On the other, faith in Christ and faith in the gospel is something we need to nourish in life so that we may grow also in our relationship and discipleship of Christ.

 


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