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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The First Sunday of Lent


The First Sunday of Lent

February 18, 2018
Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15

It is important for us to begin Lent knowing we do not enter the season alone. We can make all types of sacrifices, but unless we first consult the Lord, we may cleverly be doing religious actions by ourselves, and that is not the point of Lent. Lent is intended to bring us closer to the Lord and to accept a humble, penitential reordering of our life knowing that life is short and precious.

The whole point of today’s readings is to remind us that God is with us with every step we take. In Genesis, God tells Noah, “See. I am now establishing my covenant with you. I will set a sign in the sky as a covenant between me and every living creature. When the clouds cover the earth, and the bow appears in the sky, I will remember the covenant I made between me and all living beings.”

In the second reading, Peter tells us that Noah prefigured baptism in Christ, which is the gift that saves us. Through the waters of baptism, we are given new life and are led to God by Jesus is our advocate who sits at God’s right hand. Christ is bound to us and will never abandon us.

In Gospel, right after the baptism, which is the action that fortifies us spiritually, the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert and he remained there for forty days and was tempted by Satan. The Spirit never left him. The Spirit abided by Jesus, even as Satan was tempting him. Jesus does not go into the period alone. When the period of purification was over, Jesus announced to the world, “The time of fulfillment is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Good News.” In an even fuller way, Jesus proclaimed the Word of God with great confidence, and his earthly mission began in earnest.

We are wise if we remember that we do nothing on our own. From the most mundane activities to the most profound, we will find a sign that God is with us if we raise our eyes and minds. For many of us, the Eucharist is that sign, for whenever God sees the sign that we offer, God blesses it in the same covenant of Noah. God promises to be with us, and when we consume Jesus in the Sacrament, we know he is part of us.

We then need to keep mindful of this relationship. We are never far from God, but we might want to invite God deeper into our lives than we do. We have a readily available resource very near to us, but we just have to lift our heads and look for that sign. I often think that God must feel neglected when we decide to make religious acts without inviting God into the conversation. Life has to be much more meaningful and engaging when we decide to consult each other and do things as partners.

Lent is merely beginning. Let us use this opportunity to involve God in to the daily grind of our lives. God promises support. All we have to do is make a sign that we want to be remembered and God will come through for us. God always does. The one who has God discovers she or he lacks nothing. God alone suffices. When we realize this, we are truly ready for Lent.

Scripture for Daily Mass

First Reading:
Monday: (Leviticus 19) The Lord gives Moses ten commandments that he inscribes on stone tablets.
Tuesday: (Isaiah 55) God’s word will issue forth from his mouth and shall not return until it has fulfilled his will.
Wednesday: (Jonah 3) Jonah set out to Nineveh asking them to proclaim a fast and then repent. The king does repent and the Lord dropped his threat because they turned from evil.
Thursday: (Esther 3) Queen Esther appeals to God for help in converting the king’s heart for hatred of the enemy that threatens them.
Friday: (Ezekiel 18) If the wicked turns from sinfulness and keeps the Lord’s statutes, he will surely live. Likewise, if a virtuous man becomes wicked, he shall die.
Saturday: (Deuteronomy 26) Moses tells the people to observe the Lord’s statutes and decrees with their whole heart and soul. The Lord will stand by you.

Monday: (Matthew 25) Jesus tells his disciples about the last judgment when the goats and sheep will be separated. The measuring stick is the mercy shown to the most vulnerable.
Tuesday: (Matthew 6) The disciples ask Jesus to teach them to pray. He tells them not to pray like the pagans, who seek honor and glory, and then gives them the Lord’s prayer.
Wednesday: (Luke 11) Jesus chastises the crowd that seeks a sign, but none will be given to them. Because of Jonah’s preaching, the king and people repented.
Thursday: (Matthew 7) Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened. The Father is generous, especially to those who love him.
Friday: (Matthew 5) Your righteousness must surpass the levels of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Show righteousness by quickly settling disputes.
Saturday: (Matthew 5) Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Heavenly Father. Be perfect as the Father is perfect.

Saints of the Week

February 21: Peter Damian, bishop and Doctor (1007-1072), was orphaned and raised by his brother, Damian, a priest in Ravenna. He began as a hermit monk and was then made abbot and cardinal. He became a reformer in the church often speaking out against clerical laxness.

February 22: The Chair of Peter is celebrated on this day. Previously, both Peter and Paul were remembered until their feast was transferred to June 29th. As the custom was ingrained in practice, Christians continued to honor the contributions Peter made to the church as the first of the apostles in continuous succession.

February 23: Polycarp, bishop and martyr (69-155), was made bishop of Smyrna and was the leader of the second generation Christians. He was a disciple of the apostle John and a friend of Ignatius of Antioch. He wrote catechesis and rites for initiation into the Christian community. He was martyred in 155 and is a Father of the early church.

This Week in Jesuit History

·       Feb 18, 1595. St Robert Southwell, after two and a half years imprisonment in the tower, was removed to Newgate and there thrust into a dungeon known as "Limbo."
·       Feb 19, 1581. The election of Fr. Claude Acquaviva as fifth general in the Fourth General Congregation. He was only 37 years of age and a Jesuit for only 14 years. He was general under eight popes. He had been a fellow novice with St Stanislaus.
·       Feb 20, 1860. Pope Pius IX visits the rooms of St Ignatius.
·       Feb 21, 1595. At Tyburn, the martyrdom of Robert Southwell after he had suffered brutal tortures in Topcliffe's house and in prison. He embraced the jailer who brought him word that he was to be executed. As he breathed his last, Lord Mountjoy, who presided over the execution, exclaimed: "May my soul be one day with that of this man."
·       Feb 22, 1599. By order of Pope Clement VIII, the superiors general of the Jesuits and the Dominicans, assisted by others, met to settle, if possible, the controversies about grace. Nothing came of the meeting, since the Dominicans insisted on the condemnation of the writings of Fr. Molina.
·       Feb 23, 1551. The Roman College, the major school of the Society later to become the Gregorian University, began its first scholastic year with 15 teachers and 60 students.
·       Feb 24, 1637. The death of Francis Pavone. Inflamed by his words and holy example, sixty members of a class of philosophy that he taught and the entire class of poetry embraced the religious state.

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