Home » Gospel Reflection – 21st February 2021 – 1st Sunday of Lent

Gospel Reflection – 21st February 2021 – 1st Sunday of Lent

Dear sisters and brothers,

Rather than a homily from me this week, there’s a Lenten message from Bishop David.  He writes:

“At the chapel in Bishop’s House the beautiful pictures of the saints are covered up because we are trying to make the chapel a desert place.  Why the desert?  Because the desert makes sense of this season of Lent.

During the next six weeks we are going to think about two particular journeys.  Firstly, the journey of God’s people, led by Moses, from their slavery in Egypt to the promised land.  It was a journey that took forty years.  In fact, it took slightly longer because God got fed up with the people on that particular journey, and He made sure that they all went back to dust before he would allow a generation to arise who could enter the promised land.  You had better ask God about that one!  But in the meantime,

we are remembering those people and their journey.

The second journey that we are remembering is a forty-day journey.  That was Jesus’ journey, again in the wilderness in a desert place, in order to prepare himself for his public ministry.  As we know, it was in that desert place he experienced the devil’s temptations, trying to seduce him away from that mission given him by his heavenly Father.

I thought it would be good in this Lenten message to focus on two aspects of this great season.  Firstly, what were the people doing, and what was Jesus doing, in the wilderness?  Secondly, what was their destination?  Where were they heading to?  The answer to these questions makes sense of the whole business of what we are trying to do during these coming weeks, and what the purpose and meaning of it is for us.

First of all, then, what were God’s people doing?  Well, I am afraid they were doing a lot of grumbling!  They were doing a lot of moaning and complaining!  They were constantly bickering with Moses and asking, “Why have you brought us out into this desolate place in order to die?”  You could kind of understand that, but it was meant to teach them how to trust, because God never let them down.  When they were thirsty God found a rock that Moses and Aaron could put their staffs against, and water would flow out.  When they were hungry, God gave them food, the Manna which in Hebrew means, “what is it?”  It was bread-like stuff that was there when the dew lifted in the morning.  And God gave them quails at night.  I know, bread and quail-meat is not an ideal diet for forty years, but I am sure they had a little more along the way too!

The important thing is that they kept falling away from God’s Word just like us today.  They found it difficult to listen to God, and when they did hear what He was saying, they found it difficult to be obedient.  God warned them, and sure enough they experienced suffering in so many different ways.  One of the most remarkable of those sufferings was when they were bitten by snakes and Moses was commanded by God to lift up a pole with a bronze serpent on it.  This was a symbol, of course, in a very mystical way, of the cross on which Jesus would lay down his life in love for us, events which take place at the climax of this season.  There is a whole cycle, then, of the people constantly complaining to God, of falling away and sinning, of being punished, and then returning in repentance, making up with God and putting their trust in Him once again.

This is why we have the season of Lent every year.  It reminds us that we are exactly like that!  As human beings, we need these constant seasons in our lives to remind us of what we are meant to be doing, and to refocus our imagination again on that journey towards our promised land.  The promised land for us is the kingdom of heaven and that is our destiny and that is where our focus is during this season of Lent.

In the second journey, Jesus himself goes out into the wilderness, and he too was part of a community.  As the Son of the Father, he went with the words of the Father ringing in his ears at his baptism in the Jordan, “You are my beloved Son, my favour rests on you.”  In our baptism, God has said those same words to us: we are God’s beloved children and his favour rests upon us.  The Spirit is with us!  Just as the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, so the Spirit leads us to our promised land.

What was the promised land, so to speak, of Jesus’ time in the desert?  It was the beginning of his public ministry, going into Galilee, showing the signs of the kingdom of heaven by healing the sick, by delivering those who are possessed, by speaking words of authority that forgave sins, that touched people’s lives, and that turned those lives around.  That is something I think we need to hang on to during this season of Lent.  Lent is not about what I do.  It is about what God does.  Lent is not about saving myself.  Take my advice, do not even try because you cannot!  Only God can save us and only God has that power to be able to turn my life around.  Praise God, He has exercised that power in sending Jesus who died on the cross for us, and through the grace of Jesus’ dying and rising we can be turned around and face towards the promised land of Heaven.

In the meantime, we are being prepared for mission.  We are being invited to become like Christ in our world today.  That is not just me as the bishop, nor is it just the priests or the religious sisters.  Every single baptised person is called to be an ambassador of Christ, a witness and a minister with intentional discipleship propelling them forwards to share the gospel with others.  You thought you had just come to church to get your bit of grace, didn’t you?  But the truth is far bigger than that.  The truth is that you come to church to be empowered to go out and to share the good news with others.

So have a good Lent and let us pray for each other.  We are all doing this together as a community.  Keep in mind and ask the lord: “What is it you want me to do in order to bear witness to you when Lent is finished?”

We thank Bishop David for his inspiring insights.

With every blessing,

Simon