HOMILY FOR THE FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: PREPARING FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD
BY: Fr. Cyril Unachukwu CCE
Every day of our lives is a preparation for our participation in the Kingdom of God and “the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). It is the Spirit of God that leads us through this preparation! As the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness for forty days, may we also be led by Him throughout this Season of Lent and in our daily preparation for the Kingdom of God; Amen.
A central theme in the Good news announced by Jesus Christ was the message of the Kingdom of God. This was very clear in the Gospel reading of today (Mk 1:12-15) “the time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.” Preparation for this Kingdom was significant in the whole of Salvation History. In fact, one can summarize Salvation History as the account of the preparation for the Kingdom of God, right from the creation and fall of our first parents to the present day. This account is made up of different stages and layers, of different covenants and alliances which find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ; in the Calvary Event. The Covenant with Noah and the building of the Ark as we read in the First Reading (Gen 9:8-15) was a unique stage in this history. Through the Ark, Noah and all those who entered were saved from the flood. Noah’s Ark and the waters of the flood have always been understood, based on the words of the Second Reading (I Peter 3:18-22), as prefigurations of the Church and the waters of baptism. The difference remains that the Ark of Noah was used to save only a few persons but the Church is a fertile womb that leads to salvation countless number of persons and also, the waters of the flood brought destruction and death whereas the waters of baptism bring life and newness. For Saint Augustine, the wood of the Ark and the flood prefigure the primary means of the salvation brought by Christ, namely, the wood of the Cross and the waters of baptism. The significance of this is very important in the life of the Church as today marks the First Rite of Election in which those to receive the sacraments of Christian Initiation at Easter are officially enrolled. This enrolment signifies God’s choice of them and the Church’s role as Mother in whose womb we receive the grace of adoption through Christ and in the Holy Spirit. This enrolment is a special invitation to share in the mission of Christ, in the mission of the Church, in the spread of the Kingdom of God and most importantly to acquire the necessary habits to be part of this Kingdom which are consolidated by the grace of God received through the sacraments. Acquiring of these habits is the fundamental goal of the Lenten disciplines characteristic of every Christian community throughout this Season in which the catechumens themselves must actively participate; the disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
Through the disciplines of Lent we acquire the habits with which we can truly be members of the Kingdom of God. Through prayers we manifest our love for God, for in prayers we communicate with God, we enter into communion with Him. It is through prayers that we express our filial sentiments to God our Father and through which we place ourselves under His patronage. Through fasting we demonstrate our true love for ourselves, for love of the self is not fundamentally rooted in selfishness and egoism but in self denial. We know that “through bodily fasting God restrains our faults, raises up our minds, and bestows both virtue and its rewards to us.” Through almsgiving we live out our love for God for “If any one says, I love God, and hates his brother or sister, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother or sister whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” (I Jn 4:20). Almsgiving is love in action!
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, may our preparations be fruitful and may the Kingdom of God flourish through us; Amen.
Happy Sunday; Fr Cyril CCE