Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

1st SUNDAY OF LENT: REPENTANCE AND FAITH IN THE GOSPEL

Mk 1:12-15


WE ARE NOW entering into the season of Lent and the gospel of the first Sunday of Lent leads us to reflect on the temptation of Jesus. This version of Mark on ‘the temptation of Jesus’ is rather short. The first paragraph shows Jesus as being drawn to the desert for forty days. If we put this in relation to the second paragraph which is the preaching of the kingdom of God, then, we can say that his stay in the desert marks the preparation for his public ministry.

Let us try to go over once again the contents of this short gospel passage and try to put that in the context of the Lenten preparations.

Firstly, Jesus was drawn to the desert and spent forty days, praying and fasting. The duration of the Lenten season (as a preparation for the Feast of Easter) is also forty days. During this season we are called to re-live Jesus’ experience in the desert.  But of course, our journey is something inward. The evil temptations in this world are many and like Jesus, we need to fight against all these. Often our human tendency towards temptations is simply to give in. But Jesus’ response to temptation is different and this reminds us to follow His way. We can make this season holy if we are serious in our dealings with temptation. Likewise, just as Jesus prayed and fasted in the desert, we are also called to improve and enrich our relationship with God this season. We are called to be generous to God, by spending more time with Him through prayer. Prayer is an act of generosity. Most of the time, we can be unkind to God because He has been put least in our priorities. We spend more time with our families and friends, but we seldom do that with God. Lenten season can be a good season to renew our relationship with Him through prayer.

Secondly, let us reflect on the content of Jesus’ preaching. Jesus preached the kingdom of God and there are two requirements so that one can enter it: conversion and faith. He says: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand: repent and believe in the gospel.” It is good to reflect on these two themes because these are essential to our spiritual life or to our preparations for Easter.

The first requirement is repentance. Repentance may not appear as something appealing for most of us. Perhaps, some would be asking: “Is there a need to repent and what do we repent for?” In order to see the significance of this theme, perhaps, we can talk about some areas in our life that need to be changed. I remember the saintly Pope John Paul II. He once mused that modern men and women want absolute freedom in their life. In itself, that is good because freedom is good. However, if freedom is seen as everything, then there could be a problem. Freedom should always be coupled with responsibility, otherwise, it cannot be a true freedom. If freedom is everything, like one constantly does something although it is bad or evil, what that person gets is not actually freedom, but the opposite. That is, enslavement to sin. True freedom is always seen in the confines of what is morally good. Doing immoral things in the name of freedom does not actually make people free. Thus, conversion is needed.

The other requirement is faith. Jesus says, ‘repent and believe’ in the gospel. Is there such a relationship between these two? Well, St Paul, in one of his letters, says that there is such a relationship between conversion and faith. He says that if we believe in Christ, it is a natural consequence that we become a new person. A person who has faith in the gospel and ultimately, in Christ, shall not remain or cling to his old sinful life. Christ is the good news and this good news must have an effect in our day to day life.

Brothers and sisters, in this season of Lent, we need to examine once again our commitment to Christ. On the one hand, repentance is a continuous calling for all of us because we are called to holiness. Repentance is an all-time calling necessary of a “holy Church.” On the other hand, faith in Christ’s gospel and in Him is something we need to nourish in our life. In doing so, we would also grow in our relationship with and discipleship of Christ. AMEN.


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