First Sunday of Lent (B)
The story of Noah’s Ark is one of the popular stories in the Bible regarding God’s intervention in human history. Generally, though, we focus our attention on the ark that Noah built and how it floated on water for 40 days. However, the story is not particularly about the ark. It is one of the stories of God’s merciful intervention in the life of people who were faithful to Him and God’s punishment on the people who were unfaithful to Him.
Noah, upon God’s instruction, built the ark, so that his family and all the animals that would go in the ark would be saved from destruction. And God created the heart of man, so that in love man can take into his heart God Himself and all that God created. Noah built a huge ark so that God’s creation would not be exterminated. God built man’s heart with great capacity to contain Him and His creation so that God’s life would be recognized in this world and peace may reign. God’s intervention in human history always fulfilled and will always fulfill His plan: man’s salvation.
At the start of His ministry, Jesus proclaimed: “This is the time of fulfillment.” Fulfillment can mean completion. This is significant for us because we can see the eternal God working in time; eternity has invaded the world. In his letter to the Galatians, St. Paul wrote,
when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to ransom those under the law, so that we might receive adoption. As proof that you are children, God sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God (4:4-7).
It was time for God to fulfill His promise of a Redeemer, not of a temporal nature only, like the previous kings and leaders of Israel, but also of a spiritual and eternal nature, for the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of life in a fallen world.
In Aesop’s Fables, “a man and his wife had the good fortune to possess a goose which laid a golden egg every day. Lucky though they were, they soon began to think they were not getting rich fast enough, and, imagining the bird must be made of gold inside, they decided to kill it. Then, they thought, they could obtain the whole store of precious metal at once; however, upon cutting the goose open, they found its innards to be like that of any other goose.”
When man lives by greed, he wants everything for himself. He is not satisfied with what he has; he takes advantage of his neighbor and abuses what he has. Even the Pharisees and the enemies of Jesus were not satisfied with what they had and with what they knew that they had to abuse the little ones to build their own reputation.
Fulfillment also means satisfaction. When we go to a spring of water to drink, we quench our thirst, but we do not exhaust the spring. When we bathe in waterfalls or just enjoy the sight of it, we do not empty or exhaust the source. Yet we are satisfied and feel refreshed. God is the spring and source of all graces and virtues. He does not only give us graces, but he gives us His Son; He gives us Himself. Yet He is not consumed or exhausted, for He is the spring of living waters welling up to eternal life.
Lent is a season given to us by the Church to reform our lives and renew our relationship with God. In the English language, lent, as a descriptive adjective, can mean something that someone allowed us to use; as a verb, it means that someone had the capacity to allow us to use something. Our life is a gift. Our faith is a gift. The promise of inheriting the Kingdom of heaven is a gift to us. We must be grateful to our Master by obeying His commands and by living a life of holiness worthy of God. This world is lent to us so that we can prepare for the real home prepared for us by our Father.
We are now invited in this special season of Lent to “repent and believe in the Gospel,” to move over from our present condition of sinfulness to the holiness of God, and to trust that Jesus in His Words and in the Eucharist can really lead us to the Father. Let us fervently listen to Him everyday and ardently receive Him in the Eucharist with forgiven hearts worthy of the Father.