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1st Sunday of Lent homily

Fr. Michael MachacekNativity of Our LordFebruary 18, 2024
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today's readings are Genesis 9: 18-25; Psalm 25; 1 Peter 3: 18-25 and Mk. 1: 12-15

Are you a person of few words?  Or do you know someone else who is?  Well, for all those who are persons of few words, you’ve got to love St. Mark and his gospel.

St. Mark’s is the first of the 4 gospels written, and by far, the shortest of the 4 gospels.  St. Mark used a very simple, straightforward narrative style.  For example, today’s gospel story.

The 1st Sunday of Lent always features the Temptation of Christ. Last year, we heard of St. Matthew’s version, which is 11 verses long.  Next year we will hear St. Luke’s version – 13 verses long.  But our dear St. Mark’s version that we heard today? 1 verse.  That’s it. Jesus is in the wilderness; he is tempted by Satan; there were wild beasts with Him; and the angels waited on Him. The end. 

But this Sunday, rather than focusing on the temptation story, I would like to focus on the last 7 words in today’s gospel: “Repent and believe in the good news”.

Think about those 7 words.  Do they sound familiar?  They should, if you were here for one of our Ash Wednesday masses.  When you came forward to receive your ashes, what was said to you was: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel” – i.e. the good news.

Let’s start with repent.  Over the centuries much has been written about repentance by theologians, spiritual writers, and church documents.  They all agree that repentance begins with a moment of honesty – an honest recognition about what one has done or not done, then being sorry and contrite about it.  But repentance can also lead to further realizations and actions, which can include the sacrament of reconciliation. 

One of the best explanations I have heard about repentance occurred in a British tv series entitled Grantchester. The series is set in the 1950s in a small English village and features a young Anglican vicar who often helps a local detective in solving murders.  In one episode, after a particularly traumatic event which has shook the people of his town, the vicar delivers his Sunday sermon on the theme of repentance.  This is what he said:

Repentance is not simply a form of sorrow for one’s sin.

Repentance is also a resolution to turn from those sins and to learn from them.

Repentance means being honest with ourselves and accepting who we are …

And embracing who we hope to be …

And who God has intended us to be …

And we should never be anything else. 

If each one of us did just that, could you imagine what the real you would look like?  How much more at peace you would be with yourself? And each other?  And how delighted God would be with you?

On to the second part of Jesus’ statement.  Believe in the Good News.  It’s safe to say that all of us here have belief – belief in God, belief in our Catholic faith. In fact, right after this homily we will stand and profess our faith with the words of the Apostles’ Creed, which is a summary about what we believe as Christians.

So, when Jesus says, “Believe in the Good News”, yes, He is telling us to believe in God, to believe in Him, and the Gospel message.  But He’s also asking much more than that.  He wants you to show Him that you are living the Gospel.  To put it simply, if you say that you believe it, then you must live it. 

Do you remember the story Fr. Brian told 2 weeks ago about a young, evangelical Christian asking him if Catholics were Christians?  His answer? Sometimes.

Fr. Brian is right.  Sometimes we Catholics are Christians.  But guess what?  Jesus wants us Catholics to be full time Christians.  People who both believe the faith AND live out the faith - and not just here, but out there, 24/7.

That’s what “Believe in the Good News” means.

One final thought for you – if you still haven’t decided what you are going to do for Lent, here’s a suggestion for you – which comes right from Jesus.  What should you do for Lent?  How about repenting and believing in the Good News? Not a bad idea.