1st Sunday of Lent Homily (Year B)
Theme: Wilderness Experience
By: Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya
Homily for Sunday February 21 2021
Genesis 9: 8-15
1 Peter 3: 18-22
On this first Sunday of lent, our liturgy invites us to remember what our baptism does in our life, or what it supposes to do in our life (if we have not yet allowed it to start working in us). At baptism we receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of life, through the cleansing water. The water of baptism is synonymous to the water of the flood, with which God destroyed creation in the days of Noah. The water of the flood as it were, is both death giving and life giving. We read in the Scriptures that the ark of Noah was floating on the dangerous and destructive waters that are killing everything. Yet the ark, floating on those destructive waters, is never destroyed but saved.
So the saving of Noah through the waters of the flood prefigures baptism, ‘which saves us now’ St. Peter says (Cf. 1 Pet. 3:21). The waters of Baptism give us a new birth, make us an adopted son and daughter of God, give us the Holy Spirit and make us part of God’s household, the Church. All of this is God’s work in us. So at baptism we receive holiness, the gift of God Himself.
At the beginning of Lent we hear the call that introduces the message of Jesus: ‘Repent and believe in the Good News’ (Mk. 1:15) This next few weeks is supposed to be a time of spiritual refreshment, a time of repentance that prepares us for Easter, when we will renew our commitment to believing in the Gospel of God’s love. So now, let us take a pause and ask ourselves whether we are open to be really changed as people over the next few weeks.
An old priest in Russia during the time of the Tsars was stopped one day by a royal guard. Pointing his gun at him, the guard asked gruffly: “What is your name? Why are you here? Where are you going?” The priest looked at the guard and said: “How much do they pay you to ask me these questions?” The guard replied, “Three kopeks a month.” “I will pay you 10 kopeks a month” said the priest, “if you will stop me every week and ask me these same three questions.”
What is your name?
Why are you here?
Where are you going?
These three questions are what our baptism reminds us of. “What is your name?” Do you still remember your IDENTITY- as a child of God? “Why are you here?” Do you still remember your MISSION here on earth? “Where are you going?” Do you know or still remember your DESTINY – your eternal home?
In our Gospel today, Jesus being aware of his identity, mission and destiny immediately after his baptism allows himself to be led by the Spirit into the wilderness. The wilderness as we know is a harsh and torturing environment where one could easily give in to the temptations of the devil. But because he kept constantly in mind his identity, mission and destiny, he was able to overcome the temptations of the devil.
Beloved in Christ, we too are in the wilderness of the world, most especially in this Lenten season. We too are among wild beasts. Wild beasts represent not only the danger that surround us, but also dangers within. We humans do sometimes act like animals. But that is not necessarily a bad and dangerous thing. It reminds us that we are surrounded by the natural world which is also created by God. We need to develop our awareness of the traces of God’s presence in the world around us: the natural beauty that we see, the people we encounter, and the situations we find ourselves in. They all point to God’s loving presence, if only we have eyes that see and ears that hear. As much as we need to be aware of the divine presence in the natural world around us, we also need to be aware of the supernatural world.
The Church is the new ark. The Church, the new ark, exists in the world, surrounded by dangers, just as Noah’s ark was surrounded by the danger of the destructive flood. In the world evil and temptation lurk. Hence, St. Peter calls the devil a roaring lion seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). Baptism, and all that it does for us, saves us by the grace of God. It places us in a new ark, the Church.
But our baptism comes with some consequences; it binds us to the covenant where we have to live our lives in obedience to the commandments and the will of God. Becoming children of God is the easy part. But the part of dying to sin and rising with Christ daily are the toughest because they test and prove how seriously we take our relationship with God and our part of the covenant seriously.
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, our call to conversion at lent is not to something harsh, unbearable or demeaning, but to a life with and like Christ. This is the only life with meaning and highest dignity we could aspire to; to this point, becoming brothers and sisters of Christ, even the angels recognizing him in us would have no choice but to assist us in our struggles in life and most especially at this season of lent, just as they ministered to him. God bless our struggles in this holy season.
*Rev Fr Stephen ‘Dayo Osinkoya*