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Homily for the First Sunday of Lent (B) (18th February, 2018) on the Gospel

Gen 9:8-15;
Ps 24:4-9 (R. cf. v. 10);
1Pt 3:18-22;
Mk 1:12-15.

An overweight businessman decided it was time to shed some excess pounds. He took his new diet seriously, even changing his driving route to avoid his favourite bakery. One morning, however, he arrived at work carrying a gigantic coffee cake. His co-workers all scolded him, but he explained, “I accidentally drove by the bakery this morning, and there in the window was lots of cake. I felt this was no accident, so I prayed, ‘Lord, if you want me to have one of those delicious coffee cakes, let me have a parking place directly in front of the bakery’.” He continued, “And sure enough, the eighth time around the block, there it was![1]
Topic: Visit the Desert.
During our Spiritual Year formation, Wednesdays were always very challenging. They were set aside for desert experience. It was both really challenging as well as very necessary.
In today’s gospel, “...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” (Mk 1:12-13). This happened after Jesus’ baptism but before His public ministry. It was a decisive moment for Jesus; time to decide whether to say Yes to His Father and No to Satan or the other way round.
Desert experience or whatever one prefers to call it is very important in our lives as individuals, both Christians, Muslims, Hindus, pagans, atheists, and so on and even in our lives as nations. And it is not a must that one has to travel to any of the deserts in the world for the experience. It is time to be alone with God. Hence Jesus tells us, “go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father... (Matt 6:6). It is not time for too many words. It is a time to face oneself in the presence of God.
The holy season of Lent has just begun. And “At the beginning of Lent we renew our response to the Covenant, the pact of love that God made with each of us at our baptism” (The new Sunday missal: A new edition, p. 519). Although many have made different resolutions this Lent but I consider it necessary to recall the resolutions we made earlier before now and to what extent we fulfilled them. Our lives would have been something very much better if we have been fulfilling our resolutions.
Desert is for different purposes. One can go to the desert to pray, cf. Mk 1:35; to rest, cf. Mk 6:31; to be taught, cf. Lk 9:11; to decide, cf. Matt 14:13; to be healed, cf. Matt 14:14, among others. It is time for us to visit the Desert because it is high time we look at ourselves in the presence of God to see how well we are achieving our potentials.
Even in our present conditions, we must not forget that just as the angels were with Jesus in the wilderness, God’s angels are always with us because he has given his angels charge over us to guard us in all our ways, cf. Ps 91:11; Matt 4:6; Lk 4:10. May no situation lead us into sin for Jesus never sinned, cf. Heb 4:15; 1Pt 2:22. It is important we make out time for God so that He can direct our lives and our nations. Unlike the businessman in our introductory story, we must not expose ourselves to temptations.
One may ask why desert of all places? As long as we are attached to our ethnic groups, personal interests, and so on, it will be very difficult for us to make important decisions rightly.
Bible Readings: Matt 6:5-34; 13:1-23; Jas 4:1-10; Heb 4:14-16; Is 58:1-14; Eph 6:10-20.
Thought for today: How did you prepare to spend this holy season?
Let us pray:
Lord, following your example we have gone into the desert. We know that Satan may tempt us but we rely on your power because apart from you we can do nothing – Amen (Jn 15:5).
You are free to share this reflection with others if you consider it worthy.

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[1] Thomas, T., (2010). Spice up your homilies. Mumbai: St Pauls, p. 81.

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