First Sunday of Lent: A time for Recollection and Renewal has come!

February 27, 2012 by  
Filed under newsletter-miscellaneous

lent_crucifixionLent is a season of grace. It is a time for conversion and spiritual growth. In the book of Prophet Joel 2:12-13 we read-”…Return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing…”The season of Lent is a call to come back to the Lord and seek His mercy. “…Repent, and believe in the Good News!” (Mk. 1:15). It is a period of strengthening and testing so that we may continue the mission of Christ with renewed vigour.

A camel’s story

A mother camel and her baby are talking one day and the baby camel asks, “Mom why have we got these huge three-toed feet?” The mother replies, “To enable us trek across the soft sand of the desert without sinking.” “And why have we got these long, heavy eyelashes?” “To keep the sand out of our eyes on the trips through the desert “replies the mother camel. “And Mom, why have we got these big humps on our backs?” The mother, now a little impatient with the boy replies, “They are there to help us store fat for our long treks across the desert, so we can go without water for long periods.” “OK, I get it!” says the baby camel, “We have huge feet to stop us sinking, long eyelashes to keep the sand from our eyes and humps to store water. Then, Mom, why the heck are we here in the Toronto zoo?” Modern life sometimes makes one feel like a camel in a zoo. And like camels in a zoo we need sometimes to go into the desert in order to discover who we truly are.

Lent invites us to enter into this kind of desert experience. The desert was the birthplace of the people of Israel into the people of God. The Hebrew people who escaped from Egypt as scattered tribes arrived the Promised Land as one nation under God. It was in the desert that they become a people of God by covenant. In the course of their history when their love and faithfulness to God grew cold, the prophets would suggest their return to the desert to rediscover their identity, their vocation and their mission as a way of reawakening their faith and strengthening their covenant relationship with God. In today’s gospel we read that after Jesus was baptized “the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him” (Mk. 1:12-13). The great prophets Elijah and John the Baptist were people of the desert: they lived in the desert, ate desert food and adopted a simple desert lifestyle. The desert is the university where God teaches His people. The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which he should follow and the voice of Satan which is temptation. In the desert we come to know ourselves, our strengths and weaknesses, and our divine calling.

In the Second reading, Peter encourages Christians to endure the unmerited suffering of persecution. Unmerited suffering was good not only for their personal salvation but for the salvation of others, as we can see in the life and example of Christ. “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God” (1 Pet. 3:18).As we begin the season of Lent, the Church invites all her sons and daughters to join Christ in the forty-day journey of fasting, penance and almsgiving. Some Christians may find this call difficult on the grounds that they may not need this type of voluntary suffering. In urging believers to embrace suffering without wrongdoing, Peter mentions baptism, comparing it to Noah’s ark which saved those who had recourse to it. In the course of history, Christians have debated with one another over the amount of water required for baptism. Is baptism to be done by sprinkling, pouring, or total immersion in water? Peter reminds us that the amount of water is inconsequential since it is not a body bath designed to remove dirt but a matter of conscience. “And this is a picture of baptism, which now saves you by the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection. Baptism is not a removal of dirt from your body; it is an appeal to God from a clean conscience” (1 Pet. 3:21).

Lent is a time of retreat for the whole church in preparation for the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter. Let us pray for the grace to observe the Lenten season in such a way as to purify our consciences and join Christ in the suffering of atonement for the good of all sinners living and dead. Amen.

–  Fr. Ciril D’Souza SVD

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