First Sunday of Lent - Year C

John J. Lydon. O.S.A.
Pacasmayo (La Libertad)

Deut 26: 4-10
Psalm 91: 1-2, 10-15
Rom 10: 8-13
Like 4: 1-13

We are all engulfed in the electoral campaign where every two or three days a new poll is published to show the ups and downs of each candidate. Every few days, or at most each week, a new analysis is presented showing who is rising and who is falling in the public’s imagination. We get snapshots, short snippets of reality, which supposedly reflect our future. We can easily fall into the embrace of this swirling pace, and think that the quick snap shot, the quick fix, is how we build our future. We can be pulled by the quick phrase or the appeal to our self-centeredness or darker fears. Through it all, we can forget the value of our “better angels.”

Today we celebrate the first Sunday of Lent and the scripture readings are a reminder that our lives are not based on short snippets nor snapshots, but rather on a long-term vision based on who is our Lord and what is His and our mission.

Jesus is also tempted to act quickly, to save the situation right away, when in the last and culminating temptation, the devil says to him on the tower to throw himself down and be saved by the angels, and in the face of that spectacular act, all will follow, all will be accomplished and finished. So quick, so easy, no cost.

But Jesus enters this scene of the temptations after His baptism when it is clear that He is filled with the Spirit of God. That means He thinks and acts in a different way. He does not fall for the quick fix, a snapshot view of humanity. Rather He leaves the temptations and goes to His mission which He pronounces as bringing the good news to the poor, and freeing us from all that oppresses. It’s a long path of mercy made manifest in teaching, liberating, encouraging, that leads to the culmination, at the end of Lent, of His death on the cross, where He is able to finally say: “It is finished.” It is not quick nor easy, but it is the only way to salvation.

The first two readings underscore the long term pilgrimage which is God’s plan of salvation. In the first reading we hear proclaimed Israel’s very ancient confession of faith based on the liberating action of God in the history of his people. God is first and above all the God who liberates us. Because of that act of mercy, the people respond with this declaration of faith and with the act of their generous offering of thanks towards Him.

St. Paul also presents us with a Lord that liberates us from our prejudices and divisions, saying that there is neither Greek nor Jew, but one Lord who brings us all together in His embrace of mercy, and who is sending us to continue that embrace.

Teaching, liberating, encouraging, going outwards towards the poor, that is the mark of Jesus’s mission of mercy which looks not to the snapshot of the convenience of the moment, but to the long pilgrimage towards the liberating cross. As St. Paul says, we call out to say that Jesus is our Lord, which means that we realize, as the people in slavery in Egypt realized, that He has liberated us from our prejudices, our sins, from all that oppresses, and now in thanksgiving we will join Him in His mission of mercy.

This holy year of mercy is a celebration of thanks, for we realize God’s mercy towards us. And as a response to that, in thanks, we make this a year of commitment, with our vision fixed on the long pilgrimage towards the cross, so that little by little, step-by-step, we walk in the path of mercy building families, our society and our church to be more faithful to the long term mission of Christ.

The election swirl, little by little, will gather more and more attention. And indeed, important decisions will have to be made. But let us not lose sight of where we want to go as a people who has Jesus as their Lord, a people who knows by their faith that the temptation of easy solutions is not always best, nor true to our values; a people who knows that only if we live in the way of mercy, will we be faithful, and participate in the cross and the glory of our Lord.