First Sunday of Lent


The readings in the Mass today give a lot of food for thought about the way of meditation or any spiritual practice that takes us deeper than thought. They also remind us – as the spirit of Lent is meant to do – to desire the right kind of food, healthy food and the food by which we truly live.

The first reading is the story, the myth found in many ancient cultures, of the Great Flood. To the modern imagination it is rather comical because we look at things factually and miss the mythical meaning; and so we see the story of Noah as a kind of cartoon. Yet when you give it a chance and sit with it for a while it speaks much more resonantly to us. Who has not at times experienced an inundation in their life – of loss, grief, suffering or major disappointment of hopes? We would not be able to nod in reply if we had not also found an ark that enabled us to get through it with enough to start again.

And, let us hope, we also saw the colourful bow in the sky that became a sign that we could always be resilient in the future. The sunlight shining through raindrops revealing the distinct, colourful beauties of the part of the spectrum of light that we can see and suggesting more of the beauty that is out of our present range of perception.

In the second reading, the waters of the Flood remind Peter of baptismal initiation into relationship with Christ. The deepest relationships of our lives often begin when we are in crisis and grow deeper over the years through adversity. We are baptised into every meaningful relationship. As Christ grows in us and we grow in Christ, we understand better what Peter means by saying that he ‘preaches to the spirits in prison’. Those parts of us swept safely away from sight, as we do with criminals we fear, begin to hear a new message that make us aware they are prisons of our own making.

The gospel is taken from Mark, who is the least wordy and most direct of the gospel narrators. He simply tells us that the ‘Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days and was tempted by Satan”. That is enough of a metaphor to work with to understand our own Lent. “He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him”.

What are your wild beasts? And who or what looks after you?

Afterwards, Jesus proclaimed the Good News which he had heard in the desert silence. It is compressed in an easily remembered campaign slogan: “The time has come and the Kingdom of Heaven is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News”.

What do you feel – excitement or fear or both – on hearing that the “time has come”?

Time for what?

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