There is no other season in the Church that consistently calls us to repentance besides Lent. We Catholics have many practices that accompany us to respond to the call of repentance, like fasting and abstinence, retreats, pilgrimages, charity work and the like. But behind our practices, does real conversion happen? What kind of conversion?
Today, the voice of Jesus in the gospel should reverberate again in our hearts. When Jesus says, “Repent,” he not only means, “Forego your evil ways.” He also means, “Journey with me.” Repentance is a gradual process. It is not a one shot-deal. Jesus gives the reason why. In his call for repentance, he adds, “Believe in the gospel.” What is this gospel? There was no written gospel at that time, because the first account of Jesus, Mark’s gospel, from which our Gospel reading for today is taken, was written about 40 years the death of Christ. Which gospel then was Jesus referring to? It is Jesus’ own life story which has just begun to unfold after his baptism and after being tempted by the devil. It will take some time to complete this story. At this moment, nobody knew when and how. So, that command, “Believe in the gospel” is actually an invitation to journey with him. Jesus is REPENTANCE: Following Jesus’ Story going to implement God’s plan for our salvation. Repentance is our constant response to Jesus’ preaching of the coming of God’s kingdom, accompanied by his miracles, healing and exorcisms. Without repentance, we will never know his saving story.
The Second Reading reflects on how Jesus completes his story. He does it through his suffering, death and resurrection. St. Peter speaks of Jesus overcoming not only death but also the disobedience that causes death. Against the great “No” of disobedience Jesus invites us to repentance, to an opportunity to day “Yes” to God and therefore say “Yes” to life itself. This “Yes” also means that we are willing to journey with Jesus and be part of his story.
In the First Reading, from which the Second Reading is based, God promises Noah never to send the Flood again. Acting like a human being, God, too, “repents” from what he has done. Thus, after cleansing the world of evil and violence, God rebuilds his creation. He re-creates. Repentance is shown when we become more creative in our relationships with God and more compassionate with other human beings and other creatures.
The world today is characterized by migrations. The Philippine Church declared today as Migrants’ Sunday to show our solidarity with the migrants. As they leave their loved ones in search for greener pastures, they also expose themselves to unknown dangers. Jesus’ message is the same for them, “Repent and believe in the gospel. Journey with me. Carry me along with you and you will be saved.” All Christians, wherever they are, should not allow the Season of Lent to pass by without experiencing repentance.
Repentance happens only when we journey with Jesus by constantly listening to his Word, by receiving the Sacraments, and by being docile to the Church’s teachings on faith and morals,the basic Christian principles and practices. Repentance is following the complete story of Jesus and making it our own with joy.
Author: Fr. Cielito R. Almazan, OFM.
Adapted from Sambuhay Online (published with permission).
More Lenten Reflections
Gospel Readings First Sunday of Lent – Cycle B
First Reading [Gn 9:8-15]
A reading from the Book of Genesis
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.
Second Reading (1 Pt 3:18-22)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter
BELOVED: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.
Gospel (Mk 1:12-15)
THE SPIRIT drove Jesus out into the deser t, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”