My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So we have started out on a journey, the journey of Lent.
But when we think about it, really, our whole lives are a journey. From the time we are born, until the time we return to God. We spend our whole lives on a journey.
This is why we begin Lent, each year, with the story of Jesus being driven out into the desert.
We all know that these next 40 days are supposed to remind us of our Lord’s time in the desert. So we fast and pray, and we make sacrifices and deny ourselves — just as Jesus did.
But this time of Lent is also supposed to remind us that we are living our lives on a journey through the desert.
Life is a journey but God goes with us. And we go with God. And we are never alone. That’s something that is important for us to always remember — we are never alone, God is always with us and we are with him.
God has made a covenant with each one of us. We heard that in the first reading today, that beautiful words of God to Noah after the great flood.
And we heard God talk to Noah about the rainbow sign:
This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you.
God has made a covenant — with me and with you, and with all creation. A personal promise of his love.
God made a covenant with each one of us when we were baptized. That’s what St. Peter is talking about in the second reading of today’s Mass.
St. Peter says the great flood in the days of Noah should help us to understand our own Baptism. As we heard, Noah and his family were saved through water in the great flood. And St. Peter tells us that in the same way we are saved through water when we are baptized.
And so this is our confidence — not only during this season of Lent, but in all the trials of our lives. This is our hope. That God goes with us in our journey. That he has saved us through his compassion and love. We should never forget that.
So Lent is all about Baptism. Sometimes I think we forget that. But that’s the point of Lent.
To remind us that we have received the waters of salvation when we were baptized. And that means that God is with us all the time.
Lent is also time when some people are getting ready to be baptized at the Easter vigil. We will have our beautiful Rite of Election this afternoon here at the Cathedral, which is the beginning of that process that will lead these men and women to Baptism.
And for rest of us, Lent, as I’m trying to say, is a time for us to remember the covenant that God made with us in our own Baptism.
And that also means that Lent is a time for us to get to know God better. And in order to get to know God better, we have to get to know ourselves better. That’s why we go out into the “desert” in these 40 days.
I mean, not physically, but in the “desert” of our life, the “desert” that is making time and space to be alone with God.
To think about our lives, our relationships. The “desert” for us is the place inside our hearts, our “inner room” where we can be alone with God.
So my dear brothers and sisters, this is the project for Lent. To really take some time to go to that “desert” place and pray to our Father. Talk to him, ask him to help us to see what we should be working on in our spiritual lives.
That’s what is the tradition in the Church, as we all know, to make some resolutions at the beginning of Lent. I’m sure that you all did. I did mine. I guess a good question for us today is if we are being faithful to those resolutions that we made on Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent. I’m working on it — not easy!
Just to help ourselves to be alone with God. That makes such a huge difference in our personal lives. And it becomes easier to try to be faithful to those little resolutions and take advantage of this time to grow in our relationship with God and in our relationship with one another.
What is it that we can do better?
Maybe we need to be more patient. Maybe we need to have more self-control. Maybe we need to be reaching out to people — helping them, listening to them, or giving a good piece of advice, or just being with them. Whatever it is!
Lent is this beautiful time in the liturgy of the Church that we can really work on doing thing better. Simple things that we can do, but as we are reflecting now, that make a big difference in our lives.
So, in Lent we have the opportunity to make real efforts to love one another — especially the poorest and the weakest members of our human family.
It is a joyful time. It is a time to, as Pope Francis is suggesting, to really try to have the merciful heart of Jesus Christ. It is a time also, as I was saying, the liturgy of the Church is inviting us to do, to start a campaign of Christian service — really going out to make life better for others.
So let us ask for the grace to really take advantage of this Lenten season. To grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ. To be with him and never forgetting that God is always with us.
So we ask our Blessed Mother to help us to really dedicate ourselves in these 40 days to prayer, fasting, self-sacrifice and works of love.
1. Readings (First Sunday of Lent, Year B): Gen. 9:8-15; Ps. 25:4-9; 1 Pet. 3:18-22; Mark. 1:12-15.