• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

1st Sunday of Lent (B)

“It's the Season of Lent ... don't give up ... 'Give in!'”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 91(90):15-16 — “When he calls on Me, I will answer him; I will deliver him and give him glory, I will grant him length of days.”

First Reading: Gn 9:8-15 — “God’s covenant with Noah when he was delivered from the flood.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 — “Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep Your covenant.”

Second Reading: 1 Pt 3:18-22 — “The water of the flood prefigured Baptism, which saves you now.”

Verse before the Gospel: Mt 4:4b — “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

Gospel: Mk 1:12-15 — “Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels ministered to Him.”

Communion Antiphon: Mt 4:4b — “One does not live on bread alone, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.”

At the beginning of Lent every year, the common talk among many children and adults is about what they intend to give up for 40 days until Easter Sunday. If individuals ask me point blank what I am giving up for Lent, my usual reply is, “Nothing.” I let people sit with that thought for a few seconds and perhaps they nervously chuckle. Then I go on. “I usually try to do something extra for Lent. Lent is not about giving up ... it’s about doing something more ... and it’s all about giving in!” During Lent, we should try to give in ... this Lent give in to the Holy Spirit ... allow the Holy Spirit to inspire within our lives good, permanent changes – not just temporary ones.

Lent is the season to purify our bodies and spirits as we anticipate Holy Week and the Easter season. It is viewed by many Catholics as a somber and dark season. In reality, Lent is a joyful season, a time of inner retreat and renewal. With positive, permanent change in ourselves, we become more deeply human and Christian. Those good changes affect not only ourselves, but those around us. Life itself becomes brighter and joyful.

And so, how can Lent be “joyful”? Well, let me explain a bit. There is a big difference between happiness and joy. Happy is a feeling you get when you are enjoying your favorite flavor of ice cream or your favorite dish for dinner. Birthdays and anniversaries can be happy. Many experiences in life can be happy.

Joy is something different. Imagine a crisis in your own life. You face it ... It’s an immense struggle ... Somehow you resolve it ... You survive it ... You get through it ... You breathe a sigh of relief ... You have come out of it standing tall, a stronger and wiser person, a deeper human being and Christian. That is the definition of joy.

Noah and his family survived the flood. The rainbow in the sky represented the covenant God made with him never to wipe out all mortal beings with the waters of a flood. Jesus survived His temptation in the desert. Coming through their challenges, both Noah and Jesus experienced joy. No one likes conflict or turmoil or difficult struggles, especially within ourselves. But with God’s grace, we have the ability deep down to face life’s challenges, to overcome them, and to get just a little closer to what the Holy Spirit intended us to be from the moment of our birth.

This Lenten Season, don’t give up. Give in to the promptings of the Holy Spirit in your life. During Lent, things we give up are generally only for the short term ... 40 days. Temporary changes are just that – temporary. Giving up things for a short period usually results in whatever it was you tried to give up resurfacing at some later time. In my own childhood, my brother and sisters and I often gave up candy. But what happened on Easter? The four of us attacked our baskets of candy with a vengeance on Easter morning! Looking back, those are pleasant memories for me at this time in my life. Those given-up things had good intentions, and while today, for the most part, I’ve outgrown my desire for sweets, but every once in a while I still crave a couple chocolate covered pretzels or a handful of M&M’s!

Permanent changes are a more difficult challenge. Judgmentalism, always having to have the last word, a bad temper, old hatreds and resentments, withholding forgiveness – these are a few daunting things we may face and try to change. But those difficult challenges are what the Gospels and Scriptures cry out to us to face them and change them every time we attend Mass.

And so, give in! Allow the Holy Spirit and the Real Presence of Jesus in His Word and in Sacrament ... in the Eucharist ... in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity, to change your life for the better.

Later on today and maybe throughout the coming week, as you perhaps reflect a bit more on the readings you just heard, consider how our lives are flooded with unhealthy desires, addictions, and compulsions. In our day-to-day lives, we often find ourselves in our own deserts, faced with many temptations. Experience the true joy of Lent by owning up to yourself and facing one challenge in your life. Resolve to make one permanent change in yourself this Lent. Life will become brighter. You will experience the true joy of Lent. You will get to know your true self a bit better – you’ll get to know the person God meant you to be.

Jesus is with us and within us as we listen to God’s Word and we consume the consecrated bread and wine of the Eucharist. When we hold out our hands or open our mouths to receive Holy Communion, either myself or the Extraordinary Minister of Communion presents you with the Body of Christ. We are face-to-face with Jesus. Take that joyful experience home with you today. Let your life reflect that sacred privilege. Tell your loved ones, your family, your children how much you love them, and how important they are in your life. Have a joyful Lent!

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