My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Lent reminds us that we are all on a journey to God. Each of us is following Jesus Christ and making a pilgrimage to God with our lives.
Today we want to ask God to help us, to give us his grace, so that we can take advantage of this special season. So that we can reflect on our lives and really make progress on our spiritual journey.
We begin this journey in our Baptism. And that is why during Lent we always reflect on Christ’s call to conversion and the gift of new life that he gives us in Baptism.
Later this afternoon, I will celebrate the Rite of Election and enroll the names of the catechumens who are preparing to receive Baptism and the sacraments of Christian initiation at the Easter vigil. This is an ancient tradition in our Church. Since the beginning, Lent has been the time when people prepare to enter the Church through Baptism.
But Lent is also a beautiful time for those of us who have been baptized. It is a time for us to reflect on our own conversion and to renew our baptismal promises — to reject Satan and his temptations, to reject the power of sin in our lives.
So we need to have this “baptismal perspective” during Lent. We need to really think about the meaning of our Baptisms and our relationship with Jesus Christ.
That is why our readings for this Holy Mass talk about the waters of Baptism and our life after Baptism.
In our first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we heard about the destroying waters that came in the great flood during the time of Noah and the ark.
We all know the story of the flood. The people in the world had fallen away from God. It got so bad, that there were only eight persons left in the whole world who loved God and followed his teachings. That was Noah and his family. So God allowed this great flood to wash the world clean, to free it from sin. But he saved Noah and his family in the ark.
Now in our second reading, St. Peter explains to us that all of this history was meant to be a sign of our salvation by Baptism. St. Peter tells us that the great flood “prefigured Baptism, which saves you now.”
The waters of the great flood destroyed the sin in the world. And in the same way the waters of Baptism wash away the sin from our lives. Noah and his family were saved in the ark. In the same way each one of us are saved in the “ark” of his Catholic Church, which navigates us safely through this world.2
My brothers and sisters, this is the spiritual meaning of Baptism, this is what really happens. We are saved through the waters. We are given a new home in the Ark of Salvation, his Catholic Church.
But Baptism is not an end. It is the beginning of our Christian lives. And that is what the Gospel reading for this first Sunday in Lent is all about.
We begin every Lent by reliving Jesus’ own journey into the desert, where Satan tempts him. And it is important for us to understand why we hear this story at the start of every Lent.
We have to remember that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert immediately after Jesus’ own baptism.
He did this because, after our baptism, each of us is also sent into the wilderness of this world. And every day, we face trials and temptations. Just as Jesus did.
Jesus is showing us today that with his help, we can overcome the temptations in our lives. He is showing us that with his grace, we can resist sin and strive for holiness. We are always going to be weak because we are human. But we can do all things with the strength that Jesus Christ gives us.
Always remember, my brothers and sisters, that everything we face in our lives — Jesus has faced before us. And he is always walking with us on our journey.
If we are following Jesus, then we need to listen to his Word and we need to imitate his example in our thoughts and actions.
In our Gospel today we hear him say, after his temptation, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” This is a very simple program for us — not only for Lent, but also for our whole lives. To repent and believe in the Gospel.
Repentance is not just something we do once. It is meant to be the pattern of our lives. Our lives are meant to be a continual conversion. Every day we are on this journey of repentance. Every day we have to strive to turn away from our selfishness and our sins and our pride. And every day we have to believe in his Gospel more and more and turning toward God and his grace and his holiness.
So let’s pray today for the grace to make this Lent a beautiful time of penance, purification and conversion. Every day for this next 40 days, let’s try to make some progress — to increase our faith through our actions of prayer, fasting and giving alms.
We have a wonderful opportunity to practice our faith by coming to daily Mass, by going to Confession. We can make sacrifices to care for one another — maybe by visiting our neighbors or family members who are sick and elderly; or maybe by finding more time to be with our children.
We can make this a meaningful Lenten season through our actions and work a change of heart in ourselves and those we meet in our daily activities.
With the help of the Guardian Angels and the intercession of Mary, our Blessed Mother, may we grow in the love for God during this Lenten season. May we also be able to show God that we love him with our daily effort to be in his presence and especially, by the way in which we practice charity with others.
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.
2. Catechism, 845, 1094, 1219.