Date: Sunday, February 18, 2018
I had breakfast yesterday with ladies from Magnificat – women who gather in the Spirit and give witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were talking about a meeting in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina and the ensuing flood. They saw some of the devastation and heard both stories of the breakdown of law/order and of selfless giving and sacrifice. A woman said a dresser in her home on the third or fourth floor was not touch by the flood water and became a source of clothing for her neighbors with nothing to wear. We can appreciate the dramatic narrative of the flood in the Book of Genesis. There are other stories of a great flood told in ancient world but the Biblical account is unique by revealing God’s mercy far surpasses our human sinfulness. The flood expresses God’s judgment on society. The ark that lifts Noah, his family and all the creatures aboard above the rising waters and the rainbow in the sky are symbols of God’s salvation. God enters into covenant with the earth!
We leave the flood waters of our first reading that prefigure baptism (2nd reading) and accompany Jesus (Gospel according to St. Mark) when the Spirit drives him into the desert for “forty days” where Jesus is tempted by Satan. Satan, the deceiver, tries to trip Jesus up and distract him from the mission God the Father has entrusted to his beloved Son. Jesus will be “tested” again when Peter tries to dissuade him from journeying to Jerusalem. Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” Nothing can distract us from the preaching of Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Lent is the precious time (forty days) when we hear the clarion summons of Jesus to turn from sin and accept the good news of our salvation. It is both a critical moment of repentance and conversion. Our prayer, fasting and charity must heighten our awareness of what is at stake – recognition of our sinfulness and the gift of God’s mercy and salvation in Jesus Christ. Strangely in the solitude of the desert we find that we are not alone. We are in the company of wild beasts (our own demons) and of ministering angels. Pope Francis reminds us that God does not tempt us to fail but tests us to be faithful.