The First Sunday of Lent – 21st February 2021
Lectionary Readings: Gen 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-9; 1 Pet 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
Theme: Living with hope
Our Gospel reading immediately follows the story about Jesus being ‘baptised by John in the Jordan’ and the ‘Spirit descending on him like a dove’ (Mark 1:9-10). This is the same Spirit who, in our reading, drives Jesus into the ‘wilderness’ where he is tested. This wilderness experience is then followed by Jesus ‘proclaiming the good news from God, “The time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News”’. (Mk 1:14-15)
Our first reading from Genesis also provides us with good news. Our text occurs just after a great flood that has finally receded to the point that the ground is ‘completely dry’ (Gen. 8:14). Then we hear the good news that God is establishing a covenant with ‘all life on the earth’ (Gen. 9:17) which includes the promise that ‘there shall be no flood to destroy the earth again’. (Gen. 9:11)
These two narratives (Mark 1:9-15 and Genesis 9:8-15) include water, dry land and the promise of something new emerging. These three ingredients appear in all our lives at various times and in various ways. The meaning of each may differ depending on our circumstances, but their potential to deepen our relationship with God remains something we can choose to experience or not.
The covenant in Genesis is spoken in a specific moment and speaks to all time after that moment, i.e. God promises that ‘there shall be no flood to destroy the earth again.’ (Gen. 9:15) The focus of the story in Genesis is on God’s promise and the part God plays in keeping it.
In Mark, we hear ‘the time has come and the kingdom of God is close at hand’. Some awaited-for moment is arriving into the present moment. Now we are called to action, ‘to repent and believe the Good News’. The emphasis here is on our part in the relationship with God. The call for repentance tells us that wrongdoing continued even after the flood which itself was a consequence for wrongdoing. God however ‘recalls’ God’s covenant with us when God sees the ‘bow in the clouds’, the ‘sign of the Covenant’ that God will not destroy the earth again with a flood. (Gen. 9:13-15)
Life experiences, including the floods and drought that happen on our planet, can remind us of God’s covenant. These are moments when we can potentially come face to face with our own wrongdoing. They are also moments when we find ourselves with another chance to turn back to God and believe the good news that echoes throughout time; ‘God has made a covenant with every living creature for all generations’ (Gen. 9:12). This is good news and we have a part to play in it.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In the wilderness experiences of life, what would further enhance your openness to hearing God’s word and experiencing God’s presence? 2. Sometimes the temptation is not to acknowledge what is tempting. How might we support each other in becoming more conscious of this? 3. Where do you notice the desert blooming in your life and in the world?
Bibliography: Beavis, Mary Ann. Mark: Commentaries on the New Testament (Michigan: 2011).
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Thérèse Fitzgerald NDS, Ireland, Bat Kol Alumna: 2015, 2018