17 Feb First Sunday of Lent
First Sunday of Lent
Dear OLPH Family and Friends,
During these weeks of Lent we will hear a great deal about the concept and the true meaning of “Covenant.” For the Hebrews it was a most important concept. It was based on the principal of “contract”. I will do such and such and you in turn will do such and such. In general, if either party failed in their responsibility, then the contract could be terminated. Covenant, in Hebrew tradition, is far more than a contract. As Scripture presents it, a covenant is a free promise on God’s part. God’s covenant offer is unilateral; it does not depend on humanity’s response. God has chosen Israel and will not repent – no matter what. As we move through the Sundays of Lent, we will reflect on God’s covenants and Israel’s growing understanding of God’s promise to them.
The covenant God gave Noah is that He will not destroy creation. There is no one-to-one correspondence between humanity and divinity. The symbol of God’s promise is the rainbow. It was God’s promise of compassion and mercy.
Mark has the shortest of the three Gospel accounts of Jesus’ 40 days in the desert. Gone are the three temptations and the dialogue with Satan. Mark tells us that the Spirit “drove” Jesus into the desert. The Spirit who descended upon Him at baptism dwells in Him and moves Him. The 40 days recall the Israelites’ 40 years in the desert, the 40 days Moses spent fasting and repenting for the sin of Israel and Elijah’s 40-day walk to Mt. Horeb where he would meet “God in the gentle breeze”. The desert also connects Jesus to John the Baptist’s ministry. John was the voice crying in the desert.
Now, for the first time in Mark, we hear the voice of Jesus. He makes four brief statements. Those first words were: “This is the time of fulfilment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” His first imperative is “repent.” It is a call to “metanoia, a complete turnaround. The second imperative is “Believe in the Gospel.” Believe that God is good and has chosen to be with you in this time and place. Believe in God’s compassion so much that you receive it and share it. Then you will know that the reign of God is near. These two imperatives initiated Lent when on Ash Wednesday we were told to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” These are the fundamental words of preparation for baptism. The Church speaks not only to those to be received into the Church at Easter but a call to each of us to be renewed in our own Baptism Promises.
May this time of Lent be a positive drawing closer to the God who says He will be our God if we will be His People!
We are now in our 2nd week for the Annual Catholic Appeal. Prayerfully ask the Lord to help you to know what gifts He has given you. We are called to share our blessings in proportion to how we have been blessed by the Lord. So far, 45 families out of 1250 have turned in their envelopes. May this season of Lent draw us all closer to our loving God!