Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent

Dear All,

The First Reading from the Book of Genesis, the first Book in the Christian Bible and the Jewish Torah, tells the story of the flood and Noah’s ark. Every time we look at a rainbow we are reminded of God’s promise, the close bond remembered over three thousand years ago, not only to mankind but also to every living creature.  The rainbow, this most beautiful and transient of all things, is a wonderful sign of God’s love.  All the colors are there and all the grades in between. And there are even colors we can’t see. This shows the breadth of God’s love.  His love covers the whole range of existence and even things we are totally unaware of.  In some ancient cultures the rainbow is a sign of a weapon as in a bow and arrow, representing God’s bow and the lightning his arrow.  The rainbow for them is a sign of anger, but for us it is a sign of God’s love.  We do enough things to provoke God’s anger, but in this great covenant God says that he will be merciful to us.  Although we have sinned he will hold back his anger.  Instead he will love us all the more.

During this season of Lent we think about fasting and doing penance.  The Gospel tells us about Jesus spending time in the desert being tested and experiencing all kinds of temptations.  He emerged victorious in Galilee proclaiming the good news:  "This is the time of fulfillment.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the gospel."  These were the first spoken words of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.  The account of the temptation reads almost like a telegram.  There are just two verses compared to the lengthier and fuller eleven verses of Matthew and thirteen of Luke.  Mark doesn’t bother about the content of the various temptations.  He bluntly states the fact of the forty days when Jesus was tempted by Satan.  The wild beasts are traditional symbols of evil and like Satan they prowl around looking for any signs of weakness.  And by enduring the tests successfully Jesus demonstrates that he is the true heir of Moses and Elijah who also endured periods of fasting.  The forty days is a symbolic allusion to the forty years the Chosen People spent in the wilderness after the Egyptian captivity, being tested by God.  We remember all this during the forty days of Lent. 

All testing involves privation and suffering.  If all testing involves suffering then in spiritual terms we can also say that all suffering is a testing. The test hopefully will increase our faith and trust in God.  We can also undergo spiritual suffering when we experience times of doubt and darkness, which are also tests.  God seems so far away.  We find it hard to place ourselves in his presence, wondering sometimes if all this isn’t a complete waste of time.  Most of us dread being put to the test, but it is something we all have to endure.  It is an essential element of our pilgrimage.  But you notice that even for Jesus it was for a fixed time, the forty days.  There is always an end.  During Lent we are invited to undergo some small hardship as a spiritual exercise, as a strengthening and a preparation for that real time of testing we may encounter during our journey.  We place ourselves in God’s hands relying trustfully upon him.  Remembering those hidden Angels, who are not far away, during these trials we unite ourselves with Christ and ask him to endure the Temptation with us.  When we emerge from the desert we enter more fully into the presence of God and it will have all the beauty and more of the rainbow.

A complete text of the readings at:

With God’s Love and Blessings,


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