FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT (For The Election Or Enrollment Of Names) (21 February 2021)

FIRST READING (God’s covenant with Noah when he was delivered from the flood.)

A reading from the Book of Genesis (9:8-15)

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.” —The Word of the Lord.

R. Thanks be to God.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM (25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9)

R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant. (Cf. Ps 25:10)

Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. (R)

Remember that your compassion, O Lord, and your love are from of old. In your kindness remember me, because of your goodness, O Lord. (R)

Good and upright is the Lord, thus he shows sinners the way. He guides the humble to justice, and he teaches the humble his way. (R)

SECOND READING (The water of the flood prefigured baptism, which saves you now.)

A reading from the first Letter of Saint Peter (3:18-22)

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but 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.

R. Thanks be to God.

GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mt 4:4b)

R. Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God. (R)

GOSPEL (Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels ministered to him.)

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark (1:12-15)

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” —The Gospel of the Lord.

R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

“Your ways, O Lord, make known to me.”

 

Of all of the seasons of the Church’s liturgical year, Lent is both the oldest and the most striking one. Our vestments are purple, we begin the season with the distribution of ashes, we mandate fish on Fridays, we have the celebration of Stations of the Cross, and we are exhorted to pray, fast and give alms to the poor. In a spiritual way, we are invited into the desert with Jesus for these 40 days. We use these days to breathe new life into our Christian identity; it is a spiritual fresh start. 

For us, the first reading about Noah is also one of a fresh start. In the ancient world, peoples lived in fear of floods and typhoons on the seas, or heave rains on the land that eroded and destroyed much around them. These raging floodwaters could destroy everything in their path, whether it was sudden or gradual, the rising waters threatened to destroy everything in sight. In Asia we have witnessed the horrifying destruction of a tsunami or the overflowing of swelled rivers during heavy rains.

In the first reading, Noah was safe because he was in the ark that rode above the destructive waters. And when the rains stopped, Noah witnessed a rainbow, that become a sign of God’s covenant and grace and God’s promise to all humanity to bring salvation to those who repent and are faithful to Him. Even today people find a rainbow in the sky after a deluge or storm a sign of hope and promise. For believers, it reminds us that whatever the bad weather and storms that can afflict us, God is there. Despite the many physical, emotional and spiritual storms we face that can erode family life and relationships through sinful attachments, the ark of Noah and the rainbow are there to assure us of God’s protection.

One of the greatest challenges and difficulties for many today is keeping a marriage on safe grounding and raising a family. It is difficult for us to maintain our Christian family values amidst so many challenges, especially in these last months of the pandemic. Like Noah’s ark, the Church floats over the raging waters of the storms of life and provides for those inside a place of security and safety. We find that ark in the community of faith into which we were baptized – and into which our catechumens soon to be ELECT will find peace and safety. Our rainbow sign is the Eucharist. It is God’s abiding sign to remain faithful to us in any storm, to help strengthen us, keeping us “on course” above the difficult waters to safety. For this reason, we are grateful for the new opportunity to receive communion each week in our parish – an opportunity we should run towards for strength and solace.

But in this opening week of lent, we are confronted with a serious question. Are we still “in the ark”? That is what Lent is about. Lent is not about God’s fidelity to us but about our own fidelity to Him. Lent is a time to revive our Christian life and see whether we are still in the ark, in the body of the church, or are we trying to swim the raging waters all by ourselves? 

To measure our Christian life, we use three methods in Lent, prayer, fasting and alms-giving. 

How do we pray? How often and how effectively do we pray? When do we pray? Do we pray alone or join with others? Do we pray for ourselves or also for the needs of others? Our pray life reflects our own unique relationship with God. Thus, Lent becomes a time to diagnose the health of our prayer life.

The practice of fasting and abstinence are ancient practices of the church to purify the body and soul. We not only give up meals or abstain from some foods, but we allow our body – that precious vessel given to each of us by good – to be purified, strengthened from weakness and to receive new vigor for our journey in faith. Fasting forces us to face the patterns we have of consumption, and challenge the power of consumerism in our culture and life.

And almsgiving or works of charity are a concrete expression of MERCY which is at the heart of Lent. Almsgiving moves us out of the security of our own life to address the needs of the wider world, especially of those less fortunate than us. The practice of charity in Lent reminds us of our responsibilities to our brothers and sisters, and these acts of mercy help shape the society around us.

The theme of the Sundays for Lent this year is COVENANT. There is the old covenant that was made by God and renewed time and again in the Old Testament. And there is the new covenant given to us through Jesus Christ at the time of our baptism. By welcoming and witnessing these new elect into our midst, our community’s commitment to that everlasting covenant is strengthened. Our covenant is like a faithful spouse whose vows are “for better or for worse, in sick ness and in health, until death.” May our Lenten season strengthen this commitment and open the door for us to enter the ark and take our places again. The Lord is faithful to us. Are we faithful to him? Are we in the ark or trying to swim on our own? It is only from within the ark – in the church – that we can then witness and partake in the rainbow sign of the Eucharist reminding us each time that we are never alone in this journey. 

Prayers

CelebrantOur Savior calls us to repent and believe ion the Good News. Let us pray that we will keep the covenant of our baptism in this holy season of grace. 

 

READER: That the Church may continue to preach faith and repentance to convert hardened hearts, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

 

READER: That leaders of nations may embrace God’s covenant of peace and justice, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

 

READER: For those in our community who are the Elect preparing for Christian Initiation at Easter, that the Lord guide them in the way of faith through our prayers, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

READER: For our families, that the joy of this celebration of family unity and love may be a support and encouragement for each of us throughout the Lunar New Year, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

 

READER: For our dear ones who have passed away, that they may receive their heavenly reward, where Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Majesty of the Father, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.

 

CELEBRANT: We come before you, Father, confident that you hear us, through the new and eternal covenant of your beloved Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever, (all) AMEN. 

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