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Homily for the First Sunday of Lent – Repent and Believe!

March 4, 2009

Gospel Audio

Homily Audio 

Repent and Believe!

Repent…and believe. “Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the Gospel of God: ‘This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” That’s what He said in to today’s Gospel reading.

“To turn from sin and dedicate oneself to the amendment of one’s life.” This is how the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word, repent.

“Believe in the Gospel”. To believe (Also from the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary) is “to accept as true, genuine, or real”.

So by textbook definition, Jesus’ call as He returns form the desert is pretty easy to understand: “Turn from sin. Amend your life. And accept God’s Gospel as real and true.”

This is all God asks of us as Christian men and women: “Be good. And believe Me.” That’s it!

But if that’s it…then why’s it so hard? And how are we supposed to do it?

Well…the forty days of Lent can help us to get our arms around that.

Today’s readings give us a push in the right direction. The first reading reminds us of the promise God made after the Great Flood was over; God had just finished “rebooting” the Earth because of the evil of the people. He only saved eight, according to the story; Noah and his family had been the only people on Earth to avoid sliding into the evil of the times. The Flood punished the sin of the people, and washed that sin away through forty days of rain, so that humanity could start over with God.

In the second reading, Peter tells us that God renewed His relationship with humanity again with Jesus: “Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God.” Christ’s death gave us a chance for a new life in God. And Peter tells us that the baptism we receive is not just a bath for the body: that baptism saves us: we make “an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ”.

The Gospel brings back the forty days with Jesus’ time in the desert being tempted by Satan. When Jesus returns from the desert, He goes to Galilee and proclaims that “the kingdom of God is at hand.” Then what does He tell the people? “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

The forty days of Lent begin with these readings because they set the tone. Lent should be all about two things: repentance, and belief; turning from sin, and believing in Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross. This is the constant call of Lent: Repent…and believe.

All of us who are baptized have promised these things before, or had them promised for us. The Rite of Baptism recalls the time of the Flood as a sign of our baptism. And after the prayer over the baptismal font, those to be baptized are asked to do two things: to renounce Satan, and to profess their faith in Jesus. Repent…and believe.

This baptismal call to repentance is the same call we hear during Lent. Lent is a reminder for us that we have already been cleansed and reborn to life in Christ, but that we often fall short of living out the new life we received through baptism. Lent calls us to recall what God has done for us through Jesus; Lent calls to us make a return to the faith we professed at our baptism. We are called to repent…and believe.

But what do we need to repent for? What is it that we’ve done that’s so bad, so serious, that we need to turn away from it and do something different?

That answer is different for each one of us, I think. And no, the vast majority of us aren’t running around committing mortal sin after mortal sin, guaranteeing us a place in Hell. But Lent gives us a chance to really examine our lives, to ferret out those places where we are being less faithful than we ought. Lent gives us a chance to look at our choices in life, and to decide if we’re where we should be. And it’s a chance to take on some of the hard things in our lives, not just to give up chocolate for six weeks!

Lent gives us a chance to try to expose the lies that the Evil One sows throughout our culture: the lie that we can do whatever we like, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else; the lie that the Church is hopelessly out of touch in some of its teachings, and that we can ignore those that cause us discomfort; the lie that we are ultimately in control of our bodies and our lives, and that God is OK with it.

Is there an abortion in your past that you haven’t healed from? (Men, I am addressing this to you, too.) Pray about it; God wants to heal you and set you free! Contracepting in your marriage? Pray about it, and consider attending at least one Natural Family Planning class with the Diocese, to see if God is calling you to something different, something new. Consider using this Lent to work with the big things in our lives that hold us back from full union with God.

Will it be tough? If we’re going in the right direction, yes it will be tough! The last thing Satan wants is for us to catch on to his lies! But if we really open ourselves up to the grace God freely offers us, we can see past the lies, to the truth: that God has already given us everything we need to live as He calls us to, if we will only use it!

Jesus’ call as He returns from the desert is pretty easy to understand: “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.” Turn from sin. Amend your life. And accept God’s Gospel as real and true.

This is a challenging call, to be sure. And much of what the world throws at us turns us away from that call.

But Lent can give us a chance to turn back. Lent can help us to make a break with anything in our lives that holds us back from repentance…and belief.

There is something in every one of our lives that is holding us back. And Jesus’ call as he came from the desert still has meaning for us. Repent…and believe.
Repent…and believe. And accept the grace God freely offers us to help our unbelief.

Then…stand back and see what happens in our lives!

From → Homilies

One Comment
  1. Fr.Ssemmambo.Emma. permalink

    I consider lent a favourable time to make a holy journey back home to our God who is full of mercy and ready to relent if we repent.To change from pride to humility,sloth to chastity,greed to self control,anger to patience,gluttony to prudence,laziness to diligence.Thank you for the wonderful lenten menu


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