Homily For The First Sunday Of Lent, Year B

Let Us Renew Our Covenant And Relationship With God This Season

Rdgs: (1st: Gen 9, 8-15; Ps 24, 4-9; 2nd: 1Pt 3, 18-22: Gos: Mt 1, 12-15)

This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: canice_c_njoku@yahoo.com, canicechukwuemeka@gmail.com.

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, a season of Renewal. Each year we observe plants renew themselves through what we simply refer to as “Shedding.” Animals also undergo the same process. Hence, Reptiles like snakes and lizards; Arthropods like insects and arachnids; Amphibians like frogs and salamanders; Mammals like humans and dogs all shed their skin. Even birds like pigeons and chickens shed their feathers rather than their skin. As human beings, we go through the same process even though we do not always notice it easily. However, in addition to shedding our physical skin, as human beings, we are expected to “Shed Something” spiritually in order to renew our commitment to our covenant and relationship with God. The season of Lent provides us this opportunity to shed off our “spiritually tired and weak skin” in order to wear a more durable one for our Journey. Therefore, on this first Sunday of Lent, the church invites us to renew our covenant and relationship with God during this season.

Our first reading recounts the unconditional covenant specifically, between God and Noah; and generally, between God and humanity. After the Flood, God promised humanity that He would never again destroy all life on earth with a Flood. God gave the rainbow as the sign of the covenant, a promise that the entire earth would never flood again. It was also a reminder that God can, and will judge sin (Gen 9, 8- 15; 2 Pt 2, 5). One interesting thing about this covenant is that we share in it. Another interesting thing about it is that, even in our own time we still experience the visible sign of this covenant, which is the Rainbow. A few weeks ago I saw this sign (the rainbow) at the beach of Dorado, Puerto Rico. Immediately, it reminded me of God’s universal and unconditional covenant with us his people. It also reminded me of the words of this covenant which says: “When I gather the clouds over the earth and the bows appear, I will recall the covenant between myself and you…” Most importantly, it reminded me of the fact of God’s faithfulness to us his people. What this means is that God in his justice has been faithful to this covenant, to the extent of giving up his son Jesus Christ in order to renew it. Unfortunately, humanity (you and I), have not kept our part of this covenant. This is because through many of our actions and ways of life we have broken this covenant. However, the good news is that: “Even If we are unfaithful He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim 2, 13). So, because of God’s faithfulness to this covenant, our perception of Him has changed from a strict God, to a God who is “slow to anger, full of love and faithfulness”(Ps 86, 15). Therefore, this season, God offers us another opportunity to renew our commitment to our covenant with Him through Christ, the New Covenant. This renewal must come from our sincere hearts, rather than from only our lips.

In the second reading of this Sunday, Peter reminds us of God’s New Covenant with us through Christ. He paid the great price in order to restore us to God. In other words, Christ did not only strengthen the general covenant between God and us, but He also, widened its horizon. He did this by opening the spring of baptism through which we were purified and restored to God. This is the renewal of the covenant on God’s Part. Hence, all of us who were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ have taken part in this new covenant. Each year, the church the bride of Christ, provides us the opportunity through the period of Lent to reflect upon this covenant, and to renew our commitment to it. This was why Paul told us on Ash Wednesday: “Do not neglect the grace of God that you have received…Now is the favorable time; the day of salvation(2 Cor 6, 2).

Our gospel from Matthew briefly narrates the ordeal of Jesus and, the sacrifice he made in order to prepare himself for his mission and journey. To be a worthy lamb for the renewal of God’s covenant with his people, Jesus had to be tested. Peter states this clearly: “As Gold is tested by fire so shall your faith be (1 Pt 1, 7). Today’s gospel therefore reminds us that as Christ was tested so shall we too be tested. Every day of our lives the devil tempts us, and will continue especially, during this sacred season. This should not make us afraid, because the Holy Spirit who helped Christ is always available to help us. As we prepare to renew our covenant with God, like Christ, we must persist in prayer, fast and abstinence. We must ask God to grant us the strength to endure till the end of our own ordeal as Christ did. Also, we must ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with humility, courage, and patience this season.

Finally, we must be ready to identify all that makes it difficult for us to keep our own part of our covenant with God. We must repent of them as the scripture says today: “The time has come…Repent and believe the Good News.” Therefore, let us sincerely make use of this period of Lent to ask God for forgiveness for all the times we have not been faithful to our covenant with him. As we prepare to renew our commitment to this covenant, let us continue to praise him for his faithfulness saying: “Your ways, Lord, are faithfulness and love for those who keep your covenant.”

Peace be with you!

Maranatha!!

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