FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.
Be mindful of your mercy, O Lord, and of your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for your goodness’ sake, O Lord!
Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.
1 Peter 3:18-22
Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
It was immediately after his baptism that the Holy Spirit sent Jesus into the desert. It is important to see what God is saying about these two events. Jesus is showing us our way.
Jesus received the waters of baptism and went into a very dry place. With the exception of certain specialized animals, the desert is uninhabited. It is inhospitable and uncultivated. If the desert can be like the starting place of a soul that, like a feral child, does not know any human love, we ask, what does baptism bring to it? Baptism is an awakening of a life that will be spent cultivating a love of God and man. Even if a soul wanders alone in a wasteland, it will see that there are signs of life, like plants and animals, that indicate the work of the Creator who has not forsaken it.
We who have passed through the waters of baptism, have received the Spirit within us. If our outer world is hostile, we still have God. If we know where we stand with God, who created a paradise, but that humanity, through sin, made barren, we are the vessels who begin the process of making the desert grow. The desert increases our thirst for the fruitfulness of the garden we have fallen from.
The desert experience was a very specific time for Jesus. It was not a random number of days to pass. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and nights, before he wrote the Ten Commandments. Rain fell on Noah and the ark for forty days and nights. The Israelites were wandering in the desert for forty years. Forty is a number that signifies testing or trial and also completeness. Like our forty days of Lent, we too are tested and if we are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and take time to listen to God, alone with our thoughts, we can receive many insights into our souls.
What did Jesus do in the desert? He had no food but he could rest his body.
There was no human company but the company of animals and angels.
There was no entertainment but also no distractions from God.
The desert was a retreat meant to converse with God the Father over his mission and strengthen him for the spiritual trial and temptations of the enemy. We too will be prepared to resist the devil and find our mission if we pray and fast and give alms in this season of Lent.
Just as Jesus retreated from the world to pray before his important decisions, and like the Blessed Virgin Mary immediately set out to the hill country on a difficult and arduous journey to visit Elizabeth, time alone is time to think and pray. The start of something in the desert is but a seed that will grow to produce more seeds until, after Lent and on Holy Thursday, we find ourselves in a garden of our labors.
This Lent, let us consider our own testing and trials as a strengthening of our spirits to resist evil and withstand the enemy’s temptations, praying to discover the way our Heavenly Father is setting up our future for mission.