February 26, 2012
First Sunday of Lent: Gn 9:8-15; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
The Sunday readings for lent begin with God's Covenant with Noah and his sons after the great flood where it rained for forty days and forty nights. The following are some good points that we can learn from Noah: Don't miss the boat. Don't forget that we're all in the same boat. Plan ahead, it wasn't raining when Noah built the ark. Stay fit, when you're 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big. Don't listen to critics, just get on with what has to be done. Build your future on high ground. For safety's sake, travels in pairs, two heads are better than one. Speed isn't always an advantage; the snails were on board with the cheetahs. When you're stressed, float awhile. Remember that the ark was built by amateurs; the Titanic was built by professionals. Remember that woodpeckers inside are a larger threat than the storm outside. Take care of your animals as if they were the last ones on earth. When the doo-doo gets really deep, don't sit there and complain--shovel! Stay below deck during the storm. If you have to start over, have a friend by your side. No matter how bleak it looks, there's always a rainbow on the other side.
The promise of new life after the flood only begins after the destruction of the old order. The waters of Noah prefigure the cleansing waters of Baptism. It was as our Lord humbled himself to receive the baptism of John that the Spirit descended upon him and the voice of the Lord proclaimed, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (1:11). It is after Jesus is baptized in the Jordan that He begins His forty day fast in the desert and His active ministry, leading to His death on the cross.
Baptism is one of the keys to understanding Lent. Preparation for Baptism and for renewing baptismal commitment lies at the heart of the season. As we are submerged into the living waters, we are dying to this world in order to emerge to a new life of grace. As Baptism requires dying, renewing our Baptism requires dying again to this world so we can share in the gift of life. Just as Baptism is only the beginning of our spiritual journey, Lent should not only be a season, but a lifetime experience of dying to ourselves to grow in the love of God.
Since we do not fast throughout the year, we can also look at Lent as a type of spiritual, a journey of faith in the midst of our busy lives. Like entering into the ark, vacations do not always seem rational. When I was young, my parents would take us away from our comfortable house and our afternoon cartoons, pack our family into the station wagon with as minimum amount of clothes and food as possible, drag us out to the wilderness, force us to pitch a tent where we would have to sleep on the ground in the cold with rocks as pillows and with dangerous animals all around us; only to wake up and scavenge for wood to make a fire for food and warmth. And then they would call this a vacation! Today, if I wished to visit these same locations, I would probably stay in a nice hotel, sleep in a warm bed with the remote control of the television close by and after making fresh coffee in my room, I would drive to a nice restaurant for a leisurely breakfast and feel like I really was on vacation. Yet, it was those trips that I took as a child that bring back some of my warmest memories.
As we begin this Lenten Season, we are on a spiritual vacation or using the analogy of the first reading, we are entering the ark with its bright promise of a renewal at the end of the journey. This spiritual journey, however, cannot be achieved unless we are willing to get on board! We must be willing to use this season to radically be different so we can be renewed in faith. Our Church offers us the threefold approach of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. These are excellent ways to renew our lives, but not the only way. The bottom line is that if we do nothing to radically change our approach to our spiritual life during this season we will not be renewed.
Therefore, I strongly suggest one of the following: Attend daily Mass when possible, stop by and visit the Adoration chapel or sign up for an hour of Adoration, attend the Way of the Cross on Friday after our simple Lenten meal in the Auditorium. Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, or purchase a good spiritual book in the Bookstore and make it a point to read it during Lent. A good book to purchase is the Magnificat, a monthly publication that has daily prayers and the readings for daily Mass. Assist with Christian Care or join the St. Vincent de Paul Society to work with the poor. Visit the sick, and maybe consider becoming a Eucharist Minister to the sick in homes or in the Hospital. Attend the Church History Class on Monday nights or the Bible Study group on Tuesdays Night, or Thursday during the morning. Plan on attending our Parish Mission. Or maybe become more involved with some other parish or volunteer organization. Whatever we do, Lent is beginning! Get onboard or this great opportunity for our spiritual vacation will pass us by.
Father John Provenza