First Sunday of Lent
9 , 2003
José H. Gomez
Auxiliary Bishop of Denver
My sisters and brothers
The Opening Prayer of today's Mass says:
our observance of Lent, help us to understand the meaning of your Son's
death and resurrection, and teach us to reflect it in our lives".
At the beginning of this Lenten season we are asking God to help us, to
give us His Grace, that we can take advantage of this special season to
"reflect it in our lives" and try to make progress in our personal
Lent is a time of conversion. Someone asked me the other day, What is
Conversion? What does it mean to have a Conversion? Conversion is
a change of heart, a change of dispositions, change from a passive approach
to things to an active way of doing things or maybe a change from too
much activity to finding the time for prayer.
Lent commemorates the forty days and nights that Jesus spent in the desert
in preparation for his public life. "The Spirit drove Jesus out into
the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him".
Just after those days Jesus started his public life preaching about a
New Covenant between God and man: "This is the time of fulfillment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel".
This is one of the reasons for which the first reading of today's Mass
is about the Covenant that God made with Noah. After the flood God decided
to establish a Covenant between him and the people of Israel. In this
case God was disappointed that people wouldn't follow his law and at some
point allowed the floods to happen.
That takes us to: What is a Covenant? We are more familiar with contracts,
such as a mortgage or a business agreement, but the contracts we enter
into usually involve coming to terms of two parties. A covenant is very
different because it does not involve an agreement. God takes the initiative
and makes the promises, for the greater benefit of those who believe in
In the Old Testament, there were three major covenants, God's promise
to Noah never to destroy the creatures of the earth by flood again; the
covenant with Abraham, to be the father of the Jewish race (Gen. 12, 2);
and the covenant with Moses, 'I will be your God and you will be my people'
we are in the time of the Covenant of the New Testament.
New covenant is an everlasting covenant, and the sign of it is the very
Blood of the Son of God, so that our sins may be forgiven! It is so important
that Jesus had to go through the forty days of prayer and fasting and
also rejecting the temptations of the devil before he could start to preach.
"The Christian economy, therefore, since it is the new and definitive
Covenant, will never pass away … God has reveled himself fully by sending
his own Son, in whom he has established his covenant forever. The Son
is the Father's definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation
after him" CCC, 66, 73.
In the 2nd reading St. Peter reminds us that the water of Baptism admitted
us into this privileged covenant, just as in the days of Noah water saved
those who were in the Ark.
It is a covenant that includes God's love for us, and his desire that
we set the goal of our life in the imitation of the life of Christ. It
is a demanding covenant through which God commits himself to give us the
graces that we need to go to heaven and we are supposed to commit ourselves
to listen to God and answer to his love, with deeds of faith, hope and
Lent is the time that the Church wants us to think about this definitive
Covenant. We, the baptized and confirmed, we who participate in the Eucharist,
are invited once again to reform our lives and believe in the Good News.
But there are temptations out there. As we examine our conscience about
our commitment to the 'new and everlasting covenant' we immediately see
our weakness and our lack of dedication to the things of God.
Jesus was also asked to choose and he decided to be faithful to God the
Father. We know that Jesus was faithful and rejected the temptations.
"Any temptation is always a miserable deception… We need to keep
a constant watch… And this is what we want and what we ask for: to be
able to serve God and be faithful"
Cf. In Conversation with God, 2.5.2.
Lent invites and challenges us to live more faithfully, to examine our
own lives, and to face those temptations that separate us from God. God
allows us to be tempted so that we may grow in virtue. Jesus teaches through
his example that no one is exempt from trials and tribulations.
But, God is always at our side. We have Jesus' example, strength and support
to meet those challenges in our daily lives. On our part we have to be
more generous in our dedication to God and this Lenten season is a great
opportunity to do that.
we begin Lent, let us increase our faith through our actions by prayer,
fasting and giving alms. What a wonderful opportunity for us to practice
our faith by coming to daily Mass, going to Confession, visiting the sick
and elderly, teaching the children by our example in living our faith.
We can make this a meaningful Lenten season through our actions and work
a change of heart in ourselves and those we meet in our daily activities.
As Jesus says in Today's passage of the Gospel ends with the beginning
of Jesus' public life: 'This is the time or fulfillment. The Kingdom of
God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel'".
Now is the opportune time to begin again. It will lose out if we don't
take advantage of this new opportunity and try to use all the means that
we have to repent and believe in the Gospel. To have a new conversion
and to renew our commitment to God.
As one spiritual writer says: "Don't forget, my friend, that you
need weapons in this spiritual battle. And your weapons have to be these:
continuous prayer, sincerity and frankness with your spiritual director;
the Holy Eucharist and the Sacrament of Penance; a generous spirit of
Christian mortification which will bring you to flee from the occasions
of sin and to avoid idleness; humility of heart, and a tender and filial
devotion to Our Lady…" S. Canals in In Conversation with God, 2.5.3
With the help of the Guardian Angels and the intercession of Mary,
our Blessed Mother, may we grow in the love for God during this Lenten
season. May we also be able to show God that we love him with our daily
effort to be in his presence and especially, by the way in which we practice
charity towards others.