Sunday, February 26, 2012

First Sunday in Lent; God is Reclaiming His Broken Creation

Readings for February 26, First Sunday in Lent 2012:

First Sunday in Lent 2012

By Deacon Lawrence N. Kaas
February 26, 2012

Have you ever heard the click as the door locks behind you and at that instant you remember that you don't have the keys? Have you ever gotten locked out of your car with the engine still running?

This week, the doorway to Lent clicks behind us and we face five weeks of encounter. Perhaps it was like that for Jesus when the Spirit drove him out into the desert. He finds himself there in the wasteland with only the wild beasts for company. It's a predicament from which there is no escape until the Angels come to wait on him. The same applies to us with our own Guardian Angels.

Being as how Ash Wednesday is the beginning of these five-weeks of encounters, the Ash Wednesday comments of Pope Benedict the 16th are quite appropriate for us this Sunday. "You are dust and to dust you shall return" is not only an invitation to humility, but also an announcement of the path to salvation.

The Pope made this reflection Wednesday as he celebrated evening mass for the start of Lent at Rome's Basilica of Santa Sabina.

Referring to Genesis's description of the fall of Adam and Eve and God's response, the holy father explained; "When God, says to man, 'you are dust and unto dust you shall return!' together with the just punishment he also intends to announce a path of salvation, which will travel through the earth, through that 'dust,' that flesh will be assumed by the Word."

It is in accord with this salvific perspective that the verse of Genesis is taken up by the Ash Wednesday liturgy: as an invitation to penance, to humility and to an awareness of our mortal condition, but not to end up in desperation, but rather to welcome, precisely in this mortality of ours, Gods unthinkable nearness, which, beyond death, opens the passage to the resurrection, to paradise finally rediscovered," he added.

The Pontiff spoke of the possibility of divine pardon as depending "essentially on the fact that God himself, in the person of his Son, wanted to share our condition, but not the corruption of sin. And the father raised him with the power of his Holy Spirit; and Jesus, the new Adam, became, as St. Paul says, 'life-giving spirit,' the first fruits of the new creation."

Benedict the 16th concluded with a prayer that all might find the way to "our true homeland."

"That God who banished our first parents from Eden, sent his Son to our earth devastated by sin," he said. "He did not spare him, that we, prodigal sons, might return, contrite and redeemed by his mercy, to our true homeland. May it be so for each one of us, for all believers, for every man who humbly recognizes his need of salvation."

What is God saying to us?

At the outset, see God's invitation to Noah to work with God in making right what went wrong with creation. The story of God's saving humanity and the animals using an ark hewn from gopher wood speaks of God's patience with us. God, the Eternal Creator and Sustainer of life could have chosen to wipe the slate clean, consigning all creation to judgment and destruction. But the story tells us God went to great lengths to involve one person in a small family as partners with God in making this world what God created it to be.

If God would go to such lengths to reclaim his broken creation, what lengths might God go to love us back to himself? We who know we are of dust and are to return to dust are the beloved sons and daughters of God. This world that God pronounced "Good" is still God's world needing our attention, our involvement, our care. The bow still splashes across the sky after a storm to remind us of the lengths God went through along time ago and the lengths God still goes to love us back into relationship with him.

The gospel lesson shows us another dimension to this heartbeat pulsing through our lessons. Our Lord, still feeling baptismal water dripping from his brow, is led into the wilderness and there, after a 40 day fast, is tempted by the devil. Mark's telling of this event is the briefest in the Gospels of the spirit driving our Lord into the wilderness; he is there 40 days tempted by the devil, his only companion "wild beast", and finally, angels ministering to him. Out of the crucible of these 40 days Jesus comes to Galilee declaring, "the time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe in the good news."
'Thank you' to Deacon Kaas, for letting me post his reflection here.
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