First Sunday of Lent B: February 18, 2018
“THE TIME IS FULFILLED, REPENT AND BELIEVE” First Reading: Genesis 9: 8-25 Second Reading: 1 Peter 3: 18-22 Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 12-15 * First reading is from the book of Genesis. This passage describes the floods that took place at the time of Noah. After the floods, Lord God made a covenant with Noah that there will never again be such a universal catastrophe. The Lord God’s pact with Noah and his sons tells us about God’s unfailing fidelity and benevolence towards the humankind. The rainbow was a sign of the covenant between God and man. * Second reading is from the first letter of St. Peter. In this passage, the flood waters at the time of Noah and the waters of baptism are compared. Peter tells the Christian community that the waters of flood during the time of Noah symbolizes the waters of our baptism by which we are saved. Like Noah and family were saved, it is through our baptism that we are saved and we enter into the new covenant and a new relationship with God. Peter exhorts all of us to live according to the Christian faith, no matter what trials we have to endure because of it. “Temptations of Jesus” Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Peter. This passage gives a brief narrative of the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness. Jesus went through a time of serious reflection and challenges during those days in the desert. As we know from experience, athletes prepare diligently for long duration. Similarly professional artists rehearse painstakingly for long hours and good teachers do their preparations meticulously. Before starting His public ministry, Jesus went into the desert to prepare Himself for the divine task entrusted to Him by the heavenly Father and to purify His mind and cleanse His heart. Mark narrates Jesus’ going into the desert to combat the devil and concludes with His victorious emergence. Jesus emerged from His forty days of fasting and prayer and prepared for the ultimate test of strength and skill against the powers of evil. Lent is a time when all followers of the Lord try to renew their lives. In a sense, we go into the desert with Jesus. We are urged to keep the last verse of today’s Gospel throughout Lent,”Repent, and believe in the Gospel”. “Lent comes providentially to reawaken us to shake us from our lethargy” – Pope Francis “As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst …Repent and believe – Jesus tells us” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.“Lent is a time to renew wherever we are in that process, that I call divine therapy” – Thomas Keating.
“HEALING A LEPER” First Reading: Leviticus 13: 1-2,45-46 Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 10: 31-11:1 Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 40-45 * First reading is from the book of Leviticus. This passage narrates the wretched condition of lepers in Old Testament times. During those times leprosy made a person physically, spiritually and socially an outcast and unwanted in the society. As long as the disease lasted, a leper was forced out of his home and had to live in some secluded place. Lepers were considered ritually unclean and they were compelled to live far away from human habitations. * Second reading is from the first letter of St. Paul to Corinthians. In this passage Paul urges Christians in Corinth not to offend anyone but to do good at all times. He reminds the people there and all of us that in whatever we do we have to give glory to God. He gives his own example and tells us that he gives glory to God by being a perfect imitators of Christ and does everything for the good of others.“Jesus Stretched out His hand and Touched him and said to him, ‘I will, be clean’ “ Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Mark. This passage narrates the dramatic way Jesus healed a leper. This man implored Jesus to heal him from leprosy and immediately Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and healed him. The leprosy mentioned in Gospel symbolizes all the external and internal illness that we suffer from. While healing this leper, Jesus did the unthinkable. He reached out and touched this suffering man. Jesus could very well heal him without touching him. By His action, Jesus gave him dignity and showed that this man too is very precious in the eyes of God. By His touch and consoling words Jesus not only healed the wounds and pains of leprosy but also the wounds caused by rejection which was inflicted on him by the society. Blessed Fr. Damien of Molokoi is a prime example of a person who tried to emulate Jesus by his love and care for the lepers. When he died after working many years for the welfare of the lepers, he too had contracted leprosy. The following words are written on his tomb. “Love never fails” – 1 Corinthians 13“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis but rather the feeling of being unwanted” -St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
First Reading: Jonah 3: 1-5,10 Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 7: 29-31 Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 14-20 * First reading is from book of Prophet Jonah. This passage describes how the Lord God sent Prophet Jonah to Nineveh. Nineveh was the capital city of Assyria, the bitter enemy of Israel. Jonah wanted this city and its inhabitants to be destroyed. But the Lord God chose Jonah to go that city to preach His Word and to bring them to repentance and conversion. Jonah was very reluctant to go there but the Lord God almost by force sent him to preach to the people of Nineveh. When Jonah preached, the people of Nineveh from the greatest to the least repented of their sins and did penance. The Lord God spared the city from impending punishment and destruction. * Second reading is from the first letter of St. Paul to Corinthians. In this passage Paul exhorts the Christians in the port city of Corinth to abandon their old sinful ways and to have a new way of following the teachings of Christ. He encourages them to consider the values of God’s Kingdom above everything else. He tells them and us that after experiencing the love of Christ an attitude of detachment is necessary. “The Kingdom of God is At Hand” Today’s Gospel reading is from St. Mark. This passage speaks of the beginning of Jesus’ ministry with the announcement of the Good News:”The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Good News.” Through this announcement Jesus implies the following: 1. Repentance means experiencing conversion, a new way of life. It is a turning away from sin and turning to God’s ways. Call to repentance is inclusive of everyone. 2. The Good News is that forgiveness is available. Recovery is possible. One can find one’s true self even after the most disheartening fall or series of falls. We can come back to the Father’s love where not judgement but welcome awaits us. In spite of our failures and sins, we are still very much loved unconditionally by God our loving Father. His love, His mercy, His forgiveness are available to us through His son Jesus. All we need to do is to recognize our need and seek His help with humility and sincerity. For He invites us to repentance and to the Good news of the Kingdom.
“REJOICE! THE LORD IS COMING”
First Reading: Isaiah 61: 1-2, 16-11
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-24
Gospel Reading: John 1: 6-8, 15-28
* First reading is from the book of Prophet Isaiah. In this passage Isaiah declares that he had been anointed by the Lord God and sent to bring good news to the poor. He conveys a message of great hope to all those who live in hopelessness. It is the Spirit of God present in us that enables us to carry the message of salvation to the poor. Jesus Himself quotes this passage to announce the programme of His ministry.
* Second reading is from the first letter of St. Paul to Thessalonians. In this passage Paul urges the Christian community of Thessalonika and all of us that we should rejoice always and pray constantly and show our gratitude to God for all the gifts and blessings we have received from Him. We should not despise the spiritual gifts but be earnest in doing good and avoiding evil. In this way we ought to live as we wait for the second coming of the Lord.
“John a Witness to the Light”
Today’s Gospel reading is from St. John. In this Gospel passage, we meet John the Baptist who makes it abundantly clear that he is not the Messiah. John bore witness to the Light. That light was Christ. But what a wonderful witness John was! He witnessed not only with his words but especially through his deeds and his life of renunciation. When the Light finally appeared, John was quite content to fade from the scene and let Christ take over. This indeed was a wonderful way of witnessing.
Today, for many people Christ has become a very dim and distant figure. He is being constantly overshadowed by the powerful electronic media, man’s greed and a world constantly projecting itself and slowly making God some kind of an appendix. The words of the Gospel are very much true today. “There stands one among you, whom you don’t know”.
Prophet Isaiah had said, “The Lord has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening of the prison to those who are bound” This prophecy of Isaiah can become a reality only when we become effective witness to Christ the Light. The third week of Advent invites us to be witnesses of Christ.
“PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD”
First Reading : Isaiah 40: 1-5, 9-11
Second Reading: 2 Peter 3: 8-14
Gospel Reading: Mark 1: 1-14
* First reading is from the book of Prophet Isaiah. In this passage, Isaiah speaks about the great blessings God is going to bring in the lives of the people of Israel when they return from Babylonian captivity. They are urged to prepare the Way of the Lord and make straight a highway for the Lord by leveling the mountains and hills and all uneven grounds. This theme of how to prepare the way of the Lord is explained and expanded in today’s Gospel.
* Second reading is from the Second letter of St. Peter. In this passage, Peter speaks about the second and final coming of the Lord. At His coming Christ will establish a new heaven and a new earth. For that we should prepare ourselves by living our lives in holiness and godliness. The Apostle warns us that if the Lord appears to be slow in coming, it is only for all people have a chance to repent and be ready to meet Him when He comes.
“John the Baptist”
‘The Voice of the one crying in the Desert’
Today’s Gospel reading is from the first Chapter of St. Mark. This passage introduces us to John the Baptist and his mission. John announces the imminent coming of the Saviour and all people are to prepare for His coming. This great person of John introduces Jesus in the Gospel. John worked no miracles held no office of repute , nor he belonged to any influential group of that time. Yet his importance to Jesus was very unique. He is the only religious leader whom Jesus sought and spoke with affection and admiration. He is described as a voice crying in the wilderness. John introduces Jesus as someone who is more powerful than he. John understands that his importance is precisely because of the greatness of Jesus.
John is challenging all of us during this advent to prepare the way of the Lord and to foster greatness in others without feeling threatened about our own importance. John was a voice crying in the wilderness, a lonely voice that many chose to ignore. Today also there are many lonely voices in this world that go unheeded.
“Mark the Season of Advent by loving and serving others with God’s own love and concern” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta.