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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe-Lent I, 18 February 2018
Genesis 9:8-15//1Peter 3:18-22//Mark 1:12-15

Life is a daily Lent. Every day we have to make sacrifices as expression of our love for God and for others. Every day we have to open and turn our hearts to God because every day, we look forward to the future glory of eternal life. Too often we forget this reality and that is the reason we have this Season of Lent that began on Ash Wednesday. Though Lent has a penitential character, the season does not have to be dry and drab. Fact is, the word Lent is from the Old English “lencten” that means the lengthening of days in the western hemisphere due to the approaching springtime that signals new life. In reality, lent is a joyous season because it is a preparation to the glory of Easter.
Here we find a particular characteristic of Christian living of experiencing the future glory now. The ever-present tension of the here and the not yet like when we proclaim the mystery of our faith, “Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again!” We do not negate the harsh realities of the present life but we look forward – as we are assured at the same time by God – to the glory of eternal life fulfilled in Christ Jesus if we are willing to join Him in His pasch.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him (Mk.1:12-13).

St. Mark has the shortest account of the temptations of Jesus in the desert right after His baptism. But his brevity speaks a lot about what we claim that life is a daily lent. First is the imagery of the desert like the vast expanse of life we always find so difficult to traverse without any clear posts and directions to take. That is how life really is – there is no certainty, always difficult and sometimes harsh like the desert. It is in our desert experience where Jesus is always present with us, one with us, helping us to fight the temptations of Satan. Every day in our lives, our main temptation in life is to go against the plans of God, exactly the meaning of the word “satan.” During this season of Lent, we are reminded and assured of the presence of Jesus Christ in living out our baptismal promises to reject Satan, his works and empty promises.

According to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, we need to always go back to the desert of our lives to experience anew our first love – God Himself. In his first series of the three-part “Jesus of Nazareth,” Benedict reflected on desert as the opposite of the Garden of Eden or Paradise that has become the place of reconciliation and healing in Christ’s temptations. “Wild beasts are the most concrete threat that the rebellion of creation and the power of death posed to man. But here they become man’s friends, as they once were in paradise. Peace is restored… Once sin has been overcome and man’s harmony with God restored, creation is reconciled, too.”(Jesus of Nazareth, p.27)

What a lovely reflection by the gentle Pope Benedict who wrote these words long before he stepped down from the papacy to enter his final desert with such courage and serenity. In fact, I remembered these words the other week when he said he was on his final journey home to God. The Pope emeritus had found new life right in his ongoing desert experience! The next time you feel life being so unkind, so harsh and difficult like the desert, remember how Jesus triumphed over Satan’s temptations; hold on tightly to Him like Pope Benedict XVI to find more meaning in life in the midst of sufferings and great difficulties. In 1971, the band America came out with their first number hit called “A Horse With No Name” that has become an anthem of my generation. Sometimes, I feel that the “Horse With No Name” is actually Jesus Christ or His angels accompanying us in this life: “I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name/It felt good to be out of the rain/In the desert you can remember your name/’Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain./La, la, la…”

On this first Sunday of Lent, the gospel and the two other readings are reminding us that indeed, life is a daily lent that gives birth to new life. Though there is the imagery of the desert, life like lent, is not all drab and dry as storms and floods sometimes come not to destroy us but to cleanse us like in the story of Noah. After that great flood, God made a covenant with Noah for all people with the rainbow as its sign that He would always preserve human life despite their sinfulness. “When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”(Gen.9:14-15)

Right in the clouds every time a rainbow appears, we can always hope to rise and begin anew in God our lives marred by sins and sufferings as explained by St. Peter in our second reading. In the dryness of the desert gushes forth the imagery of the waters of baptism central to the very spirit of the season of Lent too because on Good Friday, that covenant by God with Noah would come to full circle when Jesus stretched His arms to die on the Cross to become the new bow of God in the sky that guarantees us with eternal life even if the clouds should darken above us. God guarantees us with a bright and blissful future; it is now in our hands if we are willing to have it by joining Jesus in this 40 day journey of Lent, and life. Amen.

Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Parokya Ng San Juan Apostol At Ebanghelista
Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta.Maria,