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First Sunday – Year B – Lent
Readings: Gen 9:8-15; 1 Pet 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15.
Reading 1 (Gen 9:8-15):
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.”
“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.”
Reading 2 (1 Pet 3:18-22):
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 (Mk 1:12-15):
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.”
Written by Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: The important role of the Good News in repentance and in salvation
Beginning of the Lenten season, the Words of God show us right away the key to happiness and the cause of our misery. This important point can be explained as follows: People sin because they, in general, don’t exactly know all results they must endure; if they know in advance, they shall not dare to do it. When they sin, they must endure all terrible results whether they know it or not. That is why we can say that our misery is the result of our ignorance of the truth. To solve our misery, we need to know the truth – all terrible results that can happen from our bad deed and all good results from our good deed. These are provided to us specially in Christ’s Gospel, and generally in the Scripture. Therefore, the Words of God must have the most important position in our daily life, above everything else, if we want to avoid our misery and to achieve happiness in this present and the next life.
Today readings show us the connections between sins and punishments, and between the Good News and the salvation. In the first reading, the author of Genesis showed us what happened to humankind before and after the Great Flood. God couldn’t endure people’s sins so He wiped out all of them, except Noah’s family and what were in the ark with his family. In the second reading, the author of the first Peter compared the Great Flood with Christ’s death. As the Great Flood wiped out all human sins and people, save Noah’s family; Christ’s death also wiped out all human sins and bring salvation to humankind. Christ’s event fulfilled God’s promise that He shall not destroy people as in the Great Flood. In the Gospel, Christ was brought into a desert to be tempted in 40 days; but he triumphed over all temptations because he knew his mission on earth. After that, he began his mission of preaching the Good News and bringing salvation to all people.
1/ Reading I: Noah’s family and all creatures with him on the ark were saved from the Great Flood.
1.1/ Human sins are the reality: The Book of Genesis, from chapters 2-11 reported in details all kinds of human sins. Firstly, our first ancestors, Adam and Eve, disobeyed God and ate the fruit which God prohibited them. As the result, they and all humandkind must endure terrible results from this sin: expulsion from the Eve garden, hard workings to earn a living, bodily pains, easily to commit sins because of ignorance and separation from God, etc. Secondly was the murder, Cain killed Abel, his young brother out of jealousy. He was angry because God didn’t pay attention to his offering. Cain must endure all terrible results from God. Thirdly, the sin of pride again, people wanted to build a tower so they could ascend to heaven to see God and to leave their name for future generations. As the result, God let them speak different languages so that they couldn’t communicate with each others. They must disperse in different areas of the earth. Lastly, all other sins were the results that led to the Great Flood. God saved Noah’s family because he was the only one who trusted in God and walked in the righteous way.
1.2/ God’s love for humankind is everlasting: Even in punishment, God’s love was still revealed in all cases. In the Great Flood, after seeing the terrible results, God made a covenant with Noah: “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you,and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark.I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
Human sins caused damages not only for themselves but also for all creatures: earth, plants, birds and fishes, animals and wilt beasts. When people were holy, all of them obey and live with people without causing damages for them. This showed in the Garden, the Noah’s ark and Isaiah’s prophecy of the Messiah’s age (Isa 11:6-9). That is why God’s promise with Noah included not only humankind but also all creatures: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations:I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds,I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” Many people see the rainbow is the image of Christ, in which God fulfills His promise.
2/ Reading II: God’s promise is fulfilled in Christ.
2.1/ Human beings continue to sin: From Noah to Christ, people continually sin; but God kept His promise with Noah, He shall not destroy them by another Great Flood. How can God endure people’s sins without punishing them? God had the plan of salvation through which God shall give His Only Son to die in people’s place. Christ incarnated to preach this Good New for people to know before he went through his passion, his death on the cross, and his glorious resurrection to wipe out people’s sins and to bring salvation for them.
2.2/ Christ was baptized in water and in blood to redeem people: The author of the First Peter and many Church Fathers made connections between the two events: the Great Flood and Christ’s life. We can illustrate some of their points as follows:
(1) In the Great Flood, whoever didn’t believe in God’s warning and stayed in the ark, were wiped away by the flood. In a similar way, whoever refused to believe in Christ will be endured a similar fate. The author of the First Peter confirmed: “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” (1 Pet 3:18).
(2) The Great Flood is the symbol of the Baptism: The water in both events wiped away human sins: “who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you” (1 Pet 3:20-21).
(3) The Baptism’s vows: Is Baptism’s water sufficient to bring salvation for people? Many sects believed so. This belief is wrong because before people are baptized, they are required to give up the devil and all of his allurement; and at the same time, to believe only in the Trinity and the Church. The author of the First Peter explained in details “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as 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” (1 Pet 3:21-22).
(4) Christ has power to save not only his contemporary and future generations, but also people of the past, included people were destroyed in the Great Flood. The author explained: “He went and preached to the spirits in prison,who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water.”
3/ Gospel: Christ begins the Messiah’s reign.
3.1/ Christ was tempted in the desert: Mark briefly reported this event before Jesus began his public ministry of announcing the Good New as follows: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered to him.”
“Herêmos” in Greek isn’t meant a desert, but a region of none or a few dwellers. The place of Jesus’ temptation, Quruntur, is a combination of stony mountains and deep abysses. If one visits this place today, one can see a rectory of the monks who built it up in the midst of this wild environment. This is a very adventurous idea. If a pilgrim stands in a mountain opposite with Quruntur, he must be in awe when he sees the rectory because he can’t imagine that people can build the rectory as boxes, stacked up on one another in the midst of a mountain. Those who live in that rectory can fall in the abysses below if they don’t pay attention. This scene itself tells pilgrims the danger of a temptation, people can be death if they fall into temptation. If one is lucky, he can walk through the rectory to the back door and then climb to the mountain top in 30 more minutes, he can see the whole view of Jerusalem and Jericho.
Mark’s report recalled the Eve Garden in which human beings lived with Satan, wild beasts and angels. When people didn’t fall into temptation, they could live with them without fear. Even in the midst of temptation, God’s angels were still present to help and to protect people. Mark didn’t report Jesus’ temptation in details as Matthew and Luke (Cf. Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13). What Mark wanted to highlight is the difference between Adam, who miserably felt, and Christ, the new Adam, who conquered all temptations.
3.2/ Christ announced the Good News: “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God,and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.””
The “fulfilled time” means the time which human beings must wait is ended. The Messiah’s reign began with Christ’s appearance; through him, all what God promises were fulfilled and completed. Jesus announced two important things:
(1) Repentance: Like John Baptist, Jesus required people to recognize their sins and to repent because people can’t receive God’s forgiveness if they don’t confess their sins. God’s grace requires human co-operation.
(2) Believing in the Good News: This is the difference between Jesus and John Baptist. What is meant when Mark said “to believe in the Good News?” There are many; but we can outline some of main things: Firstly, the Good New is Christ himself which are included all of his teachings and deeds. Secondly, all what God promises are achieved in Christ in God’s plan of salvation. Thirdly, God’s love is stronger then human sins. As a father, God doesn’t think any sin can take away His love for people, except the stubborn sin of unrepentance. Fourthly, Christ must endure all sufferings to preserve God’s justice. Lastly, Christ liberates people from sins and brings salvation to all.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– God’s love is powerful than all human sins. He is always ready to forgive. In order to be saved, people must learn about the Good News, believe in Christ, and be baptized.
– As Christ was tempted and triumphed, he can help us to conquer the devil’s temptations by his teachings. In the case of falling into temptation, we have the sacrament of Penance to confess our sins and to receive God’s forgiveness. The devil can’t do anything if we always repent and believe in the Good News. The only way he can win is when people are so lazy to learn Scripture; when people are ignorant of God’s truth, they become the devil’s slaves.
– Lent is the appropriate time for us to read Scripture and to believe in God’s love for us.