First Sunday of Lent: Cycle B
In the first reading, we hear the classical Old Testament story of Noah and the Ark. On the surface, this story appears to be about one man and his family that God selected to be spared the Great Flood, but as we hear today, it is much deeper. It is God making a covenant with man, and the foreshadowing another covenant that is to come. The initial covenant is between God and all living things on Earth. God promises Noah that he will never use water to destroy all mortal beings again. The other one foreshadowed in this account, is the everlasting covenant that Jesus makes with mankind, redeeming us from death and sin.
St. Peter aptly notes this in his epistle and connects Noah’s covenant with the ultimate act of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Peter explains that the flood is a great cleansing, that washed away sin, like what baptism does. It is not coincidental that the first of the sacraments is a washing with water, and it is also a form of death, a death to our old, sinful life and it’s a rebirth into a new life with Christ.
In the gospel, we hear that Jesus is starting his public ministry. He has been out in the desert, a time a fasting and prayer, overcoming temptation for 40 days, sounds like where we might have gotten the idea for Lent? And NOW his ready to start his mission!
We hear that John the Baptist has been arrested, he had been an integral part of God’s plan of salvation, to help prepare the way of the Messiah. Once Jesus learns of John’s arrest, Jesus knows it’s now his time. Jesus repeats what John has said, to repent, but Jesus adds to this and believe the Gospel, the Good News.
This message hasn’t change in almost 2,000 years. It is a universal truth. Billions of people have heard it and had it change their lives. It is message steeped in hope and forgiveness. It calls forth love. Again, not a sticky-sweet sentimental emotion, but rather a firm act of the will, requiring us to always be seeking what is best for others, and not merely for ourselves.
As we begin this time of Lent, how can we amend our lives? The word, “Repent” is defined as to turn away from something. How can we turn away from something that isn’t good in our lives? Sin is definitely something we should turn away from, but bad habits, perhaps not sinful in themselves, could be weakening us and could be leading us towards sinful behavior.
Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are some excellent ways to help us form self-discipline, to help us to turn away from bad things in our lives, but also developing virtues is an excellent way to help you to amend your life this Lent and beyond.
If your bad habit is being impatient with your family, friends or co-workers, purposely practice patience with others. Stand there at the door and wait until someone who is moving slow can get there to it. Then smile at them and say something encouraging to them.
Or, if your bad habit is wasting time on the computer, turn it off and say a rosary, or spend time with a friend or love one. Learn to use your time wisely and effectively.
You can think of other ways to turn a bad habit around, find the opposing virtue and practice that every time you are slipping into that habit. If you do it enough, you’ll like the new good habits that you start to develop.