Deacon Sil's Word For All First Sunday Of Lent (B)
February 12, 2000
First Reading (Genesis 9: 8-15):
God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth." God added: "This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings."
Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 25: 4-9):
Refrain: Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth, to those who keep your covenant.
1) Lord, make me know your ways. Lord, teach me your paths.
Make me walk in your truth, and teach me, for you are God my savior. (Refrain)
2) Remember your mercy, Lord, and the love you have shown from of old.
In your love, remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (Refrain)
3) The Lord is good and upright. He shows the path to those who stray,
He guides the humble in the right path, he teaches his way to the poor. (Refrain)
Second Reading (1 Peter 3: 18-22):
This is why Christ died for sins once for all, a just man for the sake of the unjust: so that he could lead you to God. He was put to death insofar as fleshly existence goes, but was given life in the realm of the Spirit. It was in the spirit also that he went to preach to the spirits in prison. They had disobeyed as long ago as Noah's day, while God patiently waited until the ark was built. At that time, a few persons, eight in all, escaped in the ark through the water. You are now saved by a baptismal bath which corresponds to this exactly. This baptism is no removal of physical stain, but the pledge to God of an irreproachable conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He went to heaven and is at God's right hand, with angelic rulers and powers subjected to him.
Gospel (Mark 1: 12-15):
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. He stayed in the wasteland forty days, put to the test there by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and angels waited on him. After John's arrest, Jesus appeared in Galilee proclaiming God's good news: "This is the time of fulfillment. The reign of God is at hand. Reform your lives and believe in the good news."
Text from: Lectionary for Mass Volume I, Copyright © 1998, 1997, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine; © 1997, 1981, 1969 International Commission on English in the Liturgy, Inc. (ICEL) All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL. (This resource is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)]
The Gospel of Mark, by William Barclay, pp. 21-26. The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, Pa. 1975.
Days of the Lord, Volume 2, pp. 48-55. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn. 1993.
The Cultural World of Jesus, by John J. Pilch, pp. 49-51. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn. 1996.
Bringing the Word to Life, by Michael R. Kent, pp. 25-26. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, Ct. 1996.
The Word Encountered, by John F. Kavanaugh, pp. 36-38. Orbis Books, Maryknoll, NY 1996.
Mark, by Wilfrid Harrington, pp. 5-14. The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Mn. 1979.
A Sandpiper to Bring You Joy, from A Third Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 8-11. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 1996.
The Martyrdom of Andy, from A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, pp. 50 - 54. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 1995. (Specifically mentions "whatsoever you do to the least...".)
Today's gospel reading is taken from the first chapter of Mark, verses 12 to 15. Prior to the beginning of this week's gospel, Mark has described John's baptizing in the desert and his baptism of Jesus. At his baptism, the Spirit of God entered into our Lord in a special way. And it is interesting to note that the first thing the Spirit does is drive Jesus into the wilderness for forty days where he was tested by the devil. Christ has given his life as an example to us of how we should live our lives and what we can expect to encounter during our lifetimes. So it should come as no surprise to us that Jesus experiences a prolonged period of testing in the desert. Mark's use of the wild beasts and angels seems to signify a conflict of cosmic proportions, although being with the wild beasts could be a good thing, signifying that Christ was one with them.
Times of trial surely are no surprise to us. We are tested by the devil on a daily basis. But it is these times of trial which strengthen us for the future.
In today's gospel reading from Mark, I think that there are two things which jump out at us: first of all, that Christ was driven into the desert by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; and secondly, that he began his public ministry by preaching a gospel of repentance.
In taking our flesh upon himself, our Lord desired to experience our lives to the full, with the sole exception of sin. Since temptation, and how we respond to it, is an integral part of our lives, he experienced it also. As the letter to the Hebrews states, Jesus was made "completely like his brothers [and sisters]. In him we have a high priest who can feel our weaknesses with us; for he was tempted in every way that we are, though he is without sin." (Heb 2:17-18).
"Jesus can identify with us. He is like us in all things and ways, sin excepted. He was tempted as we are. He was not immune to suffering, to hurt, to disappointment...He deigned to taste of human triumph, of failure, and of death. He rejected none of our joys; he only rejected sin. This is the most profound mystery of God's love.
"Jesus was wholly human, but that doesn't mean that he was merely human. The fact that he was 'without sin' did not imply any lack of humanness. Sin is not an intrinsic ingredient of humanity. Quite the contrary. Sin is a fall from humanity. But otherwise he shared our weakness and our temptations." (1)
Once he had overcome Satan in the desert (as discussed further by Matthew and Luke), he went about preaching repentance. The word repent comes from the Greek word metanoia and literally means a change of heart. Repentance is different from merely being sorry for sin. Sorrow for sin means that we regret our past sins with no regard for the future. Perhaps we are sorry for the consequences of sin, and not sin itself, because we know that God is just and will punish us. Repentance, however, means being sorry for our past sins, while also promising not to sin again in the future because it offends God.
In the New York area this past week, Yankee fans were stunned to learn that Darryl Strawberry had failed his third drug test in five years and had been suspended from baseball for one year by Commissioner Bud Selig. One reporter noted that ever since his meeting with Strawberry and his wife, both weeping and begging, Selig had been waging his own war on temptation - the temptation to go easy on a sick and broken man, a survivor of colon cancer. "I had no doubt that his remorse and sorrow were genuine," Selig said, "and I worried about the effect my decision would have on his health and the welfare of his family." In the end, however, Selig decided that each of us must be held accountable for our actions and so imposed the sentence.
For whatever reason, the Straw man had regretted his past sins but had fallen short of true repentance and had fallen back into his previous problems. Of course, we all know how strong these addictions - call them temptations - can be. When we are thrown back into a living situation which had lent itself to previous failures, success against new temptations is very difficult indeed. Success, for the most part, is dependent upon our removal from the situations which caused us temptations in the past. Unless we have a higher motivation, that is.
I would like to share with you a story that author Walter Wangerin tells about an experience he had with his son, Matthew.
When Matthew was seven years old and in the second grade, he became fascinated with comic books--so much so, that one day he stole some from the library. When Walter found the comic books in Matthew's room, he confronted him, corrected him, disciplined him, and took him back to the library to return the books. Matthew received a stern lecture regarding stealing from the librarian and also from his dad. The following summer, however, it happened again. Matthew stole some comic books from a resort gift shop. Again Walter corrected him, told him how wrong it was to steal and made him return the magazines. A year later, Matthew once again stole some comic books from a drug store. Walter decided he had to do something to get his son's attention and to underscore the seriousness of stealing. So he took Matthew into his study and said, "Matthew, I have never spanked you before, and I don't want to now, but somehow I've got to get through to you and help you see how wrong it is to steal." So Walter bent Matthew over and spanked him five times with his bare hand. Matthew's eyes moistened with tears, and he sat there looking at the floor. His father sensed that his son did not want to cry in front of his father, so he said, "Matthew, I'm going to leave you alone for a little while. You sit here, and I'll be back in a few minutes." With that, he stepped out of the study and closed the door behind him. Once out the door, he says that he was overcome at the thought of what he had just done. He, himself, broke down and cried uncontrollably. When he had regained his composure, he went into the bathroom and washed his face. Then he went back into the study to talk to his son. From that moment on, Matthew never stole again. Years later, as Matthew and his mother were driving home from shopping, they talked about some memories of his childhood. They remembered the incident with the comic books. Matthew said, "Mom, after that, I never stole anything again from anybody, and I never will." His mother asked, "Was it because your dad spanked you that day?" "Oh no," Matthew explained, "It was because I heard him crying!" (2)
The thing that made the greatest impression on Matthew was not the spanking that he received from his father, but rather the effect that his lack of repentance had had on his father. I mentioned earlier that true repentance is motivated not only by a sorrow for sin but by a desire not to offend God. But offending God is a difficult notion for us to conceptualize. However, we could understand it better if we could bring it into a human situation. As we discussed earlier, we know that Christ was human and was one like us in all things but sin. But he was also the second person of the blessed Trinity, and therefore God. So whatever sufferings Jesus endured, God endured. To find the extent of how our sins offended God, we need look no further than the cross.
Some thirty-five years ago, I read a book which had a profound effect on me. It was called A Doctor At Calvary and was written in the 1950's by a French doctor named Pierre Barbet who had studied the Shroud of Turin. As a result of his findings, he was able to determine what our Lord would have suffered during his passion, and those sufferings are almost beyond comprehension. (3)
It is said that those who meditate on his passion are very dear to Christ. Blessed Denis the Carthusian once said: "If we love Him not because He is good, because He is God, let us at least love Him because He has suffered so many things for our salvation."
If we do enter fully into his sufferings, then perhaps, like Matthew in our story, we will be less inclined to sin due to our knowledge of what our sins have done to Christ. And perhaps we will also be more inclined to be truly repentant for our sins and change our lives. And because he himself endured temptation, Jesus understands us and can help us. Hence, we can approach him with confidence and ask forgiveness for our sins, knowing that he will have mercy on us and grant us grace in our own time of need.
1. from Like Us In All Things But Sin, copyright 1999 by Flor McCarthy, SDB. Reprinted with permission from New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies, Dominican Publications, Dublin, IR and Costello Publications, New York, New York. [You can order this resource, and many others at a discount, through the Homiletic Resource Center. For more info, or to order, please click on the link above.]
2. from Standing on the Promises or Sitting on the Premises, copyright 1995 by James W. Moore, pp. 21-22. Dimensions for Living, Nashville, TN. Adapted from The Weeping Christ, copyright 1993 by William J. Bausch. Reprinted with permission from More Telling Stories, pp. 21-25. Twenty-third Publications, Mystic, CT. [This resource, as well as many others, is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center. If you enjoyed this homily, you might consider purchasing the BAUSCH TREASURY, a complete set of his homiletic books, including his new ones The Yellow Brick Road, The Word In And Out Of Season and A World of Stories for Preachers and Teachers, as well as all of his previous publications:
Telling Stories, Compelling Stories;
More Telling Stories, Compelling Stories;
Storytelling: Imagination and Faith; and
Storytelling the Word (which contains a liturgical index of all of his previous works.)
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3. (The following is my summary of Barbet's principal findings, although it is hardly comprehensive. I would suggest that these not be used in preaching where children are present lest they have nightmares):
first of all, Barbet verifies through medical knowledge what Luke has recounted in his passion narrative that severe emotional stress could well bring someone to the point of sweating blood which would drop to the ground in clots.
He points out that this would have made the skin very sensitized to the later flogging, which was inflicted not only on his back but also on his legs and chest.
From the evidence on the shroud, the nose has been broken and there is a large bruise on the right cheek from blows received during his interrogation in the courts of Pilate.
The thorns were not those of roses but rather from a tree very common in the near East which had very sharp thorns almost two inches long. These were shaped not into a crown, but into a cap which covered his entire scalp. Ironically, similar caps (called a "pileus") were worn by freed slaves as a symbol of their freedom.
Christ did not carry the entire cross on the way to Calvary but only the patibulum or transverse beam which was raised up on the stipes, or vertical beam, on Calvary.
He fell several times which caused bruises on his knees which are evident on the Shroud.
Death was caused by asphyxiation due to the inability of the body to exhale breath because of the weight of the body on the hands. This was relieved only by pushing the body up from the nail in the feet.
The wounds of the nails were not in the palm of the hands but in the "place of Destot", a gap in the wrist between the bones of the arm and the hand. There, the nails would have pierced the main mesial (sensory and motor) nerve in the body, thus causing excruciating pain each time he moved during the three hour agony. (For an analysis, consider the pain caused when a nerve in our teeth is touched and multiply that by the number of times Christ pushed his body up during his agony.)
(For additional meditation material on the passion, please see The Healing Wounds of Christ.)
(Copyright February 1, 2000 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
First Sunday of Lent (B)
February 12, 2000
Lord Jesus, you were driven into the desert by the Spirit. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you were tempted in every way that we are but did not sin. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you can truly understand our needs when we call upon you. Lord, have mercy.
First Sunday of Lent (B)
February 12, 2000
Prayers of the Faithful
Celebrant: Our Lord became one like us in all things but sin. Therefore, in confidence that he understands our needs, we bring our prayers and petitions before him.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, show us your mercy."
That the bishops, priests, deacons, religious and lay leaders of the Church will prayerfully lead the faithful through their Lenten journey, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will come to the aid of those who have been displaced from their homes due to natural disasters, poverty or human conflict, we pray to the Lord.
That those who are tempted by trials, including the sick, the lonely and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, may be strengthened by God's grace, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish community will use this Lenten season to seek reconciliation not only with God but with one another, we pray to the Lord.
That the sharing and prayers of our Renew Small Group Communities may draw our parish family closer together, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions which we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Merciful Father, you sent your Son to teach us how to live. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to strengthen us in time of temptation to avoid sin and thereby gain the eternal life earned for us by your Son. We ask this through Christ, our Lord.