First Sunday of Lent 2021: Bulletin Art, Column

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First Sunday of Lent 2021

Dear Followers of the Christ,

In today’s Mass, we read Mark 1:12-15. The first chapter of Mark dives right into the adult Jesus. He is baptized and sent into the desert to prepare for his three-year ministry. This gospel writer glosses over the birth narrative of Jesus and gets right into the nitty-gritty ministry that eventually leads Jesus to his death.

So, here we are in Lent again. Because of the pandemic, it seems we are still in Lent from last March 13, 2020 when we had to shut down everything in the parish and beyond. The desert days of Lent loom long and tedious, especially this year, because we still do not know when we can get a hug or see the laugh lines on our friends’ faces.

Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days. Our society has been tempted in our rough, dry days of pandemic as well. We have faced job loss, racial divides and outrage, loss of careers, and faced obstacles to educate and raise our children. The wild beasts seem to have gotten the best of us this year. These past two Lenten seasons are unlike any Lent in a century.

However, we are still on the journey toward redemption and new life. We are called once again to repent of the weight that has accumulated upon our shoulders, that has wedged us into despair and hopelessness. Easter will bring rejoicing when we capture a glimpse of new life glowing from our family dinner tables, within school assemblies or at our local hospitals and nursing homes. Life still has meaning, we are still filled with hope, even when we are challenged to let go of our control and find God in every aspect of humanity.

We still have work to do in this Lenten season. We are not off the hook just because we are facing a pandemic. Afterall, the real purpose of Lent is to draw closer to Jesus Christ. There is still mercy, forgiveness and hope at the bottom of the well of our renewal of baptism. God is still inviting us to go deeper into our Christian commitments. God is still tugging on our sleeves to get our attention and to show us that he is the only one who can heal us. In these days of continuing isolation, we are still called to seek the unbelievable passion of Jesus Christ who calls our names and invites us to follow him to his cross, to his empty tomb.  

Christ Jesus desires to be at the center of our lives. This is the purpose of Lent. We fast in order to be hungry for God. We pray, to draw closer to the love God has for us. We give alms because we know that being pro-life means we help to lift up all aspects of human suffering. The desert of Lent is really an invitation to clear away the chaos, the emotional debris, the junk we cling to in life, in order to discover that our lives are being drawn ever so deeper into the mystery of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection.

Christ Jesus desires to heal our past.  As we seek the Kingdom of God, we are drawn into the mercy of Christ Jesus. We do not earn such a gift. Many people stumble thinking that they need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to look good in the eyes of God. This is genuine heresy.  We don’t save ourselves. Only God’s eternal love and mercy invites us closer to Him. This is the function of Lent when we can take our liturgy seriously in our lives.

Christ Jesus opens our path through tough times.  The Lenten season opens with Jesus being tested by evil in the desert for forty days. This is not just about the past, but Jesus is healing and redeeming all evil in the world and offering us the ability to journey with him. Jesus heals our rough relationships, sorts our angry and reveals to us that darkness does not win, no matter the issues that get us down. Lent explores the reality that Jesus is walking with us in the ruts of the desert we have created in our own lives. Jesus is our only hope.

Christ Jesus unites us in our common baptism.  The Lenten season came to be in the Church as adults were waiting to be baptized at Easter. Then, it became a time for all Christians to renew their commitment in Christ’s death and resurrection. Most Christians forget that what we have in common is baptism. This is our place of belonging in the church. This is the foundation of why we learn to reach out to those in need. Our ministry flows from the waters of new life, leading us on the same path of salvation. Renew your life in baptism, in His love for all people during this Lenten season.  Make sure the story of your baptism is told and why you want to live as a Christian in the first place.

Christ Jesus offers us justice and new life.  The path to Easter is essentially a path to human justice and love. New life is meant for all humanity. Christ speaks to us through our sorrows and into our redeemed and loving hearts. Life can change. Jesus heals our hurts and our grief. Jesus changes hearts. Paths open up for us as believers. We really can learn to become more kind, gentler with our neighbor. We can live not from our ego accomplishments, but the internal longing to listen to the voice of Christ Jesus. The Holy Spirit leads us if we can simply entrust our stubbornness to God. All things matter in Jesus Christ.

God give you peace,

Fr. Ron

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