Pastoral Sharings: "First Sunday of Lent"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
First Sunday of Lent
Posted for February 22, 2015

This has got to be one of the shortest texts for a Gospel in 
the whole liturgical calendar. It is just four verses and 
only seventy words altogether.

Mark’s account of the Temptation in the Desert takes just 
two verses and is about as succinct as you can get. It is just the bare facts. The other Evangelists give much more detail describing the various temptations at length accompanied by complex dialogue between Jesus and the Devil.

But Mark has none of this; it is just the bare facts, as far as he is concerned Jesus was in the desert for forty days and was tempted by the Devil. He mentions also that he was with the wild animals and also was ministered to by angels and that is it –nothing more.

Like Matthew and Luke though, Mark is clear that it was the Spirit that took Jesus into the desert to be tempted. The words Mark uses are very strong. He says, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.” Matthew and Luke say that he was merely led by the Spirit.

The use of the word ‘drove’ is no accident; it reflects the great dynamism present in the Gospel of Mark who frequently has Jesus doing this or that ‘immediately’. His use of vocabulary means that there is a feeling of constant movement in this Gospel which is much shorter and therefore much more action-packed than the others.

The point here though is that God is in charge and it is he who is the catalyst behind the actions of Jesus. It is the Spirit of God that forces Jesus into the wilderness and so inaugurates his public ministry. Mark is not so concerned with the struggle between Jesus and the Devil as with the fact that he resisted temptation and then begins his ministry.

In the last couple of verses Jesus goes into Galilee and announces that, “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.”

I am sure I have told you this before but in Greek there are two words for time Chronos and Kairos. Chronos means time that passes; we use it in this sense when we say someone has a chronic illness, meaning that it is an illness going on for a long time. The word Kairos which Mark is using here means a favourable time or a decisive moment.

So when Jesus says that the time has come he means that the propitious moment has arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel to begin. He means that everything is now ready and that this is the time chosen by God for him to begin his ministry. It is at this appointed time that the Kingdom of God begins to break in to our world.

Mark certainly manages to pack a lot into a very few words: forty days in the wilderness, the temptation, wild beasts and angels, the arrest of John the Baptist, the journey into Galilee, the proclamation of the Gospel and the formal announcement that the time has come for God’s definitive intervention into our world.

We are left breathless and amazed that all this is packed in to just four short verses of the Gospel of Mark.

In the First Reading we are told about how after Noah and his family were saved by the Ark God made a covenant with him and gave the sign of the rainbow to act as a reminder of it. Then in the Second Reading St Peter recalls the Ark and tells us how those events so long ago are a foretaste of our Baptism.

What we need to understand from this sequence of scriptural readings is that God makes decisive interventions in our world. He sent the rain after forewarning Noah to build the Ark. His Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted and so launched his public ministry. And it is God too who decisively intervenes in our lives through Baptism making us members of his body and washing us free from original sin.

The message is clear, it is God who is in charge of the world and he makes his interventions in our world at moments of his own choosing when, according to him, the time is right; when the Kairos or the propitious moment has arrived.

We need to realise that God has not done this just a few times and then left us to it. No God is constantly intervening in our world. Of course, some of these interventions are more decisive than others and some of them might only concern us, though some are clearly much more significant than that.

We can easily think about God’s many interventions in our own lives: we can think of our birth into our particular family, our Baptism, the choice of school, job, partner in life, children and all sorts of things that many people might describe as coincidences but that we know are actually crucial parts of God’s plan for us.

God’s Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness but he is also constantly driving us. God is the unseen force behind all that happens to us as we go through our lives. We know that he respects our free will and he gives us the choice as to whether to cooperate with him or not; but, make no mistake about it, he is deeply involved in everything that happens to us, everything that goes on around us.

When Jesus announced that the time had arrived for the proclamation of the Gospel and invited us to repent and believe the Good News he was not suggesting that this moment had arrived and the next moment it would be gone.

No what Jesus was saying is that from then on would be the favourable time to repent and to believe. That special moment is not some fleeting thirty seconds that occurred two thousand years ago; no, that moment carries on until the very last day.

That favourable moment is now. There is no better time for repentance and accepting the Gospel than this moment now. Conversion is something that is always going to be a good thing and we should embrace it now, this very minute.

The Kingdom of God is truly very close at hand; it needs to be grasped by us now. We need to embrace it with all our hearts so that our lives are truly transformed and his salvation is made wonderfully present in our lives.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent, Year B—February 22, 2015
Today, we hear Jesus announce the familiar call of the Church during Lent: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

Gospel (Read Mk 1:12-15)

In one of the lectionary’s shortest Gospel readings, St. Mark describes the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Right after His baptism by John in the Jordan, “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and He remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” St. Mark, unlike the other evangelists, doesn’t give us details of the temptation. His focus is on the forty days and on Jesus’ contact with both fallen and ministering angels. Why is it important to know that this was a forty-day event?

First Sunday of Lent: The Weeping Jesus
The grave purple colors, the ashes and sticks, the lack of flowers, crosses everywhere, all remind us that this week we begin Lent. 

“Here we go, again,” we might think.  “No, not already,” we might protest.  Maybe we’ll look into our religious storeroom and cart out some of practices we’ve stored since last Spring.  Let’s see, “Oh yeah, I gave up………last year.  That worked.  Hmm, I also gave up alligator nuggets.  Not a whole lot of desire for those anyway.  Hmm, I made extra time for some spiritual reading, that was good.  I made a contribution to Catholic Relief Services.  That worked.” And so, we pull out of the closet well worn items to enter the season properly.

Jesus’ Ministry Begins: 9 things to know and share
This Sunday is the first Sunday of Lent, and we read about events that occurred at the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

Following his baptism, Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness—his own, personal equivalent of Lent.

It was a time of preparation for the beginning of his public preaching in Galilee.

Here are 9 things to know and share . . .

A Prophet’s Legacy
Have you ever been the excited recipient of an inheritance? If so, you may have received money, property or a treasured family heirloom. As a high school student I became one of the beneficiaries of my paternal grandfather’s inheritance. Knowing that I had intended to go on to a Teacher’s College, he had investigated the tuition for the four years, which came to a grand total of $600.00. Obviously that dates me! Gone are those days however!  But I was able to enter and complete college without any financial concerns, thanks to his departing gift to me. As welcome as these legacies are, more important, however,  would be the inherited treasures left by St. Elijah, prophet of the Old Testament and inspiration for the Order of Carmel.

Audience: Children, a gift for the family, the Church and society
(Vatican Radio)  Continuing his catechesis on the family this Wednesday Pope Francis spoke about the joy of children in family life and how the choice to have children is not irresponsible but vital for a healthy, happy society.

Below a Vatican Radio translation of the Holy Father’s Catechesis

Dear brothers and sisters,

Twelve Things to Remember If You Keep Falling Into the Same Sin
One of the things that gets people down the most when they are really trying to make spiritual progress is when they keep falling into the same sin over and over again.

We’re sorry. We think we’re not going to do it again.

Then we do.

We’re filled with guilt, regret and shame.

It’s easy to want to give up.

How did Saint Thérèse Conquer Satan and Attain Perfection?
There is a story from the Early Church Fathers that relates how a monk was slapped on the cheek by a young girl possessed by a demon. The monk in turn simply turned his other cheek in obedience to the Lord’s command. The demon could not take it and immediately left the girl. Those who witnessed what happened said, “The pride of demons must fall before humble obedience to the commandments of Jesus Christ.” (Manual for Spiritual Warfare, 181)

Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About St Peter
If you are involved in a discussion with an Evangelical Christian you can bet they will have John 3:16 memorized. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in his will not perish but have everlasting life.”

Sometimes Catholics are embarrassed that Evangelicals have that verse memorized, but I’ve found that almost all Catholics have our foundational verse memorized too. They just don’t know they do. So ask your typical Catholic to finish this verse: “You are Peter…” You bet they will say, “…and on this Rock I will build my church.” Most of them will go on to recite, “and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”

9 Things You Need to Know About Lent
This week the liturgical season of Lent begins.

Here are nine things you need to know about it . . .

1. What is Lent?

According to the Universal Norms for the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar [.pdf]:

27. Lent [is a liturgical season that] is ordered to preparing for the celebration of Easter, since the lenten liturgy prepares for celebration of the paschal mystery both catechumens, by the various stages of Christian initiation, and the faithful, who recall their own Baptism and do penance.

The 2015 Ultimate Lenten Resource Guide
Ideas for drawing closer to Christ these 40 days

Every year before Lent begins, I scour the Internet and books for inspiring resources and creative ideas, then prayerfully discern how I can go beyond a chocolate fast to make the most of the penitential season.

I’ve recently gathered some of my favorite Lenten tools for living out the 40 days in a spirit of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. You’re bound to find at least one that speaks to your heart and motivates you to draw closer to Christ and the mystery of his passion this Lent.

The Death of Shame
After selling over 100-million copies of the book, the overhyped-movie version of E.L. James’ 50 Shades of Grey was released on St. Valentine’s Day.  Variety reports that for its first weekend, the movie grossed $81.67M with a projected four-day total of $90.658M, placing it as the best Presidents Day weekend opening record of all time; only second behind the movie Passion of the Christ, which opened with $83.8M. (Isn’t that comparison rather satirical?)

Like the cultural transformation to successfully legalize birth control and abortion, who do we credit for the glorification of violence and abuse of women in a bestselling book and movie? Why women, of course!

The Good Fight: Battles of the Flesh
Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12).

It is heartbreaking to hear the countless stories of family wreckages due to sins of the flesh. It is tragic to see the wounds of young men and women who first experienced pornographic material and/or sexual abuse in their own homes. Horrific is the loss of innocence, the defilement of the human being, body and soul, created in the image of God who is the essence of purity.

How to Develop a (Nearly) Unbreakable Habit of Prayer
To conclude our series on prayer, let us dive into what everyone is waiting for: how can I make this new schedule of prayer stick? Many of us are familiar with “New Year’s Resolutions” or even “Lenten Resolutions,” whereby we promise that we will go to the Adoration chapel every day or even read the entire Bible cover to cover. Unfortunately those “resolutions” only last for about a week and we find ourselves right back where we started.

Fear of the Lord Part 1: Holy Fear
“The gifts of the Holy Ghost are seven in number: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord [Isaiah 11:2-3]…. The gifts proceed in orderly fashion and gradually ascend by degrees. From the fear of the Lord, the soul rises to the other gifts, one after the other, to arrive at the most lofty and excellent of all, which is the gift of wisdom. Fear of the Lord arouses and awakens in us a fear of God: not the servile fear which the Apostle calls the spirit os bondage [Romans 8:15], but a fear proper to the adopted sons of God. Such a fear enables the Christian to venerate his merciful father with filial reverence, striving conscientiously never to offend him in the slightest way nor to lose His grace and love. St. Augustine calls it a chaste fear which is born of Charity”

   Venerable Louis of Grenada, O.P., Summa of the Christian Life (II.3.5)

Ignorance of God: The Spirit Poverty of Our Age
We often think that ignorance is a lack of knowledge, education or social training. But if ignorance is not knowing, then not knowing God is the greatest human ignorance.

I want to address ignorance in the context of the human heart’s ignorance of God.  It is my opinion that this form ignorance is the primary crisis of the 21st Century.

Ten Things Every Catholic Should Know About Sola Scriptura
Do you know how to answer a non Catholic Christian who challenges you about the Bible?

Knowing how everybody loves lists, here are ten things every Catholic should know about Sola Scriptura:.

Some Wisdom from John of the Cross
Today at Holy Hour I read this passage in “The Living Flame of Love,” by St. John of the Cross:

He [The Holy Spirit] touches the soul not with His shadow only, for He unites Him self to it, feeling and tasting with it the form and attributes of God in the shadow of God: that is, feeling and tasting the property of divine power in the shadow of omnipotence: feeling and tasting the divine wisdom in the shadow of the divine wisdom: and finally, tasting the glory of God in the shadow of glory, which begets the knowledge and the taste of the property and form of the glory of God.”

An Atheist Haunted by God: My Conversion to Catholicism
One thing I could never get on the same page with my fellow atheists about was the idea of meaning. The other atheists I knew seemed to feel like life was full of purpose despite the fact that we’re all nothing more than chemical reactions. I could never get there. In fact, I thought that whole line of thinking was unscientific, and more than a little intellectually dishonest. If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it’s all destined to be extinguished at death.

Happily Ever After Has No Age Limit
When Carmelo Segona, 66, lost his wife, the future looked “black,” and the last thing on his mind was getting remarried.

But, over time, Segona, a devout Catholic and the father of three, began to open up to the idea of dating, even as he struggled to find compatible women who shared his faith.

“One day I listened to Father [Benedict] Groeschel talk about Ave Maria Singles, so I went on the site and was impressed with the faith life of the members,” Segona told the Register.

What It’s Really Like to Be Married to Jesus
I’m a nun.

Technically, I’m a religious Sister, because “nun” refers to cloistered contemplatives. But no matter. We answer to “nun,” too, because it’s in common parlance and rhymes with a lot of words… like “fun.

How to Defend Your Faith Without Being Defensive
It’s not easy to explain a Catholic lifestyle to friends or relatives who just don’t seem to “get it.” They see neither the appeal of your theology, nor the truth of it. Religion in general may have no credibility with them. Indeed, they may even be hostile to all religions, believing the old chestnut that religion is the cause of most of the violence and injustice in the world.

The Deadly Sin of Sloth: The Most Subtle of the Vices
It is tempting to disregard the sin of sloth or not take it as seriously as other deadly sins like wrath, gluttony, and lust.

The wrath of a furious man or woman—often compared to a raging fire—is visible and pronounced, and the effects of insults, quarrels, or revenge are immediate and graphic.

The gluttonous person also reveals the fault in a transparent way by intemperate eating and drinking that reveal themselves in outward forms like obesity and drunkenness. Lust too is not easily concealed, for adultery, out-of-wedlock children, and sexually transmitted diseases come to light as inevitable consequences.

Anchor for his soul: Lester Holt reflects on faith and journalism.
NEW YORK — For the longest time, Lester Holt would finish the Sunday edition of NBC’s “Today” show at 9 a.m., just when services began at the Manhattan Church of Christ. When the elders moved the start time to 9:30, no one was happier than Holt. “I don’t know if it was a personal favor to me, but it really has helped,” a chuckling Holt told The Christian Chronicle in an interview at the “Today” studios. “For a long time, I’d get off at 9, and then I’d have to bugaloo over there and get there about the third or fourth song before communion. “I was the guy kind of sneaking in. Now, I have a little more time.”

Do Christians Believe in Talking Snakes?
You know how the story goes: in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve have a conversation with the serpent.

Does this mean Christians believe in talking snakes? That’s the charge from certain atheists.

Catholics Fight Rising Tide of Suicide
WASHINGTON — “If I die tonight, would anyone cry?”

Amber Cornwell, 16, took her life shortly after leaving behind those final words on Facebook on Dec. 20. According to local media in North Carolina and a memorial Facebook profile, she was both beautiful and talented — and bullied at school. Sadly, she is one of the thousands of stories giving a face to the rising U.S. suicide epidemic, now at a 25-year high.

The Real History of the Crusades
Many historians had been trying for some time to set the record straight on the Crusades—misconceptions are all too common. For them, current interest is an opportunity to explain the Crusades while people are actually listening. With the possible exception of Umberto Eco, medieval scholars are not used to getting much media attention. We tend to be a quiet lot (except during the annual bacchanalia we call the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan, of all places), poring over musty chronicles and writing dull yet meticulous studies that few will read. Imagine, then, my surprise when within days of the September 11 attacks, the Middle Ages suddenly became relevant.

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