1st Sunday of Lent (B)
February 15, 2021
A virtual Life in the Spirit experience
February 15, 2021

Series: It’s Lent – on our journey to conversion

Msgr Michael de Verteuil, Chair of the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission begins a series of articles for the Lenten season.

The General Norms of the Liturgical Year and Calendar (GNLYC) # 27 says, ‘The season of Lent is a preparation for the celebration of Easter.’ Thus Lent exists without Carnival but cannot exist without Easter.

What are we celebrating at Easter? The Resurrection of Christ and the renewal of our baptismal promises, our saying ‘yes’ again to the Lord – renewing our covenant (‘You are our God, and we are your people’.)

While most of us will be doing this, some who are making the RCIA journey will be baptised.

So, our focus for Lent is Easter and the conversion we must make to fruitfully celebrate it. Our focus is not on the Passion and suffering of Jesus. Though that is certainly in the background for it, it is through Jesus’ death that we see the immensity of His love and have reconciliation to God.

The liturgy of the first five weeks of Lent prepares us for the celebration of Baptism or for the recall of our Baptism. It is not until Holy Week, beginning on Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion, that the liturgy focuses on the suffering of Jesus.

Our liturgical celebrations should lead us along the journey of conversion- this is true for the whole year but is true in an especially intense way in Lent. Preface 1 (the prayer that begins with ‘The Lord be with you’ and ends with ‘Holy, holy…’) is subtitled ‘The spiritual meaning of Lent’ and acknowledges Lent as a gracious gift from God, a time when our minds are made pure and when we become more eager in prayer and works of charity, so that we may be led to that fullness of grace that God bestows on His children.

The readings for the first five weeks all call us in one way or the other for this, e.g., those for Ash Wednesday are calls to penance and reconciliation, to doing away with wickedness.

The prayer for the blessing of ashes asks that following the Lenten observances, we may be worthy to come with minds made pure to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of Jesus.

This is the purpose of Lent – that we may journey purposefully to conversion, that we may grow in becoming more and more the image of Jesus, thus coming at Easter to celebrate the Paschal Mystery of His death and Resurrection with great joy.

The previous Missal spoke of Lent as a joyful season – joyful because we are, or should be, becoming what we have been created to be, a holy people.

The First Sunday of Lent: A liturgical view

Lent is a time of preparation to celebrate Easter. Through fasting, prayer, (our individual as well as our communal at Mass and devotions), and works of charity, we come to conversion and to celebrate Easter with joy and renewed commitment to our baptismal promises.

What do the prayers and readings of the Sundays of Lent tell us of the meaning of the season? All of them speak of the conversion and reconciliation the season calls us to, but each with its own emphasis. Let us look at those of the First Sunday of Lent.

Collect: this prayer invokes that through the Lenten observance we may grow in understanding the meaning of Christ’s death and resurrection and that this may positively affect our lives.

The Preface: The Gospel reading of the temptation in the desert speaks of Christ’s defeat of the devil, teaching us to cast out ‘the malice of evil’ and enabling us to celebrate the Paschal Mystery with purity of heart.

The readings: the first (Gen 9:8–15) tells of the covenant God made with Noah, a foreshadowing of the covenant we are preparing to renew as we celebrate the Paschal Mystery at Easter.

The second (1Pet 3:18–22) refers to the water of the flood at the time of Noah which the author sees as a type of baptism which saves us. We remember that we are preparing to renew our baptismal promises with mind and heart renewed; some of the community may be preparing for baptism.

The Gospel: (Mk 1:12–15) Here we have a shortened version of the temptations in the desert – Christ’s struggle and victory over evil, reminding us of the struggle we have with temptation (and the Lenten practices we can use to defeat it) and the victory we celebrate at Easter.