Homily for I (1) Sunday of Lent Year B. 21-02-2021 by Fr. Lubem Robert Waya, osj.
First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm: Psalm 25: 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22
Gospel: Mark 1:12-15
Friends since Ash Wednesday we entered this holy season beginning the very important journey of lent, a journey of faith but also of courage and hope, which shall last for forty days. This is a journey that can only be successful with the requisite spiritual discipline and constant conversion of mind and heart, expressed in the three pillars of lent as prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These three pillars correspond to the three theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, through which we are capable of living truly human lives expressing the tripartite dimensions of love as taught by Christ Himself; love of God, love of neighbour, and love of self (Matthew 22:36-40). A faithful observance of these in this season, would therefore make us spiritually fruitful thereby enabling us to become more human and humane according to the Divine design. This in turn would open us up to the three fundamental categories of human responsibility; the religious responsibility to God our creator, the moral obligation to our neighbour, and our individual obligation to self, which we are called to fulfill at all times. Man’s religious responsibility to God is the duty we all owe God our Creator because of His nature. And we willingly express this especially through reverence for God in divinely prescribed worship, the greatest of which we call the liturgy of the Eucharist (thanksgiving), accomplished in the mass. To neglect loving God therefore, is to be guilty of the most egregious form of ingratitude. The moral obligation on the other hand is the responsibility we have towards one another, since every human being is created in the image and likeness of God with an inherent and intrinsic value worthy of respect. This covers respect for human life from conception to natural death. Our personal obligation on the other hand, is the duty we all have each to his/herself as a consequence of each person’s intrinsic worth as God’s creature. How faithful then have you being in fulfilling your responsibility to God, to your neighbour, and yourself?
Our religious responsibility to God is fulfilled in the theological virtue of faith expressed in prayer as that pillar of lent through which we are able to show our love for God. We fulfill our moral obligation for love of neighbour through the virtue of charity corresponding to the Lenten pillar of almsgiving, while our individual obligation of love for self, corresponds to the virtue of hope which is fulfilled by our Lenten fast through which we are able to discipline our appetites for greater temporal and spiritual goods. Fulfilling these three responsibilities is what makes us truly human, good Christians and holy according to the plan of the Creator. However, we are called to avoid making a show of these, but simply in humility and in honesty with a contrite heart, do all solely in fidelity to God who sees all that is done in secret.
We can therefore say that if we are faithful to God, Lent becomes an opportunity to rediscover our lost humanness. Noah too lived his life in this manner, keeping to God’s word and obeying God’s instruction. He built the ark as God had told him, while others mocked and called him names. But today, his ‘foolishness’ has proved to be wisdom as Noah and his family are the only eight humans spared the ravages of the flood that followed the forty-day rainfall. And God makes a covenant with humanity through him using the rainbow to remind us that never again will He let the floods destroy His creatures. By this covenant God has promised never to give up on humanity anymore, come what may. That is why in fulfilling His promise, He did not stop at showing us the rainbow, but in time also sent His Son to redeem us even while we were yet sinners. And through Christ the same waters that destroyed the earth have assumed a new significance as the fount giving us new birth and supernatural life in baptism. Ask yourself today, have you quite often given up on yourself, on others- (your spouse, children, parents, friends), on God? Have you given up on yourself because you always fall and you feel you can never get up and do it right again? Know that God never gives up on us, no matter what and He is always waiting for us to return to Him. So we have no right giving up on ourselves, on others nor on God. Lent is that opportune moment to remind ourselves like Noah constructing the ark amidst hardship, to NEVER GIVE UP fighting off temptations by constantly striving to do what is right. It may appear unwise to the world but know that your sacrifices can never be in vain before God. They paid-off for Noah just as we see for Christ in the gospel reading of today. So also will it be for us.
Christ’s forty-day journey in the wilderness is captured by all the evangelists as a sacrifice akin to our Lenten journey by which we deny ourselves pleasures in order to encounter God. Amidst the dryness of the desert, the temptations and the wild beasts, the good news is that Christ overcomes all because He relied on God. So, God sent angels to minister to Him. This is a reminder to us too that our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, no matter how faithful and beautifully observed, do not keep us immune from temptations. Just like Christ, we will also be tempted, but we can be sure of overcoming all temptations like Christ if we learn to rely on the grace and strength of God rather than on ours. Relying on our strengths will wear us out but relying on the strength that comes from God keeps us constantly rejuvenated and renewed to overcome all the allures of the devil. True, we have the power to withstand temptation, but the greatest source of our power is not within us as much as it is in the strength we receive from the Lord. For us Catholics we are truly blessed to have this Divine strength flowing directly to us through the sacraments, especially the anointing of the sick, holy communion and penance, which strengthen and nourish us in body and spirit to fight our daily spiritual battles. But be sincere to yourself…how committed and faithful are you to the reception of these sacraments? Lent is an opportunity to rediscover these hidden treasures and make good use of them to return back to God. Do not let anything hold you. Are you ready to return to God your father?
As Jesus was in the wilderness among wild beasts but was not devoured, during this season we are also called to reflect on the wild beasts in our lives. They are those particular things (sins) that try to devour our spiritual life and truncate our growth. We must not let them overcome us. We have to cut them off so that we can be saved, and that begins with identifying them. For you, what are the wild beasts in your life? Is it pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony, or sloth? And how can you overcome them? To overcome them begins with a complete change of heart and way of life, when we accept to become citizens of the kingdom of God. And Christ gives us two conditions to actualize this, ‘Repent and believe in the gospel.’ This means turning away from sin and wrong-doing in order to follow God’s way of love, truth and moral goodness. When we do this and learn to submit to God’s rule in our lives according to the gospel, He gives us the grace and power to overcome those ‘wild beasts.’ Have you turned away from your sins? Remember, God is waiting for you because He has not given up on us. This is a promise, so we must not give up on ourselves either. Let us ask the good Lord to strengthen our resolve to overcome the ‘wild beasts’ dragging us away from fulfilling His mission in our lives, remembering that as God has not given up on us, we must also never give up on ourselves. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.