First Sunday of Lent (B)
February 26, 2012
As is my wont, I summarize today’s three readings in three succinct words. The first goes by the one word, PROMISE. We hear a heartwarming story of a God who is willing to start on a clean slate, no matter what happened before, no matter what men have fallen into – grievously, I might add. The Lord makes a promise … no more flood, no more waters to bring chaos on the earth. Mercy triumphs over judgment, and God makes a NEW Covenant with no less than a rainbow for sign and witness to this new covenant.
I choose the alliterative PACT to represent the second reading. Whilst a reference to the flood is also alluded to in Peter’s first letter, the focus is really on the fulfillment of what that pact between God and His people meant: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” The PROMISE was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, our Savior, the personification of the whole NEW COVENANT, prefigured in the Old Testament.
The Gospel, for its part, speaks of POWER. The desert, being the symbol of everything bad and despicable in Jewish culture, the repository of all sorts of refuse, the hiding place of all bad elements in society, the habitation of wild animals … there is nothing glamorous about being in the desert!
But this is precisely what Jesus did! … He went right into the heart of the wilderness … right into the lair of the mythical dragon of evil that haunted mankind since time immemorial. Power is what the Lord exudes. Power is what he wields. And Power is what he possesses as he holds fort for forty days “tempted by Satan,” and being “among the wild beasts.”
I have, therefore, three good reasons to hold you captive for today: God’s Promise, the undenidable Pact that that same promise contained, and the Power that is in us as followers of Jesus Christ.
Let me begin by telling you an equally undeniable fact … We live in our own brand of wilderness in our times. We move in a situation rife with conflicts and all sorts of trials. We seem overpowered, in fact, by a multiplicity of “wild beasts” and “demons” that make life like pushing the mythical rock of Sysiphus! Let us face it … life is not exactly like a bowl of cherries. Life is not even close to being a “walk in the park.” I have it on the authority of Scott Peck in his first two bestseller books of more than 40 years ago, that “life is difficult,” and
that “life is complex.”
Dianne Bergant suggests that one theme that the readings tend to point out to, is that “we live in the midst of conflict.” It does not take too much for us to identify with such a theme. Floods seem to wreak havoc everywhere in the world. The typhoon “Sendong” just before last Christmas left a wide swath of destruction and indescribable grief to tens of thousands of Filipinos in the southern island of Mindanao. Our political lives are once more being tested to the core with our fractiousness, divisiveness, and disunity as a people. Political allegiances and alliances seem to occupy a whole lot of our waking and sleeping, and resting hours. Last thing I heard is, sin, is still very much entrenched in our hearts, my own, first of all, and in the hearts, minds, and hands of everyone honest enough to admit it. We live and move in the midst of conflictuality and confusion.
But my three words are meant to be good news. My three succinct words are supposed to be a summary of what we need to reflect on, and live in our own life contexts. And the reason why we are here, once again, Sunday in and Sunday out, is because we find it in our hearts, filled with faith and trust in a merciful God, whose mercy triumphs over judgment, that He stands to fulfill His Promise of old, that He is a God of promises and a God of fulfillment, that we as a family of nations and peoples, were not meant for chaos, but called to order, to grace, to unity and peace. Biblically and culturally speaking, water, inundation, and floods all stood for the original chaos that Genesis originally spoke of, where God breathed life and meaning into!
But that promise bore fruition in a pact that led to the coming of the Messiah and Savior – Jesus Christ. Peter tells us: “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” The ultimate experience of conflictuality, the epitome of conflict, sin and its product, death, was defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ. The rainbow that filled the firmament as symbol of the Promise, became the crucified body of the Lord that hung against the firmament of Calvary, and, by His stripes, by the crimson colors of his wounds, we were all healed!
I got more good news for you … no, not mine, but the Lord’s!
He goes into the heart of our conflictuality, the symbol of everything that is wrong in our society and in the world at large. He goes right into the chaotic world of the wilderness that seems to always overpower us and always seems to keep us at bay. The Lord meets sin and its effects headlong, and goes right into the desert. No … he did not just “dwelt among us.” He lived in our midst, even in the midst of evil, suffering, sin, and all allied negativities flowing from it.
He came to the desert – and to the world – with power and might! He came to a world filled with conflicts wielding the rainbow and sword of power and victory! For forty days, he was “tempted by Satan.” He was “with the wild beasts” in that not-so-secret world of evil and darkness.
He came. He saw. He triumphed!
I would like us now to claim this PROMISE. No more chaos, no more floods, no more of the same old dirty tricks department in our midst!
I would like us now, too, to claim this PACT. Jesus came to make it real. Jesus lived to make it concrete reality. Jesus our Lord dwelt in our midst to fulfill everything that that pact stood for. He does no less in our times. He will do no less in future. He is Lord of history and Lord of glory.
But above everything else, I would like us to claim this POWER! Enough of all this dysfunctionalities, I say! Enough of all discouragement, dejection, and despair! Enough of all this disunity, disappointments, and moral debilities!
We have the Lord with us on our side. We have him beside us, and even as He tells us to “repent and believe in the Gospel,” He also tells us the whole object of this promise, pact, and power: “THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS AT HAND!”