Day 5: First Sunday of Lent

THE TEST OF FIDELITY

 

  1. Document: Holy Scripture Readings

1.1.  First Reading: The Book of Genesis 9:8-15

1.2.  Second Reading: St Peter’s first Letter 3:18-22

1.3.  Gospel Reading: The Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

1.4.  Simple Comment: Faithful to God’s instructions, Noah enacts a new beginning for humanity. The Lord establishes a covenant of life with him through the symbol of the rainbow. Similarly in the Gospel, by emerging triumphant over the devil’s temptations which tried to urge him to forsake the ways of God, Jesus begins a new era of human history which reverses man’s constant infidelity to God’s laws. Peter in the second reading reminds Christians that baptism corresponds to this same victory of Christ over sin by death to the flesh and by resurrection to new life brought about by the Spirit.

 

  1. Monument: Jericho

2.1.  Jericho is an oasis sitting on the northwestern part of the mouth of the River Jordan leading to the Dead Sea. It lies 800 meters below sea level, perhaps the lowest habitable place of the planet Earth. Jesus was baptized by John in that part of the River Jordan very close to Jericho. After this singular event, Jesus moved away and climbed the nearby mountain where he prayed for 40 days and 40 nights. Here he contended with the devil’s temptations and he came out victorious by keeping himself faithful to his Father’s wishes. Indeed he confirms with this victory what the Father proclaimed when he rose from the waters of the Jordan: This is my Beloved Son; in Him I am well pleased.

2.2.  Jericho is also known as the town where Jesus cured the blind man Bartimeus. He used to sit and beg by the roadside. However, he called on Jesus to have pity upon him. Jesus heeded his call for help. Upon receiving back his sight, he followed Jesus up the road. This miracle happened immediately before Jesus went up to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, which fact meant, according to St Mark’s interpretation of the story, that Bartimeus is the true disciple because he followed Jesus up to Calvary, up to his ultimate self-offering on the Cross. All twelve apostles forsook Jesus instead.

 

  1. Lenten Reflection

3.1.  Jesus won over Satan’s test by faithfully towing the line of the Father’s will which meant that he offers his life on the cross as the way to ransom humanity from its sinfulness. The cross is a symbol of God’s unconditional and faithful love for us. We would never have known the extent, the height, the depth and the greatness of His love if not for his willingness to die for our sake. Jesus explicitly stated this to his apostles during the Last Supper: “Greater love than this no man has to give his life for his friends.”

3.2.  In the same evening supper, Jesus sets his total dedication for his flock as the model for genuinely living out the Christian calling: “Love one another as I have loved you!” Indeed the test of fidelity happens like in marriage or in any form of commitment when a person overcomes the temptation of following the easy way out of such commitment whenever sacrifices and the cross loom as demanded. Our present society tries its best to eradicate the cost of loving by offering substitute solutions in order to evade carrying the cross, indeed a constant deception played out by the Evil One.

 

  1. Contemporary Filipino Question: For several years now, during the sessions of our Congress, many sectors have endorsed anti-family bills. Be it divorce, euthanasia, abortion, same-sex marriages, all these tantamount to forsaking the burden of sticking to one’s commitment of love, to one’s fidelity to the demands of genuine Christian discipleship. How can we trace on ourselves the sign of the Cross when we do not wish to carry its consequences in marital fidelity to our spouse, in patient care of an aging parent, in pursuing to term an unplanned pregnancy?