HOMILY FOR THE 1ST SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
THEME: Repent and Believe the Good News
BY: Fr. Luke Ijezie
HOMILY: Genesis 9:8-15; Psalm 25:4-9; 1 Pet 3:18-22; Mark 1:12-15.
- The period of Lent is a special period of repentance. It is therefore expected that on this first Sunday of Lent, the readings would guide us on the part of repentance. It is good to note that repentance is not just a remorse for sin or evil done. It is part of it, but it goes deeper than that. The English term “repentance” translates the Greek word matanoia, which denotes a radical change of one’s mind, a reorientation of one’s whole life. It connotes a double turning: a turning from the old way of thinking and doing and a turning to a new direction, which is the direction of goodness, the direction of true life, the direction of God. This is what Jesus invites us to do in the Gospel of today when he says: “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe the Good News!” What is meant by this Good News? Herein one finds the great message of this Sunday.
The Good News in this context refers to the message of the kingdom of God that Jesus has come to preach and to inaugurate. It is the fulfillment of all the promises made by God to His people in the Old Testament. This promise goes back to the everlasting covenant with Noah as narrated in the first reading. In this bond, God commits himself to preserve all creation and never to destroy the world with water again. This is worded as an everlasting covenant and it remains the basis of all life. The sign of this covenant is the rainbow (9:13-16). God singles out Noah among his generation and through him enters into this everlasting covenant with the whole creation to preserve life. This is the first account of covenant in the biblical text, and it may be regarded as the most universal and fundamental of all other covenants. With this universal covenant, which continues in every generation, human sin will no longer provoke God to destroy all creation. Some individuals may continue to die because of their sins. Some groups and nations may be wiped out as punishment for crimes. But the great message is that the entire creation will no longer be wiped out as a result of human transgression. In every age, God will continue to raise faithful ones who will become the channels of his saving grace to all creation.
This promise of never destroying creation because of human sin is definitively fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This is what the second reading from 1 Peter 3:18-22 labours to explain. Christ died for the guilty to lead us to God. So there is no fear of destruction any more as Jesus has won life for all through his resurrection, and now he “has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand, with angels, ruling forces and powers subject to him” (1 Pet 3:22).
The call to repentance in the Gospel text is a call to change one’s old mode of living and accept the new way now being opened in Jesus. The reign of the evil one is over. This is signaled by the defeat of the devil in the account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert. Jesus is driven by the Spirit and this is the driving force of the new era. To enter this new era of God’s reign, which is the era of fullness of life, one must be driven by the Spirit. While the new life is already won, entry into it is not automatic and it is not by force. One must make a personal decision. One must believe. This is the only way. Lack of faith is the greatest obstacle to entry into the new kingdom.
The forces of evil still seem to reign in many parts of our society today because many have refused to repent and to believe. It is not that the victory that Jesus has won is not definitive. The problem is the inability of people to respond totally to the new invitation, and this is what faith is all about. It involves subjecting one’s life to the reign of God through the driving force of the Spirit.
Total repentance, total metanoia is not easy and one has to struggle every day and every moment. The enemy is always there to make nonsense of our efforts once we loose focus on Jesus and begin to act without the Spirit. The period of Lent is a period we make greater efforts to change our bad ways through deeper renewal with the Spirit of God and greater efforts to live according to God’s will.
We keep praying with the Psalmist of today: Lord, make me know Your ways and make me walk in Your parts. May the good Lord give us the grace of constant renewal and may He continue to make His liberating presence felt in our troubled lives at every moment!
Fr. Luke Ijezie