Catholic homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent Year B
Theme: A FORTY DAYS JOURNEY!
By: Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara
Homily for Sunday February 21 2021
(GEN. 9:8-15, 1 PET. 3:18-22, MK. 1:12-15)
On a sick call to an old man of about ninety-eight, I asked him in my usual comic way ‘Young old man’ how are you doing today? He smiled and responded in my native language “chi boo agiga!” (Every new day is a sign of hope).
Lent is a season of Renewal. The season of Lent provides us a great opportunity to shed off our “spiritually tired and weak skin.” This is in order to wear a more durable one for our Journey. That is why the church invites us to recalls our sense of covenant with God. Christians are people who live on hope. We don’t live on money nor on good friends; we live on hope. We always feel, “Well, that was good but maybe next time it will be a little better,” or “That was really bad. All I’ve got left is hoping that things do get better.”
The Gospel of this First Sunday of Lent is always the Gospel of Christ in the Desert, His temptations after fasting for forty days. The account this year comes from the Gospel of Mark and is very short. Saint Mark simply reports that Jesus was in the desert forty days and was tempted and that angels ministered to Him. It is simply difficult to relate to the Gospel this Sunday about Jesus in the desert. But we must understand, however, that the desert may not necessarily be a physical location. In biblical context, the desert is any situation where a person can be in solitude. And in this solitude, two things can happen: an encounter with God, and an encounter with the Tempter or the ancient beast.
The desert was the birthplace of the people of God of the first covenant. The Hebrews who escaped from Egypt as scattered tribes arrived the Promised Land as one nation under God. It was in the desert that they become a people of God by covenant. In the course of their history when their love and faithfulness to God grew cold, the prophets would suggest their return to the desert to rediscover their identity, their vocation and their mission as a way of reawakening their faith and strengthening their covenant relationship with God. The desert is like the university where God teaches His people.
The fact that Jesus spent forty days in the desert is significant. This recalls the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert after being led from slavery in Egypt. The prophet Elijah also journeyed in the desert for forty days and nights, making his way to Horeb, the mountain of God, where he was also attended to by an angel of the Lord. Remembering the significance of these events, we also set aside forty days for the season of Lent.
Lent is a time to believe more deeply in this God who loves us and comes to save us in every situation. Lent is a time to listen attentively to the Word of God and to meditate on what this Word means in our lives. We are invited to turn away from anything that misleads us and walk always the way of the Lord. But more importantly, it is a time of hope, hope for the redemption of man.
The result of that covenant renewed by Abraham, Isaac and Moses and the Prophets was Jesus. And when Jesus suffered and died all the evil that man had done, evil once punished by the death of the doer, was now expiated as Jesus suffered for all sinners. We succeed because Jesus conquered sin once and for all in his saving death on the cross.
My brothers and sisters, Our Lenten observances are only a beginning, a preparation for and a reinforcement of our ongoing struggle to resist the temptations we face in our lives.
We need to create a desert space in our overcrowded lives. In hope, be prepared for the forty days in the desert!
Have a fruitful lent!
Fr. Augustine Ikechukwu Opara