Lent 1 Sunday B - Repent and Believe


1) We reflect today on the deserts to which people have been driven away: psychological, sociological, political and economic deserts:
-by ISIS and Al Qaida creating homeless and stateless refugees
-asylum seekers, job seekers
-divorces, unwed mothers and their children
-gambling and alcoholism
-terminal illness and elderly people
-stock markets, greed and fraud
-abandoned children, reckless teenagers

2) Living among wild beasts:
-hostile environment
-in-laws
-foreign govts. and religious fanatics
-slave traders and harsh employees of domestic helps and daily wage earners

3) However, believing in God's presence and assistance through angels comforting and consoling:
-through Mother Teresa's, Satyarthi's
-NGO's and social workers
-Priests and sisters, Brothers

4) We are simply asked to repent and believe in the Gospel:
- our deserts are a good place or a good opportunity to reflect on our life. It shouldn't be taken as a punishment, but rather as a moment of purification (Indians call it an agnipariksha - test by fire); a time to take stock of our life; a retreat; no other distractions - TV, friends, work - to focus on life's core issues.
- Repent: be sorry for our sins and he will purify and strengthen us
-we need this period (if even Jesus needed it) to pause and look at our life
-our belief is he will remove these current advertise and turn our lives into a joyful celebration. He will come for the one sheep that had strayed away, look for the coin that was lost and wait for that son who had gone away.
--Tony Kayala, c.s.c.






Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
At the beginning of Lent we hear the call that introduces the message of Jesus: ‘Repent and believe in the Good News.’ This next few weeks will be a time of refreshment, a time of repentance that prepares us for Easter when we will renew our commitment to believing in the Good News of God’s love. So now, let us pause and take heed that we are entering Lent and ask ourselves whether we are open to be really changed as people over the next few weeks.

1. From the Connections: 

Check you pacifiers at the door

Every parent owes a special debt of gratitude to whomever it was who invented the pacifier.  That little round piece of soft plastic has saved the sanity of just about every parent who ever changed a diaper:  whenever the baby cries and everything seems to be fine, just place the pacifier in the baby's mouth.  Instant contentment!
While we outgrow our cribs and playpens, we never seem to outgrow our need for some kind of pacifier.  Whenever we start feeling empty inside, whenever we are disappointed or dissatisfied with the way things are turning out, whenever we sense something missing in our lives, we stick our pacifier in our mouths and suck on it for all we’re worth.  Our pacifier may be eating, shopping, working, blaming, or taking care of other people -- our pacifier somehow gives us at least momentary peace in the absence of love, hope, justice and mercy in our lives.  Whatever our pacifier, while it does not nourish us, at least it plugs the hole we are feeling.
To enter the Lenten wilderness to encounter God requires that we leave our pacifiers behind.  Nothing is too small to give up -- whether a chocolate bar or a few hours of overtime -- whatever we use to fill the place in our lives that should be God’s.  Christ invites to join him in his desert experience in the depths of our hearts, to that special place within us that belongs to God alone.  Nothing on earth can fill that place, despite our best efforts to try.  Let this Lent be the time we finally grow up and put aside our pacifiers -- whatever little fixations and wants we use to fill the place in our hearts and spirits where God alone dwells.  

[Suggested in “Settling for less” by Barbara Brown Taylor, The Christian Century, February 18, 1998.] 

THE WORD:

The Lenten season begins in the wilderness.  Mark’s brief account of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness takes place immediately after Jesus’ baptism.  “Driven by the Spirit,” Jesus' going to the desert is an act of obedience to the Father.  This is a time for contemplation and discernment regarding the tremendous task before him.

The word Satan comes from the Hebrew word for adversary.  Satan serves as the adversary of God, advocating those values that contradict and oppose the love and mercy of God.  Mark's portrait of Jesus in the desert is one of a Messiah coming to terms with the paradox of the human condition.

Jesus begins his ministry in Galilee proclaiming “fulfillment” – God’s long-awaited promised Messiah has come. 

HOMILY POINTS:

These 40 days of Lent are the Spirit’s call to us to a “desert experience,” to be alone with God, to dare to wonder if our lives are all they could and should be. 

Lent calls us away from business as usual (the real motivation behind giving up one's favorite confection or past time) to decide, in the depths of our hearts where God speaks to each one of us, what it means to be a person of faith, what values we want our lives to stand for, what path we want our lives to take on our journey to God and Easter resurrection.

As Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness to discern what God was calling him to do with the next part of his life, Spirit calls us to our own “wilderness experience” to confront the hard choices we must make in our lives – choices between the values of God and the far lesser things of the world that can isolate us, hurt others and diminish God’s creation. 
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2. Catholic Ireland
 




Michel DeVerteuil 
General Comments
St Mark’s account of the temptation in the wilderness is very short, just two verses. The Church has added two later ones and these give us the option of meditating on a second moment in the life of Jesus – the beginning of his public ministry.
We look first at the two central verses (12 and 13) which belong to the original tempting of Jesus in the wilderness.
Jesus going into desert
The Bible tells us first that it was “the Spirit” who “drove Jesus into the wilderness”. Jesus was not there because of some minor instruments like the circumstances in which he found himself. Far less was it the work of a spirit that we might label as “false”; it was “the true Spirit” who drove Jesus into the wilderness. God himself was in charge of what was happening to Jesus; it was clearly a force which was there to bring him the greatest good he could hope for.
The text also tells us that the Spirit made this move “immediately”, that is right after what went before. What had happened before was God’s Spirit coming on Jesus in a movement of renewal. God appeared to him where he stood at the banks of the Jordan, shortly before he moved to take on his work by going to Capernaum and starting his ministry there.
The moment of being tested therefore happened “immediately” after  the moment of purity. It was a realistic movement, a healthy opposition to the coming of the Spirit. It reminded Jesus that his way to the glory of the Resurrection was through the Cross, in which he would be manifestly one with all the suffering members of humanity.
The expression “with the wild beasts” is very important. It was truly a terrible situation. The Bible text often refers to God’s “testing” or “tempting” his son; in this case the “son” was Jesus himself. God’s intention then was that this staying with the wild beasts should be helpful to Jesus as a human being.
Jesus praying i desert
Psalm 22:12-13 and 15-16 are important texts in explaining the meaning of “he remained there for forty days”. They speak of Jesus being purified through a difficult ordeal.  They explain the test given to the just man when he feels himself under the influence of evil in all its many forms – like a person under the influence of dogs, lions or oxen.
It was a time of honesty and stability for him therefore; a time for him to be close to God. Satan gave Jesus a good shaking up. It was like God allowing Satan to “test” Job in the Old Testament (see Job 1 and 2). As “God tests gold in the furnace” so does he test the just man (note the text of Wisdom 3:6). God was keeping a watchful eye on Jesus making sure that no harm came to him. It was all for his good.
Deutoronomy 8:2-4 conveys the same meaning when it says, “He made you feel hunger, he fed you with manna which neither you nor your fathers had known, to make you understand that man does not live on bread alone, but that man lives on everything that comes from the mouth of the Lord. The clothes on your back did not wear out, and your feet were not swollen, all those forty years”. Similarly the book of Nehemiah (9: 21) says, “Forty years you cared for them in the wilderness; they went short of nothing, their clothes did not wear out, their feet were not swollen.”
These verses are in our minds as we read them in other accounts of the temptation. They appear in the texts of Matthew and Luke; here they are more in our subconscious.

Textual comments
Verses 14 and 15 speak of a moment when God comes into the life of an individual or a community. St Mark notes that at such moments people experience several things.
desert experience
A long-awaited moment has arrived. God’s truth makes a new apperance. Things we did not think possible now seem reasonable. We thought that things would always be as they were before. Now we see new things as a real possibility for us.
– Spiritual growth seems a real possibility for us. God reveals himself to us in a new way. We had thought that we could feel no different. Now we know that our lives have taken on a new way.
– We feel we can trust this new orientation which God has now given to our lives.

Prayer Reflection
Lord, we pray today for all those whom your Spirit
has driven out into the wilderness:
– who have been betrayed by a loved one;
– who have lost their job with no hope of getting another;
 – who find themselves in prison;
– who have just learnt that they are terminally ill.
The days seem long to them, they feel battered by demons,
surrounded by wild beasts.
Lord, send them your angels to look after them.
Lord, we embark on projects easily and confidently:
– a new relationship;
– a leadership role in our community;
– a new movement, a political party.
But the good feeling does not last.
Your spirit must drive us out into the wilderness
and we must remain there forty long days,
tempted by Satan and surrounded by wild beasts
while angels look after us.
Only then are we fit to commit ourselves.
Lord, during the course of the year
we turn our eyes to many ugly things about ourselves:
– our meanness and envy;
– the hurts we have not forgiven;
– the desire to take revenge.
lent renewal
During this Lent, let your Spirit drive us into the wilderness
and keep us there for forty days,
where we will face up to the demons within us
and the wild beasts tearing at us,
knowing all the time that your angels are looking after us.
Lord, we thank you in the name of all those
for whom this Lent will be a season of grace,
when Jesus will come into their lives.
They will know that the moment they were running away from
has finally come,
a life of holiness will seem within their grasp,
they will turn away from their sin
and give themselves trustingly to the new vision you have        brought them to.
lent forgivenessLord, we thank you for those who continue to work for reconciliation
where there is hatred and violence:
– in Israel/Palestine, the land of Jesus;
– between Iraq and the US;
– in Sri Lanka, Northern Ireland;
– in work places where workers and employers have no trust;
–  where racism divides people.
They are Jesus going into Galilee after John has been arrested, proclaiming
– that it is a moment not of despair but of grace;
– that love and harmony are real options;
– that people can put their trust in the victory of good over evil.
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repent and believe
HOMILY NOTES
1. It is sobering to note that most of those who train people in communications or teaching techniques regard the standard format of the homily / sermon as the least useful way to teach. They usually give these reasons: (1) people have a felt expectation that the sermon is going to be’boring’ or of little value; (2) the group are passive listeners; (3) the structure of the ritual allows little variation; (4) there is often a culture gap between the preacher and the majority of the congregation; (5) you have only, usually, your voice without other props or communications tools to convey your message; (6) there is such a wide range of people and expectations that inevitably some will believe that you are irrelevant, ‘over their heads’ or, conversely, patronising; and (7) the time allowed is neither short enough for a’quick thought for the day’ (which inevitably then is lost amid the other words of the Liturgy of the Word) nor long enough to produce a succinct piece of teaching. We have inherited the format of the homily at the Eucharist from a different communications culture and from the age before print, and so we are stuck with it; we would never invent it or anything like it today.
What is Lent 12. It can, therefore, be valuable on occasion to break with the homily format altogether and embark on a completely different communications strategy. The brevity and directness of today’s gospel make it a good day to try out this method (common in almost every other face-to-face communication environment today) whose aim is to awaken people to the importance they attach to a particular topic in their lives. Ask each person to turn to someone near them, preferably not someone they are related to, and express to that person (1) what Lent means to them, and (2) what Jesus’s opening call means to them. Tell them that after five minutes you will ring the sanctuary bell to end the discussion.
3. This method will shock some, embarrass others, and infuriate those who imagine Christian faith as simply down-loading ‘facts’ from a professional, or imagine liturgy as a purely private affair where they can ignore others in the assembly in the same way we ignore people with whom we have to share a bus. However, it should make many aware that it is only by thinking and talking about most aspects of life that we begin to understand and see what must be done. This activity of sharing may make more learning and understanding take place than any amount of preaching by a preacher.
What is Lent 24. Conclude by acknowledging that it may have been difficult, while reminding everyone that they are the people chosen to proclaim Christ’s call to repent and believe, and that it is a task for life and not just five minutes. But make sure that your closing tatement takes no more than a minute or you will be giving, in effect a minor homily.
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Sean GoanGospel Notes
Mark 1:12-15
Jesus and devil
The gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is always the story of the temptation in the wilderness, and in Mark the account is particularly brief. That said, it is remarkable what the evangelist can pack into just three verses. In the scene just prior to this, Jesus has heard the voice of God telling him that he is the beloved son and in the strength of this affirmation we now see Jesus ‘driven’ out into the wilderness. One of the characteristics of Mark is a sense of urgency throughout the narrative. Things move quickly as the mystery of the kingdom present in the person of Jesus unfolds. We are told that in the wilderness for forty days Jesus was tempted but we are not told how. However, the language echoes the Old Testament story of the chosen people and their desert experience of testing. Jesus in his life, death and resurrection confronts and is victorious over the power of evil. After his testing he returns and begins his ministry with one simple appeal:
‘Repent and believe the good news.’ This appeal sets the tone for our observance of Lent as we make ourselves available to God through our mini desert experience.

Reflection
The challenge that is put to us not just this week but every time we gather is to believe the good news. We are not being told to perform heroic deeds of self-sacrifice or to overcome and master our sinfulness; no, we are being challenged to really hear and believe that through baptism we have become children of God and that God says to each of us: ‘You are my beloved.’ danger
It is hard to really accept this and there are many voices that try to convince us that it is not the truth. So Lent is a wonderful opportunity to rediscover our worth and the wonder of coming to life in Christ. The readings today challenge us not to focus on storm clouds but to see in the rainbow the beautiful faithfulness of God. Let that be the focus of all we undertake during this season of repentance.

3. Fr. Jude Botelho:

The first reading from Genesis reminds us that Noah alone was spared during the flood. God made a promise, a covenant that man would not be destroyed by the floodwaters and the sign of his covenant was the rainbow. God is faithful to his promise and each time we see a rainbow, it should remind us of a God who is faithful to His promise. All kinds of situations test us and there are times we may falter and fail, we may be unfaithful to God, but God will not destroy us, He is faithful to his promise, He will save us.

Is Jesus Knocking?
A paediatrician would plug his stethoscope into his little patient’s ears to let them listen to their own heartbeats. Their eyes would always light up in awe. He was taken aback one day when he placed the disk over little Sylvia’s heart. “Listen” said the doctor. “What do you suppose that is?” Sylvia listened carefully to the tap-tap- tapping in her chest and cried, “Is that Jesus knocking?” During Lent Jesus is knocking at my heart so that I might love like him and allow my heart to be pierced like His.  True, rendering, repenting and re-turning must come from my heart. Only then will I understand the reassurance of rainbows and the welcoming warmth of spring –in my heart.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

The Gospel reminded us that the spirit led Jesus to be tempted and he was in the desert amidst wild beasts but at the same time angels were ministering unto him. All through our life we are tempted and that in itself is not a bad thing. It is how we deal with temptations that really matters. We are tempted to compromise on values, to go by the popular majority, to do the easy or more convenient thing rather than what is right and proper. While we may be surrounded by evil forces we are also supported by God’s help. The wild beasts and the angels will always be there in the desert experience. We too have to go through periodic training periods of discipline and testing called Lent.  We too have to be ready to do battle with Satan and evil in this world. We consider it criminal if a soldier is sent to war without basic training, or to send a doctor into an operating theatre without adequate schooling and internship. Yet we casually assume that we can fight evil in us and around us without taking Lent seriously.

Vision Quest
A young man in his mid-twenties works with the youth of his parish. But that was not always his goal or ambition. He had been frittering away his life, he said, living only for the present. A few years ago he accepted an invitation to join a group of people going to the Virginia Mountains to make a "Vision quest." After a couple days of training in survival tactics and the discipline of spiritual exercise, the participants were sent out individually to spend four days by themselves in the mountainous wilderness. The young man shared some of the events of those days with a group of people gathered to reflect on today's Gospel. First, he said, there was the extraordinary quiet and a lack of the usual distractions; no TV, radio, computers, video games, phones, and the devices that have become part of our daily hectic lives. It was, he said, so quiet. He began to hear sounds he might ordinarily have missed: the breeze, songs of distant birds, his footsteps, insects and his own breathing. He also began to hear his inner voice. Questions were being put to him about his life. He found that being in the wilderness was a chance to do some serious thinking for the first time in his adult years. A couple things he saw in nature got him thinking. One day he came across a dead horse rotting in a field and a few moments later he saw a fragile new-born doe. These contrasting sights stirred questions in him about his basic life assumptions. He realized, when he reflected on the sight of the dead horse, that he had been investing his life in passing realities. The doe reminded him how fragile life is, especially young life. He decided during those four days, to turn his life around and dedicate himself to ministering to youth. He would quit his job; accept a lower paying position to be a youth minister in his parish. We asked if he had found being alone in the wilderness dangerous. "No," he said, "All the while I felt as if the wilderness were sustaining me." Maybe that's what it means when it says today that angels ministered to Jesus in the desert. We may not be able to go off to the mountains, but we could decide to set some extra time aside to pray and listen.
Anonymous

Radical Solutions!
There is a story of a man who had an apple tree in his garden. He loved apples and believed he could not live without them. However, while the tree never failed to supply him with apples, apples which tasted good, there was something definitely lacking in their quality. One thing was missing – there was no nourishment in them. He consulted a friend who was an expert on apple trees. The expert looked at the tree and pointed out some obvious deficiencies in it. It needed to be sprayed for its branches were encrusted with moss, the branches needed pruning. It could do with having the earth around it dug up and fertilized. The man listened and acted on the expert’s advice. Yet the following autumn the apples, though slightly more plentiful were no more nourishing. The quality remained unchanged. The man was disappointed and once more consulted the expert. “What more can I do?” he asked. “You are wasting your time.” The expert answered. “What do you mean?” “Obviously the only thing to do is to cut the tree down and plant a new one in its place.” “But what will I do in the meantime for apples?” “You will have to do without them, won’t you?” came the answer. The question is: was the man ready for a radical decision, in order to have new and wholesome fruit?

An Officer and a Gentleman
In the movie An Officer and a Gentleman, we are taken inside a boot camp where candidates are trained to be flight officers. In the film Richard Gere intent on being a flight officer endures every test and challenge his tough drill sergeant throws at him. In the end Richard emerges from the training grounds a changed man.  Upon entering the boot camp he was very selfish, but in camp he learned how to reach out and help his classmates, he felt real pain when his friend committed suicide, and he proved himself to be a true gentleman by marrying his girlfriend. –Today we begin Lent, a spiritual boot camp in a sense.
Albert Cylwicki in ‘His Word Resounds’

Reform and Believe
Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called ‘the thin kid.’ So he waited. After he thought ‘the thin kid’ was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: “I told God what was in my heart… I talked to him plain…I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments… I felt like I could even cry….” After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said “Amen.” It was ‘the thin kid. The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. “Good night, Chico,” he said. “I’m thinking that God is always with us –it’s just that we aren’t with him.” –This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, “Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!”
Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’

I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get!
One day Frederick William I, visited a prison at Postdam and listened to a number of pleas for pardon from prisoners who had grievances against the law’s injustice. All said they had suffered imprisonment on account of prejudiced judges, perjured witnesses, and unscrupulous lawyers. From cell to cell the tale of wronged innocence continued, until the King stopped at the door of one cell inhabited by a surly inmate who said nothing. Surprised at his silence Frederick said jocularly, “Well I suppose you are innocent too.”  “No, your Majesty”, was the startling response; “I am guilty and richly deserve all that I get.” On hearing this, the King shouted at the jail authorities and asked them to set the prisoner free. The prisoner who admitted his guilt showed certain potential for improvement. The others were not likely to change.
Francis Xavier in ‘Inspiring Stories for Successful Living’


Temptations
A husband was struggling to make ends meet at home on one salary. Then one day he had to confront his wife with a receipt for a $ 250.00 dress she had bought. “How could you do this?” I was outside the store looking at the dress in the window, and then I found myself trying it on, “she explained. “It was like Satan whispering in my ear, “You look fabulous in that dress. Buy it!” “Well,” the husband replied, “You know how I deal with that kind of temptation. I say, “Get behind me Satan!” His wife replied, “I did that, but then he said, “It look fabulous from the back too!”
J. Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’

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4. ACP:

Children Of The Desert

Some years ago on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with a group of others to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We visited Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem; climbed the Mount of the Beatitudes and swam in the Sea of Galilee and even in the Dead Sea (not a pleasant experience!). We walked from Jerusalem to Jericho, looked into Jacob’s Well, stood on the place in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine and even knelt at the place where he was crucified. Everywhere we went, we took our gospel with us and read the appropriate passage. It was a moving experience all the way. But the strongest impression I have retained is that of the desert where Christ spent forty days before starting his public life. During our pilgrimage, we spent a day and a night in the desert.

It is not surprising that the three great world religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, were all born in the desert. It was through the desert that Moses led the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. It was from that desert that John the Baptist came to herald the Messiah and soon after Jesus followed to proclaim himself Messiah. After my visit there, I came to realise the significance of the desert. The desert is a purgatory man must pass through to reach paradise. What is impressive about the desert is its sheer aridness. There is no vegetation, no bird life and, apart from the odd tiny lizard, almost no animals.

The silence is almost total. In that bleak landscape, nothing comes between man and his God. One either discovers God or succumbs to despair. It is no wonder that those Bedouins who ply the salt trade following their caravans across the desert are deeply religious. No life thrives here except the inner life. It is not surprising that it was the Desert Fathers who created that great institution dedicated to fostering the inner life, Western monasticism. It has so profoundly marked Christianity that we are all now, in a sense, children of the desert.

Living now as many of us do, in built-up areas, piled high on top of each other in high-rise apartments, bombarded day and night with the roar of city traffic and the blare of electronic music, we are in danger of losing our desert roots. And with that our inner life. We need to create a time and a space to nurture our spiritual lives. Lent is such a time. The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert and he remained there for forty days. Like Jesus, we should let the Holy Spirit lead us out into the desert this Lent where we can confront the devils that haunt our lives, and like him too, triumph over them. That is the freedom, dignity, and gift that is offered in today’s gospel. 

Shun not the Struggle

A reflective way of looking at life is to see it as a struggle between sin and grace, selfishness and holiness. Our time on earth will be successful in the measure that we put aside sin and try to live by the grace of God. Today’s Scriptures show two contrasting reactions to temptation. The first humans, Adam and Eve, are imagined as preferring their own inclinations to the will of God. Jesus, the Saviour, on the contrary resisted temptation, remaining faithful to what God the Father required of him. St Paul reflects on how these choices affect ourselves: Adam’s sin brought trouble on all, but we are saved and offered new life because of the fidelity of Christ.

An old priest who was blind for many years before his death, liked to urge his penitents to renew their efforts with these inspirational lines:

“We are not here to play,
to dream, to drift. We have good work to do,
and loads to lift. Shun not the struggle.
Face it. ‘Tis God’s gift.”

Temptation in one form or another is an unavoidable part of life. If we honestly examine our daily experience, we can find many aspects of temptation: impulses or tendencies counter to the right way of doing things. To rationalise away these temptations, so that they become socially acceptable and politically correct–is itself an insidious temptation. We want to dictate for ourselves what is right and wrong, to draw for ourselves the boundaries of “acceptable” behaviour, unencumbered by any notional commandments of God. This is rather like Adam demanding to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Our real growth to Christian maturity comes by acknowledging and accepting the vocation of struggling against temptation, to achieve the kind of behaviour and attitudes Jesus expects. We must submit our behaviour to his gospel. Christ and Adam show the two opposite reactions in face of temptation: Adam, archetype of sinful, evasive, self-seeking humanity, finds plausible reasons to yield to it, and rebels against God’s will. Jesus, archetype of the new God-seeking man, resists temptation even repeatedly. It can only be conquered by this blend of patience and loyalty, supported by trust that what God requires of us is what is best for us.

5. Fr. Munachi

There is a story about a small boy who had the habit of coming home late from school. One day his parents warned him to be home on time, but he still came back late as usual. So they decided to teach him a lesson. At dinner that night, the boy was served only a slice of bread and a glass of water while his father had a full plate of food before him. The poor boy looked with hungry eyes at his father’s full plate and with pleading eyes at his father. The father waited for the full impact to sink in, then quietly took the boy’s plate and placed it in front of himself. He took his own plate of meat and potatoes, put it in front of the boy, and smiled at his son. When that boy grew to be a man, he said, “All my life I’ve known what God is like by what my father did that night.” What his father did was take on himself the punishment and suffering that rightly belonged to his son. This is called atonement or substitutive suffering. That is what Christ did for us. And that is what the Church invites us all to do in the period of Lent.

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6. Fr. Tony Kadavil:

Anecdotes  1) “Baptize the entire Ford Motor Plant!” Henry Ford: You might have heard the story of the machinist who worked years ago at the original Ford Motor Company plant in Detroit, Michigan. Over a period of years he had “borrowed” from the factory various car parts and tools which he hadn’t bothered to return. While the management never condoned this practice, nothing was ever done about it. In time, however the “forgetful” machinist experienced a Christian conversion and was baptized. More importantly, the man took his baptism seriously and became a devout believer. The very morning after his baptism, the machinist arrived at work with his pickup truck loaded with all the parts and tools he had taken from the Ford Company over the years. He went to his foreman and explained that he never really meant to steal them and asked to be forgiven. The foreman was so astonished and impressed by this act that he cabled Henry Ford himself, contacting the auto magnate while he was away visiting a European Ford plant. In his telegram the foreman described the entire event in great detail. Ford immediately cabled back this striking two-line response: “Dam up the Detroit River. Baptize the entire Plant!” Our readings for this First Sunday in Lent focus on the effect our baptism should have on our lives, especially during the Lenten season.

 2) Danger of raising a tiger and an alligator as pets: Antoine Yates lived in New York City in a multistoried apartment. For some inexplicable reason he brought home a two month-old tiger cub and later a young alligator. It’s not clear where he found them and how he reared them. But they were with him for two years — in his apartment. What had been a little tiger cub became a 500 pound Bengal tiger, and the little alligator a frightening monster. The police got a distress call from Yates about a “dog” bite and when they got to the 19-story public housing apartment building, they discovered Yates in the lobby with injuries to his right arm and leg. Someone alerted the police to the possibility a “wild animal” in his apartment. A fourth-floor resident informed them that urine had seeped through her ceiling from Yates’ apartment. The police officer peered through a hole drilled into the wall of Yates’ apartment and saw the huge cat prowling around in the room. To make a long story short, it took a contingent of officers at the door, and the use of a dart gun by a veterinary doctor to bring the tiger under control. When finally they entered the apartment, they found the big cat lying unconscious atop some newspapers. A big alligator was nearby guarding his unconscious friend. Both animals were trapped and relocated to shelters. His own wild pets tried to kill Yates. That is what happens to those who habitually entertain temptations in the form of evil thoughts and desires.

 Introduction

The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to “repentance,” a type of conversion. Repentance leads us to reorder our priorities and change our values, ideals and ambitions, with the help of fasting, prayer and mortification. Hence, the Church ordains fasting and abstaining on assigned days of Lent. All Lenten observances are also intended to lead us to our annual solemn renewal of baptismal vows on Holy Saturday. Through baptism we are called to live justly, to love God with all our being, to love our neighbor as ourselves, and to build the kingdom of God by our acts of charity. That is why the three readings chosen for today refer to baptism directly or indirectly. The first reading describes how Noah’s family was saved from the waters of the deluge by God’s special providence and how God made His first ‘friendship covenant’ with mankind. Noah’s rescue from the flood symbolizes how we are saved through the water of baptism which cleanses us of sin and makes us one with Christ. Today's psalm is an exquisite penitential prayer, humbly acknowledging human insufficiency and our radical dependence upon God and His mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist lists some of the characteristics of the life resulting from this repentance: truth, compassion, love, kindness, goodness, uprightness, humility and justice. In the second reading Peter shows us how Noah’s episode prefigured baptism. In the gospel, we are told how Jesus, immediately after His baptism, faced and defeated the tempter, prepared by His forty days of prayer and penance in the desert.

 First reading, Genesis 9:8-15 

According to the biblical story, God’s covenant with Noah after the Deluge was the first covenant made by God with mankind after the fall of Adam and Eve. This covenant declared that God is in a providential relationship with all of natural creation, and will be so down through the ages. The story of the great Deluge in the book of Genesis was also intended to remind people of their present covenant with the Lord and to reinforce their commitment to it. It tells us how man irrevocably broke the original covenant God had made with Adam and Eve and how the merciful God found Noah and his family with whom to renew the covenant. The covenant with Noah was very simple. It consisted mainly of God’s promise to care for the earth and not to destroy it again by a flood. Through the sign of the covenant, the rainbow, God promised Noah that he would love and care for Noah’s descendants and for the earth that they would inhabit. The rainbow often gives the impression of linking heaven and earth, the effect of the first covenant. The sign of the rainbow may help us to understand better the pivotal place of Jesus in salvation history. Like the rainbow, he is the link between God and humankind, between heaven and earth. The story of Noah’s being saved from the waters became a negative symbol of Baptism. Through Baptism we become incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, the living Christian community. Through our life in and with our Christian community in our parish, we learn how to live out our commitment to Jesus. We get support in living that life from the community of which we are a part. We learn to grow into a people who are whole and complete, in union and harmony with our God, with others and with ourselves. And that is salvation. It begins here and now and Lent is the time for us to strengthen and renew that process in our own lives.  

Second Reading, 1 Peter 3:18-22: 

Lent is the beginning of the season that culminates in our solemn remembering of Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection ("Christ died for sins,"), and in the joyful baptism and/or confirmation of new members. Lent is, thus, the season of self-examination. All three elements are packed into this second reading from the letter of Peter. This letter was addressed to the persecuted Christians and was intended to bolster their faith. The author reminded his readers of their place in the larger history of God's providence, in order to help them see their present sufferings in a larger context. St. Peter reminded his readers that an outward sign of the Covenant God made with his people through Jesus was baptism. Baptism not only removes Original Sin but is also our birth into Christ, the way we become adopted children of God, heirs of heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter pointed out that the waters of baptism were an antitype of the waters of the flood. The floodwaters destroyed almost all the people except Noah's family. The waters of Baptism, on the other hand, are the cleansing agent that saves all. Using already traditional formulas of faith, Peter affirmed that in the paschal mystery Jesus had made possible for all humankind a right relationship with God (justification) and life in the Holy Spirit (sanctification). The odd picture of Christ going "to preach to the spirits in prison" ("He descended into hell," in the Apostles’ creed), probably refers to the risen Christ making known to imprisoned souls his victory over sin and death. (The New American Bible-1970 edition).

 Exegesis

The context

 All the synoptic gospels agree that Jesus experienced a period of temptation. Hebrews 4:15 also testifies to Jesus' temptation episode. While Matthew and Luke give graphic descriptions of Jesus’ temptations in the desert at the completion of his forty days of fasting and prayer following his baptism in the River Jordan, Mark just reports that the Spirit led Jesus to the desert and he was tempted by Satan. The desert was the place where ancient Israel in Moses’ time was tested for 40 years. The 40 days of Jesus’ fasting may also recall the 40-day fasts undertaken by Moses (Deut 9:18) and Elijah (1 Kgs 19:8). Mark does not mention that Christ fasted for the forty days and nights but the "desert" seems to imply this. Nor does Mark specify the various "temptations" as Matthew and Luke do. The temptations described by Matthew and Luke and hinted at by Mark refer probably to the main temptation Jesus faced during his public life, namely, the temptation to become a political messiah of power and fame according to the Jewish expectation, using his divine power, and to avoid suffering and death. The temptation Jesus faced and defeated helps us to understand both the conflicts that were in Jesus' own life and those which will be found in our lives, too. Instead of yielding to the temptation, Jesus said a firm “Yes!” to his Father's plan, even when it came to giving over his life.

 Why was Jesus tempted after his baptism?

 The author of Hebrews uses the temptation narrative to show that the incarnate Son of God wanted to experience human life to the full, with the exception of sin. Since temptation and how we respond to it are integral parts of our lives, Jesus experienced them also. The Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus’ temptations are described after his baptism to teach us why we are tempted and how we should conquer temptations. Baptism and Confirmation give us the weapons we need to do battle with Satan. God never tempts people beyond their strength. But He permits us to be tempted. Why? Here are the five reasons given by the Fathers: i) so that we can learn by experience that we are indeed stronger than the tempter; ii) so that we may not become conceited over having God’s gifts; iii) so that the devil may receive proof that we have completely renounced him; iv) so that by the struggle we may become even stronger; and v) so that we may realize how precious is the grace we have received.

“Repent and believe in the good news of God’s kingdom.” Mark here gives us the first public words of Jesus, his Messianic mission’s basic keynote speech, which summarizes the purpose of Jesus’ ministry. This basic statement has four specific messages:

1) “The time is fulfilled.” The good news Jesus announced is that God is already working here among us, so close to us that we can reach out and touch Him in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But we will be able to experience the God in Jesus only if we undergo a complete change in our value system and priorities by means of true repentance. Jesus announces that "the time has come,” meaning that the long-expected "Kingdom of God" is present in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.

2) “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” The Kingdom announced by Jesus and brought to earth by him is not a place, still less “Heaven,” but the loving power and rule of God, to which we are all invited to submit ourselves. It has arrived in the person of Jesus, our King and Lord. The presence of this loving power of a merciful and forgiving God is evident in the teaching and healing ministry of Jesus. The presence of God’s kingdom in Jesus is revealed also by the liberation of people from destructive forces in their lives, by the bringing back of the rejected and the outcast, by the forgiveness and reconciliation given to repentant sinners and finally by the supreme act of self-giving love of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.  3) “Repent.” In this statement Jesus is not asking his audience to do or not to do something to shape their future in heaven. He is concerned with the here and now. Repentance, (metanoia) is a change of mind and heart, a lifelong process of transformation.

4) “Believe in the gospel.” Truly believing demands of us a total commitment to the way of life presented in the Gospel and a sharing of its vision of life, though we arrive at this totality only gradually, by successive conversions. Lent provides us with these conversion experiences. 

Life messages :

1) We need to make Lent a time of renewal of life by penance and prayer: Formerly, the six weeks of Lent meant a time of severe penance as a way of purifying ourselves from our sinful habits and getting ready to celebrate the Paschal mystery (the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ), with a renewed commitment to follow Christ. Now the Church demands fasting and abstaining only on specified days of Lent, and leaves the practice of penance during Lent to the good will and generosity of individual Christians. Lent should be for us a time for personal reflection on where we stand as Christians and how well we are accepting the gospel challenges in thought, word and deed. It is also a time for us to assess our relationships with our family, friends, working colleagues and the other people we encounter, especially in our parish. We should examine what positive contributions we are able to make to other people's lives and what we can do in the community to help eradicate the abuses which are part of our society.

2) We need to convert Lent into a time for spiritual growth and Christian maturation by:

a) participating in the Mass daily or a few days in the week;
b) setting aside some part of my day for personal prayer;
c) reading some Scripture, alone or, better still, with others;
d) setting aside some money that I might spend on myself for meals, entertainment or clothes and giving it to an organization which takes care of the less fortunate in our society;
e) abstaining from smoking, alcohol and other evil addictions;
f) receiving the sacrament of reconciliation in Lent and participating in the “Stations of the Cross” on Fridays;
g) visiting the sick and those in nursing homes and doing some acts of charity, kindness and mercy every day in the Lent.

3) We need to use Lent as a time to fight daily against the evil within us and around us:

Repenting and fighting against temptations and evil is a lifetime's task. Jesus did not overcome Satan in the wilderness; he achieved that only in his death. Lent reminds us that we have to take up the fight each day against evil within us and around us, and never give up. Jesus has given the assurance that the Holy Spirit is with us empowering us so that final victory will be ours through Jesus Christ.

Anecdotes

1) “I only want to get my nose in:”

An Arab fable tells of a miller who was startled by seeing a camel’s nose thrust in at the door of the tent where he was sleeping. “It’s very cold outside,” said the camel, “I only want to get my nose in.” The nose was allowed in, then the neck, finally the whole body. Soon the miller began to be inconvenienced by such an ungainly companion in a room not large enough for both. “If you are inconvenienced,” said the camel, “you may leave; as for myself I shall stay where I am.” “Give but an inch,” says Lancelot Andrews, “and the devil will take an ell; if he can get in an arm, he will make shift to shove in his whole body.” 

2) “’Run, D.J., run!’”

William H. Hinson tells about an amusing article that appeared in his local paper. Over the past several years in Houston, Texas there has been a rash of incidents in which dogs have attacked small children. As a result, the newspapers have run several stories about the attacks, some of which have been pretty gruesome. There was one, however, involving a little boy called D.J. that was not so tragic. A reporter asked D.J. how he managed to come away from a recent dog attack unharmed. You can almost picture the serious expression on the little guy's face as he said, "Well, right in the middle of the attack, the Lord spoke to me." "Oh, really," asked the reporter, "And what did God say?" "He said, 'Run, D.J., run!'" the young man reported. [William H. Hinson, Reshaping the Inner You (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1988).]

There may have been times in your life in which God has whispered, "Run, Jim, run!" Or "Run, Sally, Run!" Particularly is this a valuable message when we are tempted by the devil. 

 3) "What did you miss the most?”

After his famous expedition to the South Pole, Admiral Richard E. Byrd was riding on a train. A man came up to him and asked, "What did you miss the most down at the South Pole?” Byrd answered that they missed a lot of things. Some of them they didn't mind missing, and others they did; some they were very glad to get away from. He said he was discussing that very thing in the middle of the six months long Polar night with one of the Irishmen in the camp, Jack O'Brien. Byrd asked, "Jack, what are you missing most from civilization?" Jack answered without any hesitation, "Temptation." Temptation is a very real part of life: temptation to stray from the values we hold dear, temptation to take short cuts, to avoid struggle, to find the easy way through. 

4) “Get behind me Satan.”

Experiencing martial problems a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work. Within a week things where getting back to normal in their household. The husband quit making his weekly stop at the tool section in the local hardware store, and his wife, who was chronic spendthrift obsessed with purchasing the latest fashions, ceased buying dresses every time she went out to the mall. For whenever they got the urge to spend money they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, “Get behind me Satan” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did I heard a response!” “Yah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well, I heard him say, “It looks better from the back than it does from the front!” (Sent by Deacon Gary)  

5) Conversion of Piri Thomas:

Piri Thomas wrote a book called Down These Mean Streets. It describes his conversion from being a convict, a drug addict, and an attempted killer, to becoming an exemplary Christian. One night Piri was lying on his cell bunk in prison. Suddenly it occurred to him what a mess he had made of his life. He felt an overwhelming desire to pray. But he was sharing his cell with another prisoner called 'the thin kid.' So he waited. After he thought 'the thin kid' was asleep, he climbed out of his bunk, knelt down on the cold concrete, and prayed. He said: "I told God what was in my heart... I talked to him plain...I talked to him of all my wants and lacks, of my hopes and disappointments... I felt like I could even cry...." After Piri finished his prayer, a small voice said "Amen." It was 'the thin kid.’ The two young men talked a long time. Then Piri climbed back into his bunk. "Good night, Chico," he said. "I'm thinking that God is always with us -it's just that we aren't with him." -This story is a beautiful illustration of what Jesus means when he says, "Reform your lives and believe in the Gospel!" 

6) A box of enchanted Turkish Delight.

In C. S. Lewis' book, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the wicked queen entices the boy, Edmund, with a box of enchanted Turkish Delight. Each piece is sweet and delicious, and Edmund has never tasted anything better. There is only one problem. The more he eats of this enchanted Turkish Delight, the more he wants. He doesn't know that this is the wicked queen's plan. The more he eats, the more he will want, and thus he will eat and eat until it kills him. The candy will never satisfy his hunger; it will never fill him up...it will simply kill him. (Rev. John Lestock) Lewis is giving us a metaphor for sin. This is how sin is. It never satisfies; it only enslaves. 

7) “You knew what I was when you picked me up:"

An old Indian legend sums up our situation: Many years ago, Indian braves would go away in solitude to prepare for manhood. One hiked into a beautiful valley, green with trees, bright with flowers. There, as he looked up at the surrounding mountains, he noticed one rugged peak, capped with dazzling snow. “I will test myself against that mountain,” he thought. He put on his buffalo hide shirt, threw his blanket over his shoulders and set off to climb the pinnacle. When he reached the top, he stood on the rim of the world. He could see forever, and his heart swelled with pride. Then he heard a rustle at his feet. Looking down, he saw a snake. Before he could move, the snake spoke.” I am about to die," said the snake. "It is too cold for me up here, and there is no food. Put me under your shirt and take me down to the valley" "No," said the youth. "I know your kind. You are a rattlesnake. If I pick you up, you will bite, and your bite will kill me." "Not so," said the snake. "I will treat you differently. If you do this for me, I will not harm you." The youth resisted awhile, but this was a very persuasive snake. At last the youth tucked it under his shirt and carried it down to the valley. There he laid it down gently. Suddenly the snake coiled, rattled and leaped, biting him on the leg. "But you promised," cried the youth." “You knew what I was when you picked me up," said the snake as it slithered away. (Guideposts, July, 1988). That is a powerful little parable. The snake could be drugs or alcohol or extramarital sex or greed or any of a host of other attractions forbidden by God and our good sense. The best protection we have is in avoidance.  

8) “Then I can go live with my sister."

A married couple had lived together for twenty-five years in what outwardly seemed like a reasonably good union. The husband was a good provider. The wife was a good housekeeper. They went to Church together every Sunday and prayed together every night before they retired. But they did have one problem that seemed insurmountable. They could not have a conversation that didn't end up in an argument. Finally, the wife decided she'd had enough, but because of her religious scruples, divorce was out of the question. She had a better idea, however. One night as the couple settled down for their nightly prayers, she said to her husband, "We must put an end to this terrible situation we're in. We can't go on like this anymore. Since today is the first day of Lent, why don't we pray that things will change. Let's pray that the Lord will call one of us home to Him. Then I can go live with my sister."  

9) Carnivorous plant- Sundew:

In the Australian bush country grows a little plant called the "sundew." It has a slender stem and tiny, round leaves fringed with hairs that glisten with bright drops of liquid as delicate as fine dew. Woe to the insect, however, that dares to dance on it. Although its attractive clusters of red, white, and pink blossoms are harmless, the leaves are deadly. The shiny moisture on each leaf is sticky and will imprison any bug that touches it. As an insect struggles to free itself, the vibration causes the leaves to close tightly around it. This innocent-looking plant then feeds on its victim. Temptations do the same. (Our Daily Bread, December 11, 1992). 

10) “So no one will know."

In China's later Han era, there lived a politician called Yang Zhen, a man known for his upright character. After Yang Zhen was made a provincial governor, one of his earlier patrons, Wang Mi, paid him an unexpected visit. As they talked over old times, Wang Mi brought out a large gold cup and presented it to Yang Zhen. Yang Zhen refused to accept it, but Wang Mi persisted, saying, "There's no one here tonight but you and me, so no one will know." "You say that no one will know," Yang Zhen replied, "but that is not true. Heaven will know, and you and I will know, too." Wang Mi was ashamed, and backed down. Subsequently, Yang Zhen's integrity won increasing recognition, and he rose to a high post in the central government. Human nature is weak, and we tend to yield to temptation when we think nobody can see us. 

11) "Are you trying to break this bridge?"

As the Union Pacific Railroad was being constructed, an elaborate trestle bridge was built across a large canyon in the West. Wanting to test the bridge, the builder loaded a train with enough extra cars and equipment to double its normal payload. The train was then driven to the middle of the bridge, where it stayed an entire day. One worker asked, "Are you trying to break this bridge?" "No," the builder replied, "I'm trying to prove that the bridge won't break." In the same way, the temptations Jesus faced weren't designed to see if He would sin, but to prove that He couldn't. (Today in the Word, March 14, 1991).

12) Trapping ring-tailed monkeys:

Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos in America say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring-tailed monkey. For the Zulus of that continent, however, it's simple. They've been catching this agile little animal with ease for years. The method the Zulus use is based on knowledge of the animal. Their trap is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the Zulus simply cut a hole in the melon, just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. This he cannot do. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight the melon for hours. But he can't get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the Zulus sneak up and nab him. The devil uses the same trick on human beings by exploiting our weaknesses.

 13) "Don't swim in that canal." Some people fall into temptation, but a great many make plans for disaster ahead of time. "Son," ordered a father, "Don't swim in that canal." "OK, Dad," he answered. But he came home carrying a wet bathing suit that evening. "Where have you been?" demanded the father. "Swimming in the canal," answered the boy. "Didn't I tell you not to swim there?" asked the father. "Yes, Sir," answered the boy. "Why did you?" he asked. "Well, Dad," he explained, "I had my bathing suit with me, and I couldn't resist the temptation." "Why did you take your bathing suit with you?" he questioned. "So I'd be prepared to swim, in case I was tempted," he replied.

 Too many of us expect to sin and prepare to do so. The remedy for such dangerous action is found in Romans 13:14, "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Whenever we play with temptation, it is easy to drift into great danger.

  Jokes

1) Devil is your dad: Two boys were walking home from church and sharing their reflection on the lesson. They had been studying the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Little Peter said to his friend John, “Do you believe that stuff about the devil? Do you think there really is a devil?” John looked at him and said, “Naah, it’s just like Santa Claus — it’s your dad.”

 2) Temptations: real or imaginary? The drunk was floundering down the alley carrying a box with holes on the side. He bumped into a friend who asked, “What do you have in there, pal?” “A mongoose.” “What for?” “Well, you know how drunk I can get. When I get drunk I see snakes, and I’m scared to death of snakes. That’s why I got this mongoose, for protection.” “But,” the friend said, “you idiot! Those are imaginary snakes.” “That’s okay,” said the drunk, showing his friend the interior of the box, “So is the mongoose.” 

SYNOPSIS FOR LENT I (FEBRUARY 26) ON MK 1: 12-15

 Introduction  The primary purpose of Lent is spiritual preparation for the celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection. The Church tries to achieve this goal by leading her children to metanoia or “repentance” by the reordering of their priorities and the changing of their values, ideals and ambitions, through fasting, prayer and self control. Since by baptism we share the death and resurrection of Jesus, today’s readings refer to baptism directly or indirectly.    

Scripture Lessons

 The first reading tells us how man irrevocably broke the original covenant God had made with Adam and Eve and how the merciful God selected Noah and his family to renew the covenant. Noah’s rescue from the flood symbolizes how we are saved through the water of baptism which cleanses us of sin and makes us one with Christ. Today's responsorial psalm is an exquisite penitential prayer, humbly acknowledging human insufficiency and our radical dependence upon God and His mercy and forgiveness. The psalmist lists some of the characteristics of the life resulting from this repentance: truth, compassion, love, kindness, goodness, uprightness, humility and justice. In the second reading, St. Peter reminds his readers that an outward sign of the New Covenant that God made with his people through Jesus is baptism which makes us adopted children of God, heirs of heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit. Peter shows us how Noah’s episode prefigured baptism. In the gospel, we are told how Jesus, immediately after his baptism, faced and defeated the tempter, prepared by his forty days of prayer and penance in the desert. It also tells us how Jesus started preaching his messianic mission, "The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent. Believe in the Gospel."  
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7. Fr. Tommy Lane 

Once when I was on retreat in a monastery in Ireland I greeted one of the monks, “How are you, Father?” He replied, “There is still a bit of the devil in me!” It sounds funny but it expresses a truth about all of us, “there is still a bit of the devil in us” because we have not yet fully overcome sin. Jesus spent forty days in the desert overcoming the devil, and Lent is a time for us to get rid of whatever bit of the devil remains in us by overcoming sin in our lives.

 Whenever we sin we have forgotten who we are and what God has done for us. Remembering who we are and what God has done for us helps us to keep away from sin. The first reading today contains a creed in which the Old Testament Jews remembered who they were and what God had done for them by bringing them out of Egypt to Canaan: 

My father was a wandering Aramean who went down to Egypt…there he became a nation great, strong and numerous…When the Egyptians maltreated and oppressed us, we cried to the Lord…He brought us out of Egypt…bringing us into this country, he gave us this land flowing with milk and honey. (Deut 26:5-9)

The Israelites sinned when they forgot what God had done for them. In fact, we could say that the great sin of the Old Testament was forgetting the greatest miracle of the Old Testament - the Exodus - and as a result falling into sin. Whenever we sin we forget the central belief of our creed, that Jesus died and rose for us. Lent is a time when we reflect on the passion and death of Jesus so that by remembering we may overcome sin, and when we celebrate the central belief of our creed – the resurrection of Jesus during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night- we will have died to sin and risen to new life with Jesus. Just as Jesus overcame Satan during the forty days in the desert we want to overcome Satan in our lives. 

We overcome Satan by putting God first in our lives in every way. The three quotations from Deuteronomy cited by Jesus when talking with Satan in the Gospel (Luke 4:1-13) remind us of putting God first in everything. 

“One does not live by bread alone.” (The full quotation is “…not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord.”) 
“You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”
“You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” 

When we put God first in everything and live by the word of the Lord instead of living from the bread of the world then we Fast from fear; Feast on Faith Fast from despair; Feed on hope. Fast from depressing news; Feed on prayer. Fast from discontent; Feast on gratitude. Fast from anger and worry; Feed on patience. Fast from negative thinking; Feast on positive thinking. Fast from bitterness; Feed on love and forgiveness. Fast from words that wound; Feast on words that heal. Fast from gravity; Feast on joy and humor.  (adapted from A Lenten Prayer by William Arthur Ward)

When we live from the bread of the world by not putting God first we sin and can never hope to be happy because sin always leaves us guilty. In the words of the poem just quoted, sin brings us fear, despair, depressing news, discontent, anger and worry, negative thinking, bitterness, words that wound. But when we overcome sin, then in the words of the poem we live on faith, hope, prayer, gratitude, patience, positive thinking, love and forgiveness, words that heal, joy and humor. 

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8. Sermons.com: MK 1:9-15 

The local sheriff was looking for a deputy, and one of the applicants - who was not known to be the brightest academically, was called in for an interview. "Okay," began the sheriff, "What is 1 and 1?" "Eleven," came the reply. The sheriff thought to himself, "That's not what I meant, but he's right." 

Then the sheriff asked, "What two days of the week start with the letter 'T'?" "Today & tomorrow." Replied the applicant. The sheriff was again surprised over the answer, one that he had never thought of himself. 

"Now, listen carefully, who killed Abraham Lincoln?", asked the sheriff. The job seeker seemed a little surprised, then thought really hard for a minute and finally admitted, "I don't know." The sheriff replied, "Well, why don't you go home and work on that one for a while?" The applicant left and wandered over to his pals who were waiting to hear the results of the interview. He greeted them with a cheery smile, "The job is mine! The interview went great! First day on the job and I'm already working on a murder case!"
In our Gospel reading this morning in Mark 1 it is Jesus' first day on the job. Immediately he is confronted with three major temptations. And he is confronted with this basic question: Would he take the crown without the cross? 

These are basic temptations in life. These three temptations form the foundation for all other temptations. And I would propose that when temptations come our way; if we will pause and classify the temptations, identify them with one of the three temptations Jesus faced; we will be equipped to answer Satan with the words and obedience of Christ.
 
Let's look at the three temptations: 

1. Stone into Bread: The temptation to use power for the wrong purposes.
2. Jump on the Rocks: The Temptation to gain popularity by performance.
3. Serve The Wrong Master: The temptation to idolatry.  

At your baptism, you are given an identity as a follower of Jesus. For the past thirty years or more, the church has tried to find its identity, not in baptism, but in leadership. Leadership is a function. Being a disciple is an identity. Let's explore this morning why this confusion of categories is so important, and so debilitating to the body of Christ.  

"What's in your wallet"? 

That is the take-away line for a credit card company that wants their card to be front and center in your wallet. Forget the advertising pitch. It's a good philosophical question. "What IS in your wallet" is a reflection of who you are, where you are, and where you are headed in your journey of life.  

Remember getting your first nice leather wallet as a kid? I know my first wallet made me feel more "grown up." But what could you actually put in it? Your student ID. A few bucks. Your driver's permit and then later, hopefully, thankfully, your driver's license. Maybe a few of those "wallet sized" school photos of your best friends. But it still all made for a pretty flat fold. 

Now look at your "grown up" wallet. That's right. Take out your wallet. Take a good look at it, because your kids won't know what a "wallet" is, at least a leather wallet. They'll know a digital wallet. 

Do you have out your wallets? Women, you have wallets too. Come on. Dig in that purse and you'll find your leather wallet. Look at it. Now look around you at each other's wallets... 
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The Road to Holiness 

Recently I was looking at some of my many files under the "quotes" folder. One such quote is called, "The Road to Holiness." 

A seeker after truth came to a saint for guidance.
"Tell me, wise one, how did you become holy?"
"Two words."
"And what are they, please?"
"Right choices."
The seeker was fascinated. "How does one learn to choose rightly?"
"One word."
"One word! May I have it, please?" the seeker asked.
"Growth."
The seeker was thrilled. "How does one grow?"
"Two words."
"What are they, pray tell?"
"Wrong choices." 

I believe that this is God's purpose in times of testing, to help us grow and to show us that we have the faith and ability to stand up to the testing so that we will trust God in difficult times -- to strengthen our faith and Christian character. At the same time, Satan has his own purpose -- to turn those being tested away from God -- to "tempt" them to sin. 

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes
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It Might Have Been

In the 1800s, poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote one of his most quoted poems in the English language. The poem was titled, "Maud Muller." You've never heard of it? Actually, not many people remember this sorrowful poem, but generations of people have quoted two famous lines from its final stanza.

"Maud Muller" is about a young maiden who, while working the fields one day, sees a handsome young Judge riding by on horseback. She offers him a drink of cool water. Their encounter lasts only a few moments, but it makes a deep impression on both of them. Maud is greatly attracted to the Judge, and she dreams of marrying someone of his gentleness and integrity. She could leave the fields behind and live as the wife of a wealthy and powerful man. 

At the same time, the Judge is attracted to Maud. He is tired of his career, and he dreams of marrying a warm, compassionate woman like Maud and settling into a simpler life in the country. But neither Maud nor the Judge acknowledges their attraction to one another. They are from different social classes -- they cannot risk breaking the bonds of social conformity. 

Maud later marries a man who brings her much pain and hardship. The Judge also enters into a loveless marriage. In the final stanza of the poem, Whittier offers us this warning: "For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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Counting Down

Jesus' time in the wilderness for forty days is, in fact, our model for Lent. Like Jesus, we seek to spend a special time - a span of forty days - preparing, reflecting, praying, readying ourselves, knowing the hard path that comes and anticipating the joyous Easter celebration that follows. In our hurried world, I don't want us to rush through these forty days. We are always rushing through things as it is - we're already always counting down to something else, counting the days until birthdays (mine is 8 weeks from today, for example), or until Christmas, or until payday or until school is out, or until vacation - we're always biding our time until something else happens. I hate to do that with Lent too - just count down until Easter, and waste the time we have, miss the opportunity for digging deeper spiritually, skipping over the process of looking inside of ourselves, trying to remake ourselves, letting ourselves be remade by God. I don't want our Lent experience to be worth only two sentences - I don't want everything we experience in the next several weeks to impact us only enough to be worth a passing comment. I want more from Lent, for all of us, and I want more from Mark on this time in Jesus' life, this time where we can see the human Jesus, struggling to make right choices, just like we do. 

Beth Quick, Getting on with It
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Lent: A Time to Re-think 

This is Lent 2015, and if ever there was a year in which to re-think, re-imagine and re-do our Lenten disciplines, this surely is it. Our beloved Lenten disciplines work for us privately, personally, individually. But they tempt us, even as so many of our favorite Lenten hymns and gospel songs tempt us, to remain captured and captivated by the personal and individual dimensions of our faith in Christ. Mark's is a Gospel of few words. He tells us very little of his vision of God's new Kingdom and new Covenant that has come to be in Christ. But all through his Gospel, Mark shows Jesus resisting the political and religious authorities of the day, just as he resists Satan here in today's reading. And by the same token, Mark's Gospel shows Jesus standing in solidarity with those who are outside and beyond the normative social structures: the poor, women, the sick and the possessed -- just as he stood in Jordan's waters with the repentant sinners of the Baptist's movement. 

Angela V. Askew
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Lent: Giving Up 

Self Denial is about making a sacrifice that makes a difference, focusing on the Cross and reminding ourselves what Christ gave up for us. Rev. Craig Gates of Jackson Mississippi has a great list of suggestions. He says we should: 

GIVE UP grumbling! Instead, "In everything give thanks." Constructive criticism is OK, but "moaning, groaning, and complaining" are not Christian disciplines. 
GIVE UP 10 to 15 minutes in bed! Instead, use that time in prayer, Bible study and personal devotion. A few minutes in prayer WILL keep you focused. 
GIVE UP looking at other people's worst attributes. Instead concentrate on their best points. We all have faults. It is a lot easier to have people overlook our shortcomings when we overlook theirs first.
GIVE UP speaking unkindly. Instead, let your speech be generous and understanding. It costs so little to say something kind and uplifting or to offer a smile. Why not check that sharp tongue at the door?
GIVE UP your hatred of anyone or anything! Instead, learn the discipline of love. "Love covers a multitude of sins."
GIVE UP your worries and anxieties! They're too heavy for you to carry anyway. Instead, trust God with them. Anxiety is spending emotional energy on something we can do nothing about: like tomorrow! Live today and let God's grace be sufficient.
GIVE UP TV one evening a week! Instead, visit someone who's lonely or sick. There are those who are isolated by illness or age. Why isolate yourself in front of the "tube?" Give someone a precious gift: your time!
GIVE UP buying anything but essentials for yourself! Instead, give the money to God. The money you would spend on the luxuries could help someone meet basic needs. We're called to be stewards of God's riches, not consumers.
GIVE UP judging others by appearances and by the standard of the world! Instead, learn to give up yourself to God. There is only one who has the right to judge, Jesus Christ. 

Billy D. Strayhorn, Cross Eyed: Focus
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 We Haven't Been Up To Bat Yet

Temptation tries to blind us to other possibilities. A business man driving home from work one day, saw a little league baseball game in progress. He decided to stop and watch. He sat down in the bleachers and asked a kid what the score was. "We're behind 14 to nothing," he answered with a smile.
"Really," he responded. "I have to say you don't look very discouraged."
"Discouraged?" the boy asked with a puzzled look on his face. "Why should we be discouraged? We haven't been up to bat yet." 

Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com
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 Lent: Spring Training For Christians 

When I was a boy, I was told, "Baptists don't do Lent." No one knew why. I suspect that it was an anti-Catholic thing which I pray we are over. It was the old argument, "whatever they do, we don't!" - a curiously convoluted, twisted and unhealthy way to decide on religious practices. 

Whatever the reason for "not doing Lent," I think it is a great loss for any Christian not to prepare for Good Friday and Easter. Every spring the baseball players prepare for the season with spring training; every spring ordinary people prepare for summer by doing "spring cleaning." So why shouldn't Christians prepare for the most important events in Jesus' ministry - what he did for us on Good Friday and Easter Sunday, what he did for us on Golgotha's cross and at the empty tomb? 

If it helps you, think of Lent as a kind of Christian spring training and spring cleaning. 

John Ewing Roberts, Remembering and Forgetting
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 How Can a Christian Become a Christian? 

Soren Kierkegaard once asked how a person who is already a Christian can become a Christian. Think about that for a moment. How can a person who already is a Christian become a Christian? Kierkegaard was directing his thoughts toward those of us who have grown up in the church. He was saying that second-hand faith is not enough. It is easy to take the faith we have grown up in for granted, isn't it? After all, it is like the air we breathe. It's always been there. We need something more than that. Baptism reminds us that a fresh experience of God's grace and God's love is always available to us if we seek it.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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The Clock Is Turned Back 

My dog, Copper - an Irish Setter - will probably be dead by the time this is published; he is over fourteen years old, nearly blind, partially deaf, has arthritis, and a chronic infection that flares up every now and then. Only his nose seems to work well; it still takes over when I turn him loose in our backyard. But frequently I remember the first time I turned him out into the backyard of another home; he had never been off a leash during the first six months of his life. He gingerly stepped off our back step into the first snow of a Minnesota winter. He took a few tentative steps in the snow and then, suddenly, he discovered that he was not on a leash this time. He began to run wildly, in circles, and he dashed around the large, fenced-in backyard, leaping into the air, twisting and turning in a glorious dance of freedom and joy. He was meant to have this kind of life - free from ropes and leashes, free from people who would not let him run as he was meant to. (He wasn't even bothered by the four-foot-high fence that he would later attempt to leap over.) The next morning, when I put him out again, I discovered that his paw prints, and body prints where he had rolled over in the snow, seemed to be everywhere. Hardly a spot in the backyard failed to show the marks of his previous night's jubilant romp in the snow. How I would love to see him do that again. But I know it is not to be, he can't turn his physical time-clock back fourteen years.

You and I are different, because Christ turned the clock back to the very beginning, to the Garden that God created, and has renewed our broken relationship with his Father and ours so that we really have new life in and through him, our Lord.

George M. Bass, The Tree, The Tomb, And The Trumpet, CSS Publishing Co., Inc.
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Life Is a Test

One of my favorite posters says, "Life is a test. It is only a test. Had this been a real life you would have been instructed where to go and what to do." Whenever I think of this humorous bit of wisdom, it reminds me to not take my life so seriously.

As an experiment, see if you can apply this idea to something you are forced to deal with. Perhaps you have a difficult teenager or a demanding boss. See if you can redefine the issue you face from being a "problem" to being a test. Rather than struggling with your issue, see if there is something you can learn from it. Ask yourself, "Why is this issue in my life? What would it mean and what would be involved to rise above it? Could I possibly look at this issue any differently? Can I see it as a test of some kind?"

If you give this strategy a try you may be surprised at your changed responses. For example, I used to struggle a great deal over the issue of my perception of not having enough time. I would rush around trying to get everything done. I blamed my schedule, my family, my circumstances, and anything else I could think of for my plight. Then it dawned on me. If I wanted to be happy, my goal didn't necessarily have to be to organize my life perfectly so that I had more time, but rather to see whether I could get to the point where I felt it was okay that I couldn't get everything done that I felt I must. In other words, my real challenge was to see my struggle as a test. 

Seeing this issue as a test ultimately helped me to cope with one of my biggest personal frustrations. I still struggle now and then about my perceived lack of time, but less than I used to. It has become far more acceptable to me to accept things as they are. 

Richard Carlson, Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's All Small Stuff, New York, 1997
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 Sermon Closer: God Has Called Your Name

Harry Emerson Fosdick was one of the greatest American preachers of this century. He described his preaching as counseling on a large scale. Few people knew that as a young seminary student he reached the breaking point after working one summer in a New York Bowery mission. He went home and was overcome by deep depression. One day he stood in the bathroom with a straight razor to his throat. He thought about taking his own life. And then -- and then he heard his father in the other room calling his name, "Harry! Harry!" It called him back. He never forgot it. It was like the voice of God calling him. 

So I want to remind you today that in those times when you are in the wilderness, trying to find your way through, and when temptation comes and offers you the wrong answer, the wrong choice -- the wrong use of power, the way to popularity, the wrong kind of partnership -- then you remember that God has called your name: "This is my beloved son, my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased." And, you remember that because God has called your name He will see you through.