Fr Dom's Homily
Year B 2021
Fr Dominic Orih
Welcome to the period of Lent! On Wednesday we celebrated Ash Wednesday which ushered in the Lenten season, and today is the First Sunday of Lent.
During the Ash Wednesday ceremony, in adherence to the Covid-19 regulations, a pinch of ash was sprinkled on our heads and before that, these words were spoken, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” These same words are the words that echoes from our Gospel reading today from Mark.
In the Gospel, Jesus was driven by the Spirit to the wilderness, and there he remained for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. It is interesting that the Spirit led Jesus to be tempted by Satan while he was in the wilderness for forty days. This tells us that periods of wilderness are a gift to us for our spiritual growth. This period was certainly important in the life of Jesus, so much so that before he began to proclaim the Good News, he had to go through the purifying period of the wilderness. The wilderness represents isolation, emptiness, dryness, loneliness, silence and what John of Cross called Dark Night of the soul. It is a period of obscurity and sometimes what is always felt is a sense of abandonment. The good news is that we are never abandoned even when we feel alone. The bible said that Jesus was with the wild beasts, but the angels looked after him. The key words here are “looked after.” It is important to note that when we feel we are in the period of wilderness in our own lives, that we are being looked after. God is taking care of us as we go through the “necessary wildernesses” in our lives so we can show up in the world with Good News. Jesus goes through this necessary wilderness and now he has Good News for the world.
As the Gospel relates, after John had been arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, and he began to proclaim the Good News to people. His first words of preaching were “Repent and believe in the Good News.” To repent is to change the way you see things, to have a change of heart. The Greek word is Metanoia, and it quite literally means “to change your mind.” As Richard Rohr would say: “Until the mind changes the very way it processes the moment, nothing changes long term.” This is the call to actually change your perspective and begin to see things in a new way. This is what the period of lent offers to us. It is a time to examine our lives, and what needs to change and how we can open our hearts to God through acts of charity, self-denial, abstinence, sacrifice, fasting and prayers. We rid ourselves of all the things clogging or blocking our view to see things in a new way.
Sometimes we need some kind of push or a nudge to begin to think of ways to change our destructive patterns of living. Rohr captured it vividly when he said: “...most of us won’t move toward any new way of thinking or actual change until we’re forced to, which usually means some form of suffering or some disturbance that upsets our habitual path.” This is why the period of lent is very essential for our spiritual maturity and growth. It is a period to embrace our own “wilderness” in the 40 days of lent that the church has offered to us, so that we can show up with a renewed sense of power and new heart to proclaim the Good News, the Gospel of Christ.
The Good News that Jesus carries is the good news for all, not for a selected few like the Romans proclaimed as their “gospel” at that time. No, the Good News of Christ is for anyone, anywhere who needs Good News in their lives. This is why Peter in our Second Reading saw the Good News in a new light which was brought about by the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ, so that all of humanity is saved. The Good News of Christ is the Good News that saves all of humanity. Compared to the waters of the flood on which Noah’s ark floated and which saved just a small group of people as alluded in the First Reading from the book of Genesis, Christ becomes the saving victim who saves all of humanity because Christ sits at God’s right hand having dominion over all of creation. The gift of the salvific mystery of Christ is the gift that includes us even now. This is how we believe that Christ takes care of us even when we are in those moments and periods of wilderness in our lives.
And so, my friends, as we journey through this period of lent, may we have a change of heart and begin to see things in a new way. Let the words echoed on Ash Wednesday and in today’s Gospel – “Repent and believe in the Good News” bring us to the place where we open our hearts to experience change; change in the way we talk about other people, change in the way we react to things, change in the we respond to abuse, change in the way we lose our patience, change in the way we shy away from generosity, and helping those in need; change in the way we have refused to join in the dance of God, and change in all the ways we have refused to change for the better. I shall conclude with the words of John Henry Newman (1801-1890) who said: “To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often.” So, may you experience metanoia during this graceful period of lent. Amen.
And may God bless you!