1st Sunday of Lent - Year B - Fr John's Homilies

1st Sunday of Lent - Year B

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news. (Mk. 1:15)

  1. The first command of Jesus’ public ministry is not forgive, serve, or even love - it is: Repent.


  1. Of all the words he could have chosen it was this word, this challenge, this command which he spoke – Repent, and then......believe in the good news.


  1. To think of Lent only as a time of penance in the traditional sense is to do it an injustice. While the traditional practice of "doing something" for Lent is praiseworthy, there is much more to this wonderful season than just additional practices of piety or acts of penance and mortification.


  1. In Lent the Church calls us to metanoia. This Greek word translated as penance denotes a change of mind and heart, altering one's mind-set toward whole new ways of thinking and acting.


  1. This involves taking a look at where we are and trying to see where we ought to be. It involves testing our values and discerning how they stack up against the values that Jesus offers his followers.
  1. I often use the example of two battleships assigned to the training squadron that had been at sea on manoeuvres in heavy weather for several days. . . . The visibility was poor with patchy fog, so the captain remained on the bridge keeping an eye on all activities. Shortly after dark, the lookout on the wing of the bridge reported, “Light, bearing on the starboard bow.”


  1. “Is it steady or moving astern?” the captain called out. The Lookout replied, “Steady, captain,” which meant they were on a dangerous collision course with another ship.


  1. The captain then called to the signalman, “Signal that ship” We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.”


  1. When there was no response, the captain said again, Send, “I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.”


  1. Back came the reply, “I’m a seaman second class,”... “You had better change course 20 degrees.”


  1. By this time, the captain was furious. He spat out, “Send... I’m a battleship; change course 20 degrees.”


  1. Back came the flashing light, “I’m a lighthouse.”


  1. This captain experienced what is called a “paradigm shift”; an Epiphany —a movement away from old explanations that no longer explain reality, resulting in a redefinition of boundaries taken for granted, due to the emergence of a new model or way of thinking, valuing and perceiving the world; he had undergone metanoia!


  1. When one is immediately confronted with an unbeknown dangerous coastline, a course change of 20 degrees just won’t do. What is needed is a complete change of direction!


  1. So we also are called to metanoia. And why must we ‘change’; why must we re-pent the way we see things? Because we shall not see the ‘new’ until we stop seeing the ‘old’. We shall not begin to see clearly, until we cease to see unclearly, until we have experienced ‘metanoia’.


  1. Fortunately, metanoia is not something we have to do all by ourselves. God's word gives us a lot of help in the process.


  1. During the weekdays of Lent, therefore, the Scripture readings for the Eucharist are concerned with three main themes. The selections for the first three weeks have to do almost exclusively with change of heart: what it means and what it involves.


  1. They present the classic themes of Lent: prayer, care for our neighbour and repentance for our sinfulness; our disordered affections.
  2. We need to ask ourselves why do we continually fall into the same patterns; finding ourselves caught in habitual responses to relationships, to work, or any other life situation-that does not further our purpose in life, but leads only to the continued circle of unhappiness.


  1. Our habitual responses begins in an avoidance of the NOW; the present moment, so that we live from the past with all its hurt and regret to the future with its uncertainty and fears; a future which always fails to become the present moment.


  1. This can be overcome by either suffering, which forces us into the NOW, or by prayer; by meditation and contemplation that move us towards that mystical union with God who is always in the ETERNAL NOW.


  1. One of the greatest theologians of the 20th century, Karl Rahner actually stated that unless we return to this mystical experience, Christianity will become irrelevant in the 21st century.


  1. Consider some practical examples of such prayer. When finding yourself caught in a habitual responses like the captain in our story, we start our prayer by deeply breathing the name of Jesus...Je (in)...sus (out). Use this body prayer of the inner shrine; the godness within; to clear space and envision some new response.


  1. Sometimes the action envisioned in a prayerful state will not make sense. Breathe Jesus and ask God for confirmation. The action will never go against your conscience.


  1. Envision the new response so clearly that you feel it in your body. Then when the situation arises, act from the heart, from intuition, before the mind can drag you back to a habitual response. Any artist, musician, ballet dancer, needs to interact in three dimensional space and time; this is only possible once the rational response mechanism makes way for the intuitive response.
  2. The second part of our practical steps. Make a list of what you feel is lacking in life, both personally and in our world. Then make another list of what inspires you, including your personal qualities and strengths as well as those you feel around you on the earth.


  1. Compare the feeling that you had making each list and hold the two feelings together in your heart. While holding both, see what relation you find between what's wanting and what's fulfilled in your life as well as the life of the planet.
  2. What are the most important areas for change? Then with lists in hand, compare these areas you have noted as important, to the way you spend most of your time.


  1. Use a peaceful, prayerful breath and do not be sidetracked by either guilt or self-satisfaction. Use this process as a plan for your practical short-term as well as long-term goals. Find one immediate action that will make a difference, no matter how small. Every journey begins with one step.