God has made 7 covenants with mankind: 1) with Adam in the garden of Eden, 2) with Noah after the flood, 3) with Abraham and his descendants, 4) with Moses and the Ten Commandments, 5) with King David and the promise David’s descendant who rebuild the temple, 6) the Prophetic Covenant of the coming of Jesus and the Eucharist”.
In each of these covenants, God has made a promise that He will take care of His people, and always bring them closer to Himself. In return, God asks us to turn away from temptation and live as He asks us to do rather than giving into temptation and deny the Cross – sounds harsh but that is the reality.
Genesis 9: 8-15
1 Peter 3: 18-22
Mark 1: 12-15
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Our Gospel reading for this first Sunday of Lent is interesting, in part, in terms of what happens before this gospel entry and what happens immediately after it. The section of Mark’s gospel that precedes today’s is the baptism of our Lord, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the proclamation of the Father identifying Jesus as His Son. What happens after is that Jesus has every intention of involving us in His mission by calling the disciples.
Immediately after Jesus is baptized, Jesus is led into the desert by the Holy Spirit. The desert takes on great meaning in the Bible. The Hebrew word for desert is “midbar” meaning a pasture-ground or an open tract for pasturage. The Jewish people would use it in reference to a time when they turned away from God but there exists hope of growth. Considered figuratively, the Holy Spirit has led Jesus into the desert of mankind’s relationship with God that was damaged by original sin. It is in this setting that Jesus will show that God is the God of all things and will make a pasturage where things can be fed, even in the midst of sin.
Jesus being in the desert for 40 days is significant for those reading Mark’s gospel as it quickly enjoins Jesus to the Old Testament and the wandering through the desert the Hebrews did as they searched for the promised land for 40 years. (A trip that should have taken about two weeks).
The conversation between Jesus and Satan is more descriptive in Matthew’s gospel, with Satan promising Jesus all the things of this world if He would simply give in and worship Satan. Mark’s gospel is a briefer, snappy description of events and the teachings of Jesus. In just a few verses Mark gets us from the Father stating this Jesus is His beloved Son, to Jesus declaring the Kingdom of God is at hand so repent!
There is a verse that almost gets lost in today’s gospel, stating this occurred at the time John the Baptist was arrested, it almost seems to just kind of be slipped into the account. However, at the time there were two charismatic teachers in that area – Jesus and John the Baptist. The mentioning of John the Baptist signifies that the teachings of Jesus are now the most important, for He is the one, after all, about whom John the Baptist was teaching. Now the Kingdom of God is at hand because the one with true authority to declare it, Jesus, is the one declaring it.
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Since the beginning of time, God has made a covenant with us. He will take care of us, and in return He asks us to trust in Him and follow His teachings. Why follow His teachings? Because He loves us and wants us to be happy. When everything is all said and done – through all that exists in the imperfections of our lives, He wants us to be happy for eternity with Him. The suffering we may be experiencing today, which may be incredibly difficult, can actually lead us to eternal happiness
A covenant is different than a promise in that a covenant necessitates two parties have an obligation to perform, a promise needs only one party to have obligations. The covenants God has made with mankind through the years has led to His last covenant with us: Jesus in the Eucharist. Slow down and contemplate how incredible that is.
When Adam and Eve turned away from God, consider the words God spoke to them: “Where are you?” In each of the covenants God has made with us, He asks us the same question: Where are you? Come to me. I want you with me. To show you how deeply I want you with Me, I am sending you my Son. There He is, there on the Cross. There He is, there in the Sacraments. There He is, there in the Eucharist I offer you each day.
Lent is a defined time when we can turn away from those things that keep us from living the way God wants us to live, it is a time when we can open ourselves clearly to the love of God by getting away from the things that hold us back…sin. The very reason for Lent is to remind us that there is no shortcut from the Cross. It is a journey, but it is a journey well had.
Theme in Our Life
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It is with great purpose that the Church places today’s readings at the beginning of Lent. Satan tries to tempt Jesus with the shortcuts from the Cross.
Satan tells Jesus: You are hungry, aren’t You? Take the shortcut and turn those stones into bread so you can eat. Why wait? You are the Son of God...throw yourself off this parapet wall and let the angels come catch You…take the shortcut from the Cross and just show everyone who You are by having the angels catch You. Do You see the vastness of this world? The things of this world can all be Yours…shortcut the Cross and everyone will know You Are a King…just say a few words instead.
In the gospel today, we see how incredible the covenant of God is with us. God is not taking any shortcuts with us to ensure our eternity. When God tells Noah in our first reading that He is giving us the world and all it contains, He asks us to take care of it, and He tells Noah there is a sign of that covenant: the rainbow. In this last covenant God is making with us, He leaves us with a sign and a reality: the Cross and the Eucharist.
Our reading from St. Peter today helps us understand what our Lent needs to be: “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit…This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ...”
The temptations of our lives are exactly the same as Satan presented to Jesus; these shortcuts from the Cross are all what Satan desires and we must avoid: 1) Permissiveness – Satan desires we do whatever makes you feel good and let everyone else do what they want to do. Consequences do not matter, just individual satisfaction. 2) Satan wants us to see the Cross is simply pain and there is no cause with it, just hardship. Satan says to chase after the things that are startling, sparkly, shiny, and make life easy for us. 3) Satan wishes us to see theology is merely politics; a means of achieving a social end, a declaration that there is no divinity entailed. 4) Satan desires we consider disruption and division as a part of human existence; Satan tries to fool us into believing they are not tools of Satan because Satan does not exist. 5) There is great temptation for us to be willing to have a divine Christ but not a suffering Christ. We accept Him smiling in a painting but do not want to see Him looking at us through bloodied eyes and a crown of thorns.
This Lent, if you do absolutely nothing else, consider the Cross and the incredible results found in the Resurrection. Wrap yourself in the activities that lead you to the suffering of the Cross, and that will lead you to the reality, the genuine reality, of the Resurrection.
Preparing for Sunday
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Job #1, #2, and #3: Connect with the Engage program newly offered by the Parish and created by Word On Fire. Just text: “SES” to 84756 and complete the registration. No cost involved.
Commit to getting to Reconciliation within 10 days of reading this. Our Priests are fantastic in the confessional! However, it is also offered at Parishes in our area 6 days a week.
Pray the Rosary and contemplate the Sorrowful Mysteries. I mean really slow down and contemplate.