First Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

First Sunday of Lent, Cycle B

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

The Start of a New Humanity.

 

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 

Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

All reply: Amen

 

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader: Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is celebrated in lockdown this year, in this and most every country, as the world fights COVID-19. But though apart, we are united in worship and in prayer, looking forward to Easter and better days ahead.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 

First Reading: Genesis 9:8-15

 

Introduction to the reading: Today’s reading from the book of Genesis takes place after the story of Noah and the great flood.  Israelite people of long ago saw the rainbow as a symbol of a Warrior-God hanging up his hunting bow as a peaceful gesture.  The rainbow symbolizes the solemn promise that God makes to Noah.

 

A reading from the Book of Genesis

God said to Noah and to his sons with him,
“Behold, I establish my covenant with you
and your descendants after you,
and with every living creature that is with you,
the birds, the cattle,
and every beast of the earth with you,
as many as came out of the ark.
I establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood,
and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant
which I make between me and you
and every living creature that is with you,
for all future generations:
I set my bow in the cloud,
and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth
and the bow is seen in the clouds,
I will remember my covenant
which is between me and you
and every living creature of all flesh;
and the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all flesh.

The word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 25:4-5ab.8-9 & 7bc.8-9 (R. cf. 10)

 

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm.

 

R/. All your paths, O Lord, are mercy and faithfulness,
      for those who keep your covenant.

 

O Lord, make me know your ways.
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me;
for you are the God of my salvation.

 

Remember your compassion, O Lord,
and your merciful love,
for they are from of old.
In your merciful love remember me,
because of your goodness, O Lord.

 

Good and upright is the Lord;
he shows the way to sinners.
He guides the humble in right judgement;
to the humble he teaches his way.

 

R/. All your paths, O Lord, are mercy and faithfulness,
      for those who keep your covenant.

 

Second reading: 1 Peter 3:18-22

Introduction to the reading: This reading reminds us that just as Noah was saved through the ark, we are saved through baptism.  Early Christians believed that those who died before the coming of Jesus awaited redemption in a shadowy existence described here as a prison.  When we say in the Apostles’ Creed that Jesus “descended into hell” , we are saying that Jesus went to announce to those waiting in that “prison” that they had been saved.

 

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter

Beloved:
Christ died for sins once for all,
the righteous for the unrighteous,
that he might bring us to God,
being put to death in the flesh
but made alive in the spirit;
in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison,
who formerly did not obey,
when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah,
during the building of the ark,
in which a few, that is, eight persons,
were saved through water.
Baptism, which corresponds to this,
now saves you,
not as a removal of dirt from the body
but as 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.

The word of the Lord.

 

Glory and praise to you, O Christ
Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
Glory and praise to you, O Christ

 

Gospel: Mark 1:12-15

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

At that time:
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.
And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;
and he was with the wild beasts;
and the angels ministered to him.

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee,
preaching the gospel of God, and saying,
“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;
repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

In 2018 we had an inspiring pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was wonderful to follow in the footsteps of Christ. We visited Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem; stayed at the Mount of the Beatitudes and paddled in the Sea of Galilee and even swam – or rather floated- in the Dead Sea. 

We visited Jericho, looked into Jacob’s Well, stood in the place in Cana where Jesus changed the water into wine and even knelt at the place where he was crucified. Everywhere we went, we took our gospel with us and read the appropriate passage. It was a moving experience all the way. 

Today, the desert where Christ spent forty days before starting his public life comes vividly into my mind’s eye.

We were driving in our bus to the river Jordan to the probable place of Jesus’ baptism. We were on a good road, in an air-conditioned bus with plenty of water – but we were surrounded by the desert. From the comfort of my bus, I was able to imagine what it might be like –when to temperature drops to freezing over night – the desolation of such harsh conditions. 

I came to realise the significance of the desert. The desert is like a purgatory we must pass through to reach paradise. What is impressive about the desert is its sheer aridness. There is no vegetation, no bird life and, apart from the odd tiny lizard, almost no animals.

In that bleak landscape, nothing comes between a person and his God. One either discovers God or succumbs to despair. Little life thrives there except the inner life. 

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained there for forty days. 

The gospel describes it in 2 concise sentences. 

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.
And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan;
and he was with the wild beasts;
and the angels ministered to him.” 

That’s it! 

 

As we enter this Lent, we may feel our own resolve to change is wishy-washy, that we have tried so many times before and failed.  Perhaps we are thinking, “The last year has been like one long Lent in lockdown. How do we make this Lent a fresh experience? How do we gather the spiritual desire and energy to change? How will we even know the areas in us where change is necessary?

Just earlier John the Baptizer had announced, “After me will come one more powerful than I…”(1:7). Then he said, “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” There is the source of our renewal; there is the One who can fill us with the desire to change and make that change possible. Jesus will baptize us anew with his Spirit this Lent to make our tired spirits new again. Lent is truly a season of hope in which we discover that what is impossible for us, is possible for God.

When the Hebrew peoples came out of Egypt into the desert, they gave in to temptation and so spent 40 years in the desert. When Jesus spends forty days there, he is tempted as well, but does not give in. Think of the wild beasts with Jesus in the desert. For other humans that would be a scary place to be; but in Jesus, God is reconciling humans and nature. The desert loses its hostile qualities. With Jesus there it is a peaceable kingdom – the messiah has reconciled humans and “wild beasts.” 

Lent provides an opportunity to confront the “wild beasts” of our lives. Think here of the aggression, competition, the prejudices and the insatiable desires that have control over us and our nation. They are wild beasts, un-tamable. But they do not have to have dominion over us, for we have been baptized into Jesus, the powerful One, who overcomes the tests in the desert and makes peace between opposing forces.

 

We are also told that in this place of testing and hostile forces, there were also ministering “angels.” We pass through many periods of testing in our lives, times when our very identity as Christians is seriously challenged. Powerful but subtle forces pull us at us, and we can feel solitary in our struggle against them. But there are “angels” ministering to us in the deserts of our lives: 

  • when an addiction seems impossible to break and we find help in a group; 
  • when we are distraught over the death of a loved one and others share their stories and give us courage; 
  • when we are laid up in bed with a broken leg, or bad back and friends come during these social-distancing days to drop off food at our front door; 
  • when our faith is dry and we pray wondering why we bother, but the prayer and faith of our community give us hope; 
  • when we want to be a peacemaker, live a simpler life, or choose the path of service and we hear nothing but the voices of nay-sayers, and then the lives of the saints and stories of contemporary Christians are our “angels” in the wilderness, ministering to us, enabling us to be faithful to the call we hear and are trying to live out. 

Other “angels” may not be as tangible, but nevertheless comfort us in the desert. Our ideals and dreams can be our “angels” if we stay with them, can lift us up and sustain us through the difficult, testing times.

 

Deserts – what are they for us? In the desert of the Jews, as they faced temptations and even betrayed God, but God stayed with them and led them out. Genesis reminds us that when we see the sign, the rainbow, we are assured that God is faithful to the covenant God made with all living beings. God makes sure that we do not have to pass through our deserts alone and sustains us in a variety of “angelic” ways.

From today’s Responsorial Psalm:

“O Lord, make me know your ways.
Teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me;
for you are the God of my salvation.

 

Reflection:

Lent is a chance for us to be refreshed in faith; an opportunity to think about the renewal of our baptismal commitment we will profess at the Easter Vigil – whether in person, or live-streamed. During Lent we do what we can to make one big “Yes” to the life of the Spirit of Jesus within us. 

So we ask ourselves:

  • What do I hope to accomplish during Lent?
  • What “angels” have I experienced ministering in the desert of our lives?
  • There are many different forms of prayer. What would strengthen and deepen my prayer life?

 

Prayer of the Faithful 

 

Leader: Like Jesus in the wilderness, let us pause to consider the way forward in our lives and bring to the Lord the needs of our faith communities and beyond.

 

Reader:

We pray for the Pope Francis and for those who lead and serve our church communities: (pause)
that they will help us build the kingdom of God in justice, wisdom and love. 

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for those who use the media to bring the message of the Gospel to the world: (pause) 

that they will use their creativity with responsibility, honesty and integrity.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for catechists and youth leaders:  (pause) 

that they will help children and young people to grow in their knowledge of the God who loves them very much.

LORD HEAR US 

 

We pray for those who feel lost in the wilderness without guidance and comfort: (pause) 

that they will be able to see that Jesus is truly with them and will guide them to peace and new hope.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for all with the Covid virus: (pause)
that God will heal them, give strength to their caregivers, and guide public health officials in promoting safe practices and effective vaccine distribution. 

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for Gerard and Hilda Lamusse, and Patrick O’Brien.

LORD HEAR US

 

We pray for Antoine Vonk who died during the week.  

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.

 

And let perpetual light shine on him.  

May he rest in peace.  Amen 

 

Leader: Let us pray together the Lenten prayer.

 

LORD JESUS CHRIST,
by your passion, death and resurrection
you have set us free from sin and death. 
May your grace renew our hearts this Lent
and help us turn from sin in our own lives. 
May we learn to appreciate more deeply the sacrifice you made for us. 
Accept our prayer, fasting and acts of charity
as we seek to draw closer to you during this holy season. 
Strengthen the faith of your people
so that we may be a sign of your love to all the world. 
We ask this through Jesus Christ Our Lord.

Amen.

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

CONCLUDING RITE

 

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

 

Leader: God of the covenant,
as the forty days of deluge
swept away the world’s corruption
and watered new beginnings
of righteousness and life,
so in the saving flood of baptism
your people are washed clean and born again.

Throughout these forty days, we beg you,
unseal for us the wellspring of your grace,
cleanse our hearts of all that is not holy,
and cause your gift of new life to flourish once again.

Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

Amen.

 

Blessing

 

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

 

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 

All: Amen.