Each year as we start the holy season of Lent, the Church puts before us the Gospel record of the temptations of our Lord in the desert, immediately after the Baptism in the river Jordan, before he began His public ministry. He went into the wilderness, to prepare Himself by praying and fasting. Therefore, we are invited, during this season to withdraw into the desert with our Lord in a spirit of prayer and penance, so as to prepare ourselves to celebrate more worthily the coming feast of feasts. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI taught on Ash Wednesday in 2010: “And we can understand that the 40days in preparation for Easter are a favourable time and a time of grace precisely from the appeal that the austere rite of the imposition of ashes addresses to us and which is expressed in the liturgy in two formulas: “ Turn away from sin man, you are dust and to dust, you will return.” In the same address, he said: “With the imposition of ashes, we renew our commitment to follow Jesus, to letting ourselves be transformed by his paschal mystery, to overcoming evil and to doing good, in order to make our former self linked to sin, die and to give birth to our “new nature”, transformed by God’s grace.” Moreover, the first reading tells us about God’s covenant with Noah, sealed with a rainbow as a sign of God’s faithfulness.
Noah lived at a time, when people seemed to be competing in terms of immorality and when sin was the order of the day. Yet, he stood out. He could not beat them, but he would not join them, he remained focus on God and we hear that Noah and his sons with him, including the living creatures were saved. It must be noted that, we share in this covenant – the promise made at our baptism. God has been faithful to this covenant to the extent of giving up his own Son, Jesus Christ, but unfortunately, we are unfaithful to God. However, it is never too late. This season offers us another opportunity to renew our covenant with God. Little wonder, the second reading, from the first letter of st.paul teaches, that just as the waters of the flood in Noah’s day led to a new life and covenant with God, the waters of our baptism lead to a new life in Christ.
Furthermore, in the Gospel Reading of today, one may ask: Why the number forty? It is a period of divine testing, trial and judgment recorded in the scripture: Israel did evil; God gave them to an enemy for forty years (Judges 13:1) God allowed the land to rest for forty years (Judges 3:11, 8:28) During Noah’s time, the rain came down for forty days and forty nights (Genesis 7:4) Moses was with God in the mountain for forty days and forty nights, receiving the commandments (Exodus 24:18, 34:28) The spies searched the land of Canaan for forty days (Numbers 13:25) The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years before they reached the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33- 34) David reigned over Israel for forty years (2 Sam 5:4, 1Kings 2:11) God gave Nineveh forty days to repent (Jonah 3:4) Jesus Himself remained on earth forty days after resurrection (Act 1:3) We are also faced with our own forty days, like our Lord, Jesus Christ, but we need the Holy Spirit to move us, because He is the one, that help us in our weaknesses.(Romans 8:26).
Without the Holy Spirit, the Lenten season would be a mere religious routine. Our success of our Lenten observance has a lot to do with alignment with the Holy Spirit, our source and strength. Let us not be afraid, because the Holy Spirit that helped Christ is always available to help us. All we need do is to open our heart to allow the Holy Spirit lead us to the path of holiness, for the word of God says in the gospel reading: “the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel.” Finally, let us make use of this season to beg God for forgiveness for the moment; we have not been faithful to our covenant. This period of grace provide us with a great opportunity to say “NO” to our old self, in order to renew our covenant with our loving Father