From the Readings of the First Sunday of Lent we are given a reflection on the meaning of the forty days which are here. Noah endured the forty-day devastation of the flood. In a similar way, the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the forty-day trial of the desert.
The story of Noah paints the picture of a few chosen people, probably eight in number, who are taken out of a world of chaos. They will sojourn for forty days in a small boat filled with animals, not a pleasant journey to be sure. This is God’s testing of Noah, that the order of creation be restored to that world by these few.
"From the Readings of the First Sunday of Lent we are given a reflection on the meaning of the forty days which are here."
In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is tempted in the desert. Satan conspires to make Jesus compromise his relationship with his Father. At the end of the forty days, upon hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus moves immediately to Galilee, proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Thus is the order of creation to be restored and renewed. Jesus, the Messiah, has arrived on the scene.
How shall we spend these forty days? What kind of test lies ahead? What chaos, what disorder in each of us is God working to restore? The need for conversion is the basis for the deeper meaning of Lent. Along with our hopeful resolutions of Lenten fasting, works of charity and prayer, I wish to offer some thoughts about this, inspired by a timely homily given by one of our deacons.
“This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
Our world, our nation, our city and even our families are so deeply divided. We ourselves have participated in and, perhaps, become self-justified within this chaos. Each of us knows the topics of discussion we must never bring up if we do not want to fall into arguments that will raise the roof. We know somehow, dimly, that Jesus is the only cure for this division. Jesus will restore order. The guidance that St Paul writes to the Ephesians (4: 29-32) offers insight as to how this order may be restored:
Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things that people need to hear, things that will really help them. Do nothing that will sadden the Holy Spirit with whom you were sealed against the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, all passion and anger, harsh words, slander, and malice of every kind. In place of these, be kind to one another, compassionate, and mutually forgiving, just as God has forgiven you in Christ.
"We know somehow, dimly, that Jesus is the only cure for this division. Jesus will restore order.
Our “evil talk,” whether direct, indirect, gossip, or unspoken, indicates both the symptom and cause of disorder. We can use our words to “win,” but at what a cost! If we use our words to “say only the good things that people need to hear, things that will really help them,” we will have plenty to talk about and more than we can express. This process takes some thoughtful reflection. How can I say only the good things that people need to hear, things that will really help them? Forty days of practice leads to a habit of virtue…Pray with and reflect daily on the passage above...And we can change ourselves, our families, our community, and bring order into relationships.
Remember too, during Lent, the enemy is loose and whispering. Let us embrace this desert experience, convert and follow Jesus: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel!”
+Most Reverend Stephen J. Berg
Bishop of Pueblo
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