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LENT I

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Contents: Volume 2 - LENT I (B) Ordinary Time
- February 21, 2021

 

  LENT

  I

   2021


 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP
2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller
3. -- Brian Gleeson CP
4. --
5. --(Your reflection can be here!)


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Lent 1 B

In our first reading from the Book of Genesis, we read/hear God making a covenant with Noah through the sign of a rainbow, a covenant with a particular promise of care that "never will every bodily creature be destroyed by flood." God is indeed faithful; this promise extends to God's care for us. Our Gospel reading reminds us of yet another sign of God's faithfulness: Jesus.

Mark's account of Jesus going to and being tempted by Satan in the desert seems like bare bones, minimum information. As I sit with this selection a bit longer though, I see several things that deepen my thoughts. My reading of "drove" suggests that the Spirit did not just drop Jesus off in the desert via a jeep for a few days away, but nudged Jesus rather strongly to do something very difficult. Perhaps at first, like all humankind, Jesus was willing, but really did not want to face the things of the world that tempted him. Jesus stayed because he trusted the Spirit and he trusted he would receive care, from God and the angels.

Jesus triumphed over really hard stuff. Even after 40 days, Jesus did not take a vacation. He wasn't even side-tracked by the arrest of John, although he probably was greatly saddened.

Jesus immediately went to Galilee and proclaimed the Gospel of God. He encouraged all to change their ways and believe in the gospel. He did so with enthusiasm and confidence because Jesus knew first hand that part of this gospel is God's everlasting care for us.

Jesus triumphed and because of Jesus, so can we. During Lent, we can trust that God will be with us as we examine the things that tempt us away from our faithfulness to God. We, too, need to change. Perhaps we need not just to change some sinful behaviors, but, very importantly, how we view God and His promises in our lives. The Gospel is Good News....how can we live it and proclaim it as GOOD News?

Blessings,
Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP
Southern Dominican Laity
lanie@leblanc.one

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First Sunday of Lent February 21, 2021

 

Genesis 9:8-15; Responsorial Psalm 25; 1st Peter 3:18-22; Gospel Verse Matthew 4:4; Mark 1:12-15

 

This Sunday’s narrative from the book of Genesis tells us how God deals with the chaos, disintegration, violence, and hatred humanity brought into God’s creation. The flood rose to “wash clean,” “wipe away those terrors,” these contradictions to the goodness of God’s creation. When all had been washed clean, God reached out to Noah, his family, and all animals wild and tame and promised to never again destroy the evil springing from humanity by flood waters. God initiated this deal, this covenant. As proof of this arrangement, a sign would be the rainbow – many hued colors painted across the sky. Israelites seeing that arc, reaching from horizon to horizon, would be reminded of the Noah story. It reminded them to consider their personal and communal behaviors. They understood that ancient need for the great cleansing. God also reminded himself by his rainbow. We know scientifically how rainbows are formed. But that science does not take away the custom, the ritual of using the rainbow as a reminder of God’s abiding presence. For those people of faith, the chaos of waters before God brought order out of the tumult will not again destroy living beings. The message is clear to people of faith, however. The creative activity of the Lord of goodness is challenged by evil. God does not allow his judgment of the “very good” of creation to be overthrown by evil done by humanity. The destruction of family, the destruction of community will not be allowed to perdure: creation will not revert to the primal chaos before creation.

It is clear from this first reading that destruction, violence, division and murder, jealousies and envy, and theft of persons’ freedom created in them by the Creator will never be allowed to stand. The four narratives of sin in Genesis are portrayed as fracturing relations, of ripping apart communities. Community as a way of life becomes a victim of violence, hatred, murder, and chaos. If we think this is merely a rational theological construct trying to explain how a good God and evil can co-exist, then we are not paying much attention to the events of our day. Chaos that comes with divisiveness and scapegoating was evidenced on January 6. Even beyond that terrible day, daily we read, watch, hear about violence and ethnic cleansing in the world. In this our time there is a resurgence of tyranny in many nations. In each such instance, tyranny follows the development of a cult of person in contradiction to the common good. The violence of the mob always arises from a devaluation of community and an honest effort for the common good of all.

Catholic tradition has always taught the Eucharist is the source of unity and community. From the earliest teachings of Paul and in the writings of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church, the Eucharist is the nourishment and the cause of the unity of the Mystical Body of the Lord. The entirety of the Judeo-Christian tradition insists as do the Jews in their morning prayer – “God is One.” We, the creation of God, diverse as we are, must be one or we are not living out the “very goodness” of what God created us to be. Our God is so massive, so tremendous that revelation of God in creation demands a terrific diversity. Even then, the revelation of what God is could only be achieved in the Person of Jesus, totally God and totally human. Take another look at our Eucharist celebration. What is it that becomes the Body and the Blood? The material which is consecrated by invocation of the Spirit is brought to the altar from the workings of the people. In a sense then, our daily living, our achievements, our failures, our joys, and our sorrows become the stuff that is consecrated and becomes the Body and the Blood of the Lord. Thus, our daily lives become the food that nourishes, heals, and unites the community. It is the Lord who consecrates us into himself and gives us as medicine, as food, as unifying glue. In this Lent, perhaps we should – even with virtual Eucharistic celebrations – focus on how the Eucharist forms us into a Community of faith that expresses itself in love. Let us look at it as a warning. God promised never to destroy mortal life by the pre-creation chaos of rampaging waters. But God never promised to eliminate the failures of humanity. Think again of the images broadcast worldwide of the January 6 attempt to disenfranchise the votes of more than eighty million of our fellow how common cause was destroyed. Focus on the theft of our common cause by false claims for power. Creation reveals the nature of God. What God is, as revealed, is a Community, a Trinity of three persons. That life of God is our model, what we should aspire to as Christians, as creatures of God. The work of God after creation is ever a labor laced through and through with mercy, compassion, and absolute, unconditional loving kindness. That is our model, the way we should also live. There is evil in our world that challenges our efforts at imitating God’s modeling. That evil comes to us comes from our own hands, minds, and hearts. Lent is a time for cleansing our hearts so that our minds might be more mindful of the source of our happiness and contentment. Sin destroys relationships. That is what sin is. Is it not a fitting way to begin our Lenten journey to remind ourselves of our self-inflicted pain?

The reading from Mark’s gospel of the temptation of Jesus is short. The Spirit of God forces Jesus into the wilderness. That wilderness is a place of harsh reality, primitive life supports, and where the basics of survival are evident. There are few chances to regain missed opportunities for survival, no room for mistakes. There are wild beasts there, always on the prowl for victims. The Spirit forces Jesus into the wilderness for an extended stay. What is Mark telling us? Why would God put his Son – the one acclaimed by God as pleasing to him – into such straights? Is God testing him to see what he is made of? Jesus has clearly accepted the task of establishing a new Kingdom of God at his Baptism by John. The old creation has failed. Humanity continually rips apart creation’s goodness and purpose. The four stories of sin in Genesis have become the model for much of human living. However, the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom whose goal is unity, the celebration of diversity as an indication of God’s wonder, and an alleluia of gratitude for the gift of life. That Kingdom is a sharing in the image and likeness of the Creator. That Kingdom is populated with persons who have the capacity to reveal the goodness of Creation, bringing it to a fullness dreamed by the mind and heart of the One God.

So why was Jesus brought into the desert? Mark skips the details of the temptation of Jesus found in Luke and Matthew? Mark presents Jesus in the wilderness as getting ready for his ministry. This living in the wilderness, this temptation is like what talented and physically well-trained athletes do to prepare for their contests. Athletes not only prepare their bodies physically and minds to perceive and judge. They also prepare their whole person to react without thinking. They prepare their bodies to specific actions, to specific movements that are unthought. They become instincts. So also, Jesus. He knows the mission is to begin the force that will transform creation into the Kingdom of God. How is he to do this? What are the instincts that he needs to achieve so as not to cloud the message, his modeling? He is in training camp for this great contest with those who would subvert the goodness of creation for their own purposes. His example, his preaching, his healing, and his conflicts with the powers of this world were and are necessary parts of his ministry. There can be no question about how he responds. That is what lent does for us. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are the techniques that ready us.

Lent is a time for us to hunker down and examine our Christianity. Lent is the time to focus on relationships. Jesus worked in his short ministry to begin God’s Kingdom. He fought mightily against the way of the world. He fought mightily against the typical fall back of so much of religion. Faith that is viewed as an institution or as a set of rules does little to grow the Spirit in its believers. Jesus’ conflicts were with those who believed that strict following of the Law of Moses was the way to salvation. He fought as well against those who believed that ritual and administration were the stuff that made religion real. Rules are essential but only a steppingstone to fullness of spirit. Ritual is necessary as instruction and participation. When administration is the purpose, when ritual is merely repetition without heart overseen by persons set above the people, then the vitality and thrust of faith is mitigated. Lent is the time for us to remove the trash and clutter of the past year. That cleansing – not unlike the cleansing of the Flood of Noah – brings us more in community with our Creator. Amazingly, that cleansing brings us into a stronger, more vital, more real connection with others.

We cannot, however, forget the arc of Jesus’ work. At the end of his ministry, he established the Eucharist – that giving thanks for the work done and nourishment for the work yet to be completed. That Eucharist, that giving thanks, effectively makes us different. What has held us back, that which separates and divides us from others, is overcome. That victory is a strange victory to those who live only in the way of the world. Jesus ascends the Cross in a most cruel death. He is put there by the confluence of a spurious interpretation of the Law of Moses and the law of the world that demands compliance to power. His death demonstrated to us what happens as we follow in the way of Jesus. There is suffering. That is why we need the time in the wilderness of Lent to strengthen ourselves for the struggle, to sharpen our instincts.

This Lent prepares us for the struggle. That struggle is very simply put as the development of a culture of life. That is a culture for all life. The liars of the world would have us think that only the unborn are worthwhile life. They effectively use that definition to garner support and votes and allegiance. The way, the truth, and the life is that all life is sacred. Not one single person – born, unborn, young, old, healthy, infirm – there is no life that is not sacred in the eyes of God. That is the dream of the Creator: that all life reach fullness and find its place in the Kingdom of the Lord of all Creation.

May that Kingdom be our goal: may that Kingdom be our focus: may that Kingdom’s establishment and completion motivate us in all the moments of living. May we remember that God’s Kingdom is noteworthy by is mercy, its compassion, and it unconditional love of each of us.

Carol & Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

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TESTS, TRIALS, AND TEMPTATIONS: 1ST SUNDAY LENT B

 

How might we see Lent as an opportunity for self-improvement?

 

The movie, An Officer and a Gentleman, starring Richard Gere, is about a very selfish young man, who for the thrill of it, wants to fly jet planes in the navy. A tough drill sergeant sees through him and sets out to challenge him with every test and ordeal in the books. In the process, the young man discovers his moral compass and develops a new set of values. He graduates from boot camp as both an officer and a gentleman, with a strong fresh focus away from himself and towards others and their needs. His tests and trials have worked to get him there, and have re-made him to be the best person he can be.

Jesus, as another young man, was never selfish, but he too needed to discover what new direction his life should take. It comes out in Mark’s story today of how the power of God, which is to say the Holy Spirit given to him at his baptism, drives him into the desert for forty days. Instead of human company there, he is with wild animals, and angels provide for his basic needs.

There in the desert, he too is tested and tried, not by another human being, but by Satan, the arch-enemy of God and goodness. It was in the desert too that his own people, the people of Israel, had met their God, and entered into a binding covenant-relationship of love with God. But the Bible shows the desert as not only a place where they met God but also as a place of trials and temptations. It was there too that they gave in to temptations. There they adored false gods and murmured against Moses, God’s representative.

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not specify how Jesus was tested and tried, but says only that he ‘was tempted by Satan’. Mark implies that, as happens with all temptation, Jesus was wrestling with the question, ‘Will I choose what God wants of me, or give in to other wants and desires?’ Mark also implies that with the help of the Spirit of God, Jesus resists and defeats the Evil One, and chooses just what God wants of him.

What God wanted of him, discovered by Jesus in the desert, is revealed in the next lines of Mark’s story: ‘… Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the good news from God. “The time has come,” he said, “and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the good news”.’ There and then he came to accept his mission from God – to tell others that the kingdom of God was happening among them and that Jesus himself was making it happen.

The kingdom of God means God’s power, authority, reign, and rule over everything and everybody. The coming of the kingdom of God was the new direction of his life, that Jesus discovered there and then in his desert-experience. It became the central theme and program of his life. It became the basis of practically everything he did and everything he said. It was his guiding-star, his ultimate vision of reality, the cause for which he both lived and died. It was his favorite phrase for what his mission was all about. His sayings, his parables, his cures, his relationships, and especially his practice of sharing meals with outcasts, were all connected to his purpose and program of bringing about the kingdom of God on earth. So much so that Jesus without the kingdom of God would be an incomplete Jesus, and not what he is for us – our way, truth, and life (Jn 14:6).

The coming of the reign and rule of God requires a response from everyone, Jesus insists, a turn-around, a change, shown in the first place by accepting God’s offer of mercy and forgiveness for our sins, and in the second place, by living as God wants. In practice, this means living the teachings of Jesus and following his good example.

Jesus is still telling us to repent of our sins, and to believe and live the good news that God is the king of our lives. This is just what Jesus was saying to us on Ash Wednesday, when we received the ashes and heard the accompanying message, ‘Turn away from sin, and believe the good news.’

Lent, then, is not just a time for little acts of self-denial, but to believe and live with the greatest fidelity and constancy, the greatest truth of all, that God is our loving and merciful King, that we belong to God as God’s beloved children, that God has great expectations of us, and that God is calling us to be loving persons too - loving God and our fellow human beings, with our whole mind, heart, soul, and strength.

That’s a message not only for Lent but for every season. No wonder, then, that Jesus wants us to keep praying to God: ‘Our Father … your kingdom come … lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil’! For that to happen, we must also, like Jesus, let the Holy Spirit drive us into the desert of our lives, and there empower us, to tame any wild beast prowling around to tempt us to sin.

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.


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