Fr Noel's Homilies

Buzzword - VICTORY
We begin Lent with the picture of Jesus as a winner, and, in to-day's readings we are invited to be on the winning side in His victory over sin, evil and death.

Genesis (9:8-15): - Noah survives the flood. After the catastrophe of the flood, God reassures Noah that never again will the whole of humanity be threatened with destruction. It is worth noting that of all the agreements described in the Old Testament, this agreement with Noah is the only one that extends to all people, not merely the Israelites.

Epistle (1 Peter 3: 18-22): -The thoughts expressed here are based on a very ancient Christian hymn which celebrates the triumph of Christ when tempted in the desert. It compares the salvation promised by Christ in the waters of baptism with the salvation granted to Noah from the waters of the flood. Noah's ark is a symbol of the Church providing salvation to those who are in it.

Gospel (Mark 1:12-15): -Mark comes right to the chase in his introduction of Jesus and His mission. Christ resists temptation and asserts His authority over Satan, and immediately undertakes His public ministry. Resisting Satan's temptation at the beginning of this ministry, Christ sets the stage for his ultimate victory over death, thereby giving us the opportunity to share that victory.

Point 1: "Winners are grinners" we are told, and daily we are given images and accounts of our champions training, pounding the pavement, pressing iron, undergoing training camps with the army etc., and all of this with a mind to "winning". As the comic strip character Charlie Brown commented, "Winning isn't everything; but losing ain'€™t anything!"

There is one area of contest where this is particularly true - the arena of life where constantly we are called upon to match our strength and skills with the forces of sin, evil and, finally, death. St. Paul frequently drew this parallel between the physical and spiritual contest in life, and pointed out that the same, if not greater, degree of preparation is required if we are to achieve the prize. "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us" (1 Cor. 9.24), Our calling as followers of Christ definitely involves us in this spiritual contest, and the season of Lent is a reminder of the areas of training that constantly need our attention

Point 2: The name "Lent" derives from an old English word meaning springtime. It has its origins in the early 4th century and has been observed since then to mark the forty days fast Christ spent in the desert preparing for his public ministry. In recent years, the Church has laid less emphasis on definite fasting laws to give greater emphasis to the urgent summons that goes out to all Christians at this time to turn back, to repent It is a time of sober realism, of reflection and of recollection - "Remember man that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return". It is, above all, a time in which we seek to deepen our sense of God's presence in our lives.

Conclusion: There are three focal points to Lent - Prayer, Almsgiving and Fasting - each designed to make us more aware of the divine presence in us. When we pray, let it be more from the heart than from routine; more a time of worship, praise and thanksgiving. Almsgiving is also important because it counteracts the ever present tendency to selfishness. Project Compassion offers a practical channel through which we satisfy this Lenten purpose. It reminds us of a broader world and life, and lifts us from the narrow compass of our own problems by making us aware of the greater needs of those around us. Finally, fasting! enabling us to exercise control over our natural appetites so as to be able to control our spiritual selves. Universally, religious tradition in both and East and West has considered fasting vital for spiritual progress.

So! As we enter this season of Lent, let it be with the hope that we may learn a little more about ourselves, a little more about others, and a great deal more about the Divine Presence in each of us. That way we can be sure of sharing the victory gained by Christ over sin, evil and death.

Scriptural reference: "for whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith." 1 John 5:4