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Lent 1 (B)
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Readings for the First Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

1. Genesis 9, 8-15
  • Once again we begin the crash course in salvation history which the church commends to us during Lent.  First I hear God’s covenant with Noah, with you and your descendants after you and all the birds and tame and wild animals.  The parties to the covenant are identified solemnly three times.  I have no doubt that everyone on earth is included.
  • Never again!  I would let these words ring through the sanctuary today, because God means them and they are still true.  There shall not be another flood to devastate the earth: that is God’s promise.
  • And now for God’s sign that I am giving for all ages to come: I set my bow in the clouds.  We have all seen rainbows, and we should let them remind us of God’s faithfulness with his people today.
  • I will recall the covenant I have made.  Do I, does our assembly, take this promise seriously?  As we listen we see the coverage of killing floods in New Orleans, Colombia and Bangladesh.  Alongside the ark perched on Ararat I see the hills of mud that cover hundreds in the Philippines.  And why leave out the destructive droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis?  Has God played a cruel joke on us, leaving nature to its own excesses?  Or does God say to us: You have survived to hear and see and complete the story.  Don’t you see your brother and sister?
  • Climax: Never again!  Twice I hear it in the passage, and twice I make it heard.
  • Message for our assembly: This pact between me and you and all living beings is just as enduring as the pact with Israel.  God covenants with us not to destroy the earth.  We must do our part to save the earth for our descendants after us.
  • I will challenge myself: To bring this foundation event of Genesis into our own lived experience.  I will make these Lenten readings speak to our roots.

 

2. I Peter 3, 18-22

  • This short homily from the early church begins with Christ, and I will pause briefly at the mention of the Lord’s name.  With that, it jumps right to the message: Christ suffered for sins once.  I need to be prepared, knowing where this is leading, or else I will make it sound like “He was once a suffering man.” 
  • God declared a covenant, according to the first reading, in response to universal suffering.  Now I hear of the suffering of one, Christ, placed at the front and center of this reading, as he is of our Lenten observance.  He suffered that he might lead you to God.
  • The days of Noah and the building of the ark are also remembered here.  But what a wonderful commentary on a positive result of the Deluge: a few persons were saved through water. 
  • It is a time of complete conversion, following his example.  He was brought to life in the Spirit. 
  • And now we all must look upon Christ, the final measure and criterion of our inner and outer lives: both the sinful people who drowned in the great flood and all of us who are baptized in water, gaining a clear conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 
  • Climax: This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.  I must remember to read the exotic word ‘prefigured’ as a verb, not an adjective.
  • The message for our assembly: No matter how long ago we were baptized, it saves us now.  We are freed, if we work in harmony with our redeemer, from a life of servile fear before those angels, authorities and powers subject to him.
  • I will challenge myself: To declare the apostle’s bold words with the same assurance.

 

Gospel. Mark 1, 12-15

  • Now I listen to our savior Jesus, driven by the Spirit into the desert, tempted by Satan just as we have been so often. 
  • We are called to imitate Jesus, who remained in the desert for forty days, among wild beasts. 
  • The brief passage includes the first homily that Jesus gives in his ministry.  Let me say it so that people will become more attentive.  The kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent and believe in the Gospel.
  • Climax: The message of Jesus to the people.  This is the time of fulfillment.
  • Message for our assembly: Let us experience together the silence of deserted places, where angels ministered to him.  Let us keep distractions at a distance and allow the same divine messengers to fill our emptiness.
  • I will challenge myself: To take my time with this short passage, to let my listeners relish each word.  I will also pause more judiciously to indicate the silence of deserted places.

Word to Eucharist: Jesus has gone to the desert to pray.  Why do we remain choked in abundance?  How will we encounter him if we persist in this?

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