First Sunday of Lent
MK 1:12-15
February 21, 2021

Anticipating Ash Wednesday and Lent 2021, a friend commented that she “always cries during the Good Friday Services.” There is no doubt that The Passion of The Lord is the most tragic episode in human history. The reality of what happened that first Good Friday should move us all to tears. But then, the whole of the Lenten season is quite somber. At its core, it is very much a death watch. We know that Lent ends on Calvary. Why wouldn’t we cry every day for 40 days?

But then, we enter this second “Covid Lent” with hearts already made heavy by living with the daily fears and frustrations brought on by the pandemic. There has already been a deluge of tears. We really do need a break in the clouds. We need some relief from all the sadness that has filled the past months…and we need it now! Odd as it might seem, just possibly, this season of penance and reconciliation might offer us that much needed relief.

We all know that Lent is the season of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. On its face, there is nothing cheery about that. But Pope Francis suggests approaching these acts with a positive attitude might bring a lighter tone to Lent without losing the solemnity of the Season.   

In a homily he once delivered on the First Sunday of Lent, the Holy Father counsels: Lent is a time of repentance, yes, but it is not a time of sorrow! He goes on to say: It is a joyous and serious commitment to strip ourselves of our selfishness…and to renew ourselves according to the grace of our Baptism. 

As I understand Pope Francis, he is suggesting that we might look at the Lenten Season not so much as a “death watch” but rather as a LIFE WATCH. This is not to suggest that we abandon “The Way of The Cross.” Still, we should not be so overwhelmed by sadness that we fail to notice great victories The Lord won all along “The Way.” Each victory points towards the ultimate victory of The Resurrection and enables us to keep moving towards Easter…with hope. Each victory invites our participation. As we begin to celebrate our own “little wins,” we begin to FIND JOY IN LENT!

The first challenge is in the desert. As spectators, we watch The Lord resist and reject Satan…and all his works…and all his empty promises. As combatants, we face off against our own temptations. With the help of God’s grace, we can get control over our appetites, push back against destructive ambitions and overpower unhealthy pride. With the help of God’s grace, we can win. Our “little victories” increase our hope and enable us to FIND JOY IN LENT!

Pope Francis explains it: Only God gives us true happiness. It is useless to waste our time seeking it elsewhere, in wealth, in pleasure, in powers, in a career.  

This second “Covid Lent” finds many short on hope. More than ever, this is definitely a time when we need to chalk up some victories…and the joy that comes with winning.  

A final thought of Pope Francis: In these times of trouble, when everything seems fragile and uncertain, it may appear challenging to speak of hope. Yet, Lent is precisely the season of hope, when we turn back to God who patiently continues to care for us!

A final thought from me: Beat Satan and FIND JOY IN LENT! CELEBRATE THIS LENT AS A “LIFE WATCH