February 14, 2024 at 9:25 a.m.

Lent: A time to remember and prepare!

Reflection helps us to pause and revisit these times with gratitude and new understanding.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.
WORD OF FAITH: A breakdown of each week's upcoming Sunday readings to better understand the Word of God at Mass.

By Sister Linda Neil, CSJ | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.” With these terse yet powerful words Jesus begins his ministry. He has gone from being baptized in the Jordan to “being driven into the desert for 40 days.” This desert, also called the Judean Wilderness, is described as being barren, mountainous, harsh and rugged. Jesus was surrounded by beauty, peace and danger. In his time, wild beasts did roam this area! Jesus needed to be immersed in prayer and communion with the Holy One. In his humanity, he needed to be stretched and deepened by the privations and perils of the wilderness. And even though “angels ministered him,” he must have had some difficult times!

“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe the good news!” — Mark 1:15

So we begin our Lenten journey with Jesus in the desert. We will spend 40 days of earnest prayer, almsgiving and some privations preparing to celebrate the Paschal Mystery. The desert symbolizes a place for stripping away the trappings of life that often prevent us from bringing the Kingdom of God to fruition in our time. The desert practices can help us to “repent” — to turn away from all that separates us from our relationship with God and one another. We change our hearts and let new life stream into our lives.

We are called in Sunday’s readings to remember and to prepare. The First Reading invites us to remember the significance of “forty” which is a time of preparation in the Scriptures. Noah and his family have prepared well. First they listened to God’s instructions and built the ark. Then they stayed in a very dark and damp place for 40 days as rain and flood consumed the Earth. Finally, God’s presence broke out in the rainbow and the promise never to destroy Earth again. This covenant was binding forever between the Creator and “every living creature.” Lent gives us the opportunity to reflect on the Scriptures and to remember God’s faithfulness throughout history. Just as God has been with our ancestors in faith, so the Holy One is with us in all the flood and rainbow moments of life. Reflection helps us to pause and revisit these times with gratitude and new understanding.

St. Peter does his own remembering in the Second Reading. He recalls how Noah and his family were saved from the flood. Peter sees this as a prefiguring of our baptism and journey with Jesus. Lent is a time to consider all the graces that flow to us every day from our baptism — we are temples of the Holy Spirit filled with divine life and love. We have the virtues of faith, hope and charity. We are blessed with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The daily worries and hardships of life pull our attention from all the grace which God pours into us. We need desert moments to step aside and reflect on all these spiritual wonders and blessings.

Lent is often referred to as the “springtime of the soul.” Certainly, a desert landscape is not a place for spring! But there are times when the desert blooms in great abundance of flowers. The desert night sky must be spectacular with stars. Jesus lived in the dangers of the desert, but he also must have reveled in the beauty! Lent is a serious time of penance and sacrifice, but it also can be a marvelous time of wonder at the blessings of the covenant, our baptism and the amazing presence of the Holy One in our life. May your Lenten journey be filled with deep prayer, joy in letting go and wonder in the way your God loves and accompanies you!


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