1st Sunday of Lent (B)
February 22, 2015


It is very hard now to focus on things. We are bombarded by so many worries, so many concerns, so much tension on account of so many disturbing events:  ISIS spewing threats all over the world … incompetence and selfish leaders bungling just about every imaginable situation that affects the common good … criminal elements apparently lording it over people everywhere.

But Lent that started with a solemn imposition of ashes is a call to silence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. It is a call for all to be gentle, compassionate, forgiving, repentant and openness to renewal – all exact opposites of what we see and hear almost to the day.

One thing about Lent is, it also tells us to go slow, to be attentive to signs, to watch out for clues and be reminded that life is not all about worries and tension, problems and threats to peace and security in life. It is a call to put focus on the afterlife, on matters that go beyond the here and the now.

The sign in the Old Testament was the bow in the sky. It reminded them of God’s part of the agreement – an agreement that He had faithfully kept up till now. It is fidelity that today we acknowledge: “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth, to those who keep your covenant.”

The sign par excellence that we now have is no less than Christ, whose sign of suffering and death now takes effect in our salvation: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God”

In our messy world, the challenge for us is to not allow the many disturbing events and signs to distract us from that sign that leads to salvation. It is all too easy to be focused on the terrifying, the terrorizing, the painful, the macabre and the sordid, and lose sight of the God who calls to peace, serenity, and trust.

Now is the time during Lent to allow the subtle signs of ashes, the receding purple colors of Lent, the sign of our own voluntary suffering, to bring our sights back to the image of God, Lord, healer and savior. The bow in the sky served its purpose long ago. It pointed to the covenant that God kept faithfully. Christ now looms as the sign par excellence, and the one that effects principally what He signifies.

Cutting down on food and leisure time? Fair enough! Don’t feel deprived. Feel enriched instead. “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Tempted to take away the focus on Christ and set one’s sights on the world’s pain and our own pain? … Consider this: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

We are not wanting for signs, but at times we are wanting in the ability to read the same signs. We often see less, not more.

During Lent, we strive to see more, not less … from simple signs: ashes, purple, prayer, and a little fasting and a little suffering.

Undanao, Samal Island, Davao
February 20, 2015