First Sunday of Lent – A
Genesis 2:7-9, 3:1-7
The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent has Jesus spending forty days and forty nights in the desert, fasting and praying – on a long retreat. And Satan, the devil, comes along and presents Jesus with three temptations. And Jesus three times says “no” the devil and “yes” to His Heavenly Father.
You and I are now in the forty days of Lent – a time for prayer, for fasting, for almsgiving – a retreat time for the whole Church. We look back at the dead ashes of Ash Wednesday, and we look ahead to the living waters of Baptism at Easter and the renewal of our baptismal promises. We use this time to say “no” to temptation and sin, and to say “yes” to God and God’s will for us.
This Sunday at the 11:00 Mass, we recognize people who are participating in our RCIA – the Rite for Christian Initiation of Adults. We are going to call them to Easter sacraments.
We have one who has asked to be baptized. We have others who have already been baptized in another Christian Church and want to become members of our Catholic family. And so on Holy Saturday evening, the Vigil of Easter, we will celebrate Baptism and Professions of Faith, and the Sacraments of Confirmation and First Holy Communion.
This is a very special Lent for our RCIA candidates. And it is also a very special Lent for all of us as we say “no” to temptation and sin and “yes” to God and God’s will for us.
I am sure that you have made your plans for Lent this year, but I thought I would give you four additional suggestions that really won’t get in the way of what you are doing, and maybe will even enrich your Lent.
First: Say “yes” to spiritual reading and spiritual listening. On Ash Wednesday, Pope Francis gave us this advice for Lent: “Put down the phone. Pick up the Bible.”
Say “yes” to growing in your knowledge of the Church, the Scriptures and the saints. Pick up a good Catholic book, maybe our Christmas gift book by Matthew Kelly, Rediscover the Saints. Watch Matthew Kelly’s daily video series, “Best Lent Ever,” which you can access through our parish website homepage or with the information in this weekend’s bulletin. It is based on his book, Rediscover the Saints.
Participate in the retreat on Saturday, 14 March, which is hosted by our Stewardship Council, for our Saint Joseph and Nativity Parish Families. It will take place at Nativity Parish from 8:30 AM until 3:00 PM. It includes a continental breakfast and a full hot lunch. The retreat leader is Deacon Dennis Corbin from Dallas, Texas. I participated in a retreat that he led a few years ago and he held everyone’s attention the whole day. And when he finished, we all wanted more. There is no charge to attend this retreat. The only cost to you is the gift of your time. You may sign up after Mass. I hope that you can come.
And you might also listen to an inspirational CD. We have a number of them on the display stand in the corridor. You can create a daily retreat atmosphere right where you are. Say “yes” to spiritual reading and spiritual listening.
Second: Say “yes” to the needy and the poor. Put a coffee can or another container in your house where everyone will see it. Every day, throw whatever change is in your pocket into that can. Maybe put a picture or a saying on it to remind you of some need, some charity. And then at the end of Lent, give it to them. Say “yes” to the poor and the needy.
Third: Be a “stitcher.” Be an encourager of others at home, at work, at school.
A man was seated on an antique window seat in his home. It was late fall and raining. This is what he wrote:
“The gloomy look of the garden seemed to match the mood of hopelessness that had come over me: problems at work had made me fearful of the future. Basic questions that had surfaced with the coming of middle age had made me fearful of life itself.
“I started to light my pipe and I accidentally spilled some hot ashes which burned a hole right in the middle of the window seat cover. Seeing what had happened, my wife calmly threaded a needle and stitched a beautiful flower over that charred spot.
“When I looked at the finished work, I realized what a striking symbol it was. I had married a repairer of broken spirits, a healer of wounds, a harbinger of hope in times of darkness and despair.”
Every day, work at being a repairer of broken spirits, a healer of wounds, a harbinger of hope. Pick up somebody who has fallen. Offer a word of encouragement to a person who received a put-down. Give someone a pat on the back who just received a shove. Be a stitcher. Be a person of encouragement every day. Your life and someone else’s life will be all the better.
Fourth: Work at nurturing relationships with your spouse, with family, with friends, with God.
We’re all so busy, aren’t we? And relationships need to be nurtured and this requires our time. Seize opportunities to reconnect and strengthen those important relationships.
A newspaper columnist writes about being in Paris and riding in a taxi that was driven by a man from Africa. He noticed that the driver had a television monitor on his dashboard and that he was also talking incessantly on his cell phone.
And here he was, in the back seat, typing on his laptop and listening to music through his phone.
It dawned on him that the driver might be talking to a family member on another continent, and here he was in the back seat typing an article in France that he was going to e-mail to his newspaper in New York. Yet he and the cab driver hardly communicated. And they were only two feet from each other.
We have all seen two friends walking down the street, each one on his or her own cell phone, talking to someone else as they are walking together. They are both everywhere else except where they are. They are not connecting with the person right next to them.
We have seen couples having dinner in a wonderful restaurant and both have their phones right in front of them. Then one of them starts responding to a text. Their companion might just as well be a table place- setting.
We need to nurture our relationships in this digital age – with our time and our full personal attention. Lent is a graced opportunity to reconnect with other people and with our God.
“No” to temptation and sin. “Yes” to God and God’s will for us.
Say “yes” to spiritual reading and to spiritual listening. Say “yes” to the poor and the needy. Say “yes” to being a “stitcher,” an encourager. And say “yes” to nurturing your relationships with God and with others.
With God’s grace these are ways that can lead us from an Ash Wednesday “no” to an Easter Sunday “YES!”
Happy Lent, everybody!