Fr. Wilson Andrade, CSC, is the pastor of St. Ann’s Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto.
There is a story of a woman who had a shopping habit, which put her in a bad financial situation. She went to her pastor to ask for advice. After listening to her, the pastor said her bad habit was caused by temptations from the devil and she should confront it with prayer and words from the Bible, like when Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan.”
The woman was grateful for the advice, but a few days later she came back to see the pastor and told him that she had fallen into temptations and bought an expensive dress.
The pastor, somewhat annoyed, said, “Didn’t you tell the devil to get behind you, as I said?”
She, with a low voice, replied: “I did, Father, but when he was behind me, he whispered in my ear, ‘This dress looks just as beautiful from the back as it does from the front.’ Next thing I knew, I had bought it.”
We began the season of Lent on Ash Wednesday – only three days ago – and I wonder how many of us have already fallen into temptation and have broken our Lenten promises?
In the new translation of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Do not let us fall into temptation.” But even if we have succumbed to temptation, the term “Lent” is taken from the old English word which means “spring season,” so we are all called to “rise” to “spring” back to God during the Lenten Season.
Based on this weekend’s readings, I would like to reflect with you on the following three phrases: Sign of Covenant; Spiritual Conversion; and Salvation in Christ.
Sign of Covenant
Today’s first reading portrays a beautiful sign of the covenant between God, human beings and every living creature. After the flood, Noah was presented with the rainbow as a new sign of our covenant with God. They are visible to all when the sunlight strikes the falling raindrops.
Perhaps we have admired this sign while in nature, like a dance of light and water. Through this sign of hope, an everlasting promise, God made a universal declaration of salvation for the whole of creation. God will never give up on us, God always sends an ark to rescue us. God sends many natural signs of His blessings to provide for us and to protect us.
How is your personal relationship with God? What is your personal sign of covenant with God?
Do we believe in God’s covenant of love? Do we pray to God to help us “to teach us to walk in God’s ways, lead us in truth, become humble and to live in faithfulness and love?”
All the biblical covenants are an invitation from God to begin a journey of spiritual conversion. Most of the prophetic messages are based on this call to spiritual conversion.
Many of the Lenten readings help us reflect upon spiritual conversion. As the Prophet Hosea beautifully expressed it, “Come back to me with all your heart...”
The message of Jesus in the Gospel is clear: “The time is fulfilled and Kingdom of God has come near, Repent and believe in the Good News.”
As Pope Francis says: “Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our spiritual lethargy.”
The Church gives us this holy season of Lent as a time for conversion of body, mind and spirit by changing our old ways and by believing in the Good News of God.
During this Lent can we journey on the path of spiritual conversion so we can find meaning and fulfillment in Jesus Christ?
Salvation in Christ
As Noah received the sign of covenant on behalf of the whole of creation, Jesus Christ is the sign of God’s eternal covenant with us. The Gospel of Mark narrates that after Jesus was baptized, He was led into the wilderness where He was tempted by Satan, while He was among wild beasts. Jesus faced struggle at all levels.
The Letter to the Hebrews gives testimony that Jesus was “one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
This Gospel narration shows the humanity of Jesus as He goes through these 40 days of struggles in the wilderness. Jesus shows us that we too can overcome temptations that we face in everyday life. Jesus proclaims that Good News of God, who never gives up on us – a God who invites us to enter into the Kingdom of God where there is mercy, love and peace.
The Letter of Peter perfectly points out that: “Christ suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God.”
We began this journey of spiritual conversion in our baptism, to be part of God’s covenant of love and to share in the joy and peace in Heaven. As Noah’s Ark became the hope that saved creation, Jesus Christ is the hope for our salvation for everyone and for all eternity. So, let us listen to the message of Jesus and follow in His footsteps to find fulfillment in our life.
Lord Jesus, thank you for proclaiming the message of the Good News of God. Help us to repent and believe in God’s love that you won for us by your life, death and resurrection so we can rejoice with you in Heaven. Amen
This reflection is based on the readings for the First Sunday of Lent: Genesis 9.8-15; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.12-15.