Monday, February 16, 2015

1st Sunday of Lent - February 22, 2015

First Reading Commentary
The covenant of God is made with animals also, but only in as much as they are obsequious to humanity.  The bow or rainbow mentioned is not a new creation; it has existed from the beginning but it was never before appointed as a sign “that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood.”  It is designated as God’s rainbow because of its beauty and grandeur.  Saint Augustine says, “As the rainbow, which makes its appearance in the clouds, borrows its brilliant radiance from the sun, so those only who acknowledge the glory of Christ in God’s clouds, and do not seek their own glory, will escape destruction in the deluge.” 

The story of Noah and the flood prefigures baptism.  The covenant with Noah is a pledge of God’s faithfulness and love which God will never break.  As all creation outside of the ark was destroyed by the waters of the flood, just so is sin destroyed by the waters of baptism. 

Some of the Church’s writers also saw the ark as a mystical representation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  When in the ark or hiding in His Heart, we cannot be overtaken by the deluge of this earthly voyage.  

Second Reading Commentary
Jesus was “put to death in the flesh” by dying on the Cross for our sins and “brought to life in the Spirit.” There are two different thoughts on what the word “Spirit” means.  Some understand this to mean Christ’s Divine Spirit and the power of His Divinity by which He raised Himself again from death to immortal life by His glorious Resurrection.  But others understand it to mean Christ’s Soul by which He never died, which always remained united to His Divine Person, and which on the third day He again was reunited to His Body. 

The most common interpretation of “the spirits in prison” seems to be that, the Soul of Christ, after the separation from the Body and before the Resurrection, descended to a place where the patriarchs, prophets, as well as righteous men and women were detained; and it was there that Christ preached to these spirits and delivered to them the Good News that He is their Redeemer and Deliverer; and in His glorious Ascension, they will enter into heaven with Him. 

Saint Peter mentions here that the story of Noah prefigures baptism which saves us.  Our salvation is made possible because of the Resurrection of Jesus and baptism is a sacrament that we gratefully accept as an offering of love and life. 

The first words of the bible tell us that there was a beginning, which also suggests that there will be an end; and so, there is the element of time.  Jesus Christ, the eternal God, by becoming Man entered into that element of time; and perhaps not only did the conflict between divinity and humanity exist in Christ’s interior life, but also the battle of time versus eternity. 

By dying on the Cross Jesus expresses His Humanity; and by rising from the dead, He proclaims His Divinity.  Likewise, by becoming Man, walking among us and dying, He can relate to His own end or His personal experience with the element of time.  But by His Resurrection He demonstrates His eternalness and thus cannot be contained by the element of time unless decreed by His own Divine Will.  And since He did decree to experience our existence, He demonstrates the mysterious humility of Almighty God. 

To go even further, God was obedient to His own rules when He allowed Himself to die on the Cross since death is inevitable for all humanity.  Jesus Christ, Who has angels, authorities, and powers subject to Him, because He refused to break His own rules, invents yet another way to come to us lowly human beings: through the ordinary species of bread and wine.  Who could doubt His love for us?  Mane nobiscum, Domine! - Stay with us, Lord!          

Gospel Commentary
If you were unfamiliar with the other Gospels, then you might be left in a state of curiosity after reading this particular passage.  You might find yourself asking questions like: Jesus was tempted?  What are the details of this temptation?  How did He overcome it?  While Saint Mark doesn’t record the details, he does, however, express one thought that would have even the most uninformed soul deducing that the temptation of Christ had to have been difficult because He was “tempted by Satan.”  When the master of deceit does the job himself, then this is serious business. 

After some thought and hindsight we may consider Satan as the one who is pushing the buttons with the temptations we face, a sort of “behind the scenes” figure; but Mark gives the impression that Christ’s temptation is a Face-to-face encounter with the evil one. 

Saint Mark’s Gospel alone mentions that Jesus was “among wild beasts” which is likely designed to give images of an area of desolation.  Since Jesus is God Almighty, these occurrences are completely unnecessary for Him.  He submitted to these things to teach us what to expect. 

Christ’s temptation immediately follows His baptism by John.  In baptism we become a beloved child of God with whom He is well pleased.  But after that we are sent into a world that guarantees temptations.  But following in Christ’s Footsteps, the duty of proclaiming the Kingdom of God in word and action plus the need for repentance has been assigned to us.  Penance is an ongoing process, and so, it is not only necessary to proclaim it, but also constantly remind ourselves of the need for it. 

“Jesus is the new Adam Who remained faithful while the first Adam had given in to temptation.  Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals Himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will.  In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror.  Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of His filial love for the Father” (CCC 539).