1st Sunday of Lent

This past Wednesday was Ash Wednesday. So many of us partook of the ancient custom of having ashes placed on our foreheads. We did this to acknowledge our mortality before God, but more importantly, to acknowledge our need for repentance and conversion before God. It was an outward sign to mark the inward conversion that we embark upon in this season of Lent.

Certain times during the year we designate for special prayer and reflection on our path of following Jesus. We hear in today’s Gospel that Jesus went into the desert for 40 days. This was a time of prayer and reflection for our Lord as He transitioned from the quiet life of a carpenter to the very public life of preaching God‘s message. Jesus used these 40 days to strengthen His relationship with God the Father and to ground Himself in His identity as Messiah. It is significant that Mark’s Gospel tells us Jesus was among the wild beasts and tempted by Satan. This tells us that strengthening one’s relationship with God through prayer and reflection does not mean we are free from trials and temptations.

As we take time in our personal lives during Lent to build our relationship with God and to renew our Christian identity, we do so amidst temptations, trials, challenges, anxieties, and other things that can distract and destroy our holy effort of conversion and spiritual renewal. It is worth reminding ourselves that we strive to be close to God while immersed in the world – not removed from it. Like Jesus coming forth from the desert, we can come forth from our Lenten journey to give powerful witness to Christian living by our good example.

It is also an ancient custom to “give something up” for Lent. This is an effort to connect us to the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. So it is always a good holy practice to fast from some activity, “to give something up”, to make some sort of personal sacrifice during Lent as a means of putting forth concrete effort for our spiritual conversion. For children this is commonly expressed as giving up candy or sweets. However as adults we can move it more into our behavior. Perhaps we could fast from harsh words. Perhaps we could fast from anger or impatience. Perhaps we could fast from quick judgment or holding grudges. These would be good things for us to “give up for Lent”. Lent is a time of spiritual purification. This means we shed, we get rid of behaviors that are not holy. Imagine a ship that is scraped clean of barnacles. Lent is our time to scrape off the unholy barnacles that attach themselves to our soul.

On this first Sunday of Lent together we enter our 40 days. Together we follow our Lord and renew our identity as belonging to Him. We commit to our personal conversion and grow in holiness. We hear and heed the words of the Lord. We repent and believe in the Gospel.

First Reading
Gn 9:8-15

God’s covenant with Noah when he was delivered from the flood.

A reading from the Book of Genesis

God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
   and your descendants after you
   and with every living creature that was with you:
   all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
   that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
   that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
   by the waters of a flood;
   there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
   “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
   of the covenant between me and you
   and every living creature with you:
   I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
   of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
   and the bow appears in the clouds,
   I will recall the covenant I have made
   between me and you and all living beings,
   so that the waters shall never again become a flood
   to destroy all mortal beings.”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9

R. :

R. (cf 10) Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
   teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
   for you are God my savior.

R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
   and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
   because of your goodness, O LORD.

R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Good and upright is the LORD,
   thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
   and he teaches the humble his way.

R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Second Reading
1 Pt 3:18-22

The water of the flood prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter

Christ suffered for sins once,
   the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
   that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
   he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
   who had once been disobedient
   while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
   during the building of the ark,
   in which a few persons, eight in all,
   were saved through water.
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,
   who has gone into heaven
   and is at the right hand of God,
   with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Gospel Acclamation
M4 4: 4b

One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Mk 1:12-15

Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels ministered to him.

croce_vangelo.pngA reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
   and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
   and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
   Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
   “This is the time of fulfillment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

At the end of the Gospel, the Deacon, or the Priest, acclaims:

The Gospel of the Lord.

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