This Pentecost Sunday let us start with the second stanza of TODAY’S PSALM [104 or 103], turn it upside down and away from physical death. There are so many ways...
I will delay providing a brief introduction to Mark’s version of the Gospel until the Easter Season is completed. Besides the first two Sundays of Lent, Mark is seldom, if ever, heard over the weeks involved. As always John dominates at this time of the year – and our Gospel extracts are supplemented with Matthew and Luke.
On this 1st Sunday of Lent we start with our
OLD TESTAMENT READING [GENESIS 9: 8 – 15]. This week’s anchor is both simple and profound – the SIGN given by our God for the COVENANThe makes with his people …. THE RAINBOW! “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you … for all future generations.“
As Christians we must develop the habit of seeing both our discipleship and ordinary lives against a divine horizon. This divine horizon must include, like a rainbow in the sky, the truth of God’s love for us – for he
IS the love promised with his covenant. Do we know this? Do we know that he has dearly loved us, taken us in his arms, harnessed us with leading strings (which help us to walk the journey), lifted us to his cheek, and fed us? (see Hosea 11: 1. 3 – 4) Is all of this a real and living part of the divine horizon against which we see ourselves …. who and what we are …. what we are doing … and how we are doing it?
Too often we find it more comfortable to imprison
ourselves within old horizons – never seeing the rainbow that IS there but obscured for a while. The season of Lent provides us with the opportunity to break out of the prison and remind ourselves of God’s promise. In some strange way Lent can easily be seen as an annual faith-spiritual visit to the optician. We regularly need new spectacles in order to appreciate the real landscape. Like Noah and his family we need to come out of the ark and accept the reality of fresh possibilities and opportunities – supported by the promise of the covenant and the divine horizon. We need the Lenten reminder to see ourselves and our living against a Christian / Gospel background.
This is what is being urged upon us by what Mark tells us in
THIS SUNDAY’S GOSPEL [1: 12 – 15]. “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” At once let us bear in mind that both the invitation and challenge issued to us when we were marked with the Ashes was exactly the same – REPENT AND BELIEVE THE GOSPEL. Repentance and belief involve us in (i) returning to a heartfelt acceptance and appreciation of the ‘divine horizon’ presented by our Christian God, and (ii) being certain of the fact that it is the GOSPEL itself which provides us with the tools to travel through the wilderness days, the temptations that intrude upon the living of us all, as well as the ‘wild beasts’ we encounter in our contemporary society. “… Jesus was in the wilderness …. tempted …. with the wild beasts … angels ministered to him.” Are there any of us who do not find ourselves, from time to time, in a wilderness of disappointment, sorrow, or a feeling that the Lord is far away? How many of us enjoy a life totally free from all temptations? So often we all find ourselves being sucked-in by or having to battle with thewild beasts of purely social activities which we instinctively know are contrary to the Gospel. These are the times when we need to emerge from the ark, see the wider horizon of the Lord’s landscape, and be willing to place our feet on solid ground as we continue with our pilgrimage.
Lent is never to be seen as a pilgrimage on its own. Rather, it is a part of our annual pilgrimage. It is a section of the itinerary during which we make a specific effort to gather our often dwindling resources and energy. The wonderful thing about the Gospel is that Jesus presents it to us as the entire programme. He does not expect us to ‘win’ or succeed during each and every stage of the journey. Karl Rahner, one of the great theologians of our time, made the valuable observation that the lives of all Christian disciples were “unfinished symphonies.” In
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [1 PETER 3: 18 – 22] we are reminded that we have been “made alive in the Spirit.” So, alive with this Spiritlet us harness Lent in such a manner that we may compose a little more of our pilgrimage symphony – the rainbow version!