First Sunday in Lent

Engaging Faith | Tue, Feb 24, 2009

By John Bucki, SJ
Source: Center of Concern

First Sunday in Lent

March 1, 2009


Genesis 9:8-15

1 Peter 3:18-22

Mark 1:12-15


March 1: International Women of Color Day

March 8:  International Women's Day


What Jesus proclaims by word, he enacts in his ministry. He resists temptations of power and prestige, follows his Father's will, and teaches us to pray that it be accomplished on earth. He warns against attempts to "lay up treasures on earth" (Mt 6:19) and exhorts his followers not to be anxious about material goods but rather to seek first God's reign and God's justice (Mt 6:25-33). His mighty works symbolize that the reign of God is more powerful than evil, sickness, and the hardness of the human heart. He offers God's loving mercy to sinners (Mk 2:17), takes up the cause of those who suffered religious and social discrimination (Lk 7:36-50; 15:1-2), and attacks the use of religion to avoid the demands of charity and justice (Mk 7:9-13; Mt 23:23).

US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 42

One may sin by greed and the desire for power, but one may also sin in these matters through fear, indecision, and cowardice!

John Paul II, On Social Concern

The hopes and forces which are moving the world in its very foundations are not foreign to the dynamism of the Gospel, which through the power of the Holy Spirit frees people from personal sin and from its consequences in social life.

  1971 Synod of Bishops, Justice in the World, #5

All of us must examine our way of living in the light of the needs of the poor. Christian faith and the norms of justice impose distinct limits on what we consume and how we view material goods. The great wealth of the United States can easily blind us to the poverty that exists in this nation and the destitution of hundreds of millions of people in other parts of the world. Americans are challenged today as never before to develop the inner freedom to resist the temptation constantly to seek more. Only in this way will the nation avoid what Paul VI called "the most evident form of moral underdevelopment," namely greed.

US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 75

Thoughts for your consideration

In Mark's gospel, the story of Jesus' temptations in the desert is summarized in one brief sentence.  "The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan." This may be a good occasion for us to use our imaginations and experience in order to reflect on the temptations which we encounter in our world today - especially in the area of social sin.

We may be tempted

  • to assess who we are by what we have [materialism, greed, consumerism]
  • to live a life of rugged individualism, rather than solidarity and community [individualism, pride, selfishness, political cronyism]
  • to control or manipulate others rather than respect freedom and human rights [misuse of the media, propaganda, lying]
  • by the attractiveness of power and the use of fear and violence [militarism, all kinds of abusive behaviors]
  • to prejudge or exclude others [racism, sexism, discrimination]
  • to use immoral means toward good ends
  • to be silent in the face of injustice.

All three readings remind us of the desire of God to save us from all these temptations and evils and lead us to something better. The bow in the sky, the covenant, the baptism of Christ, the ministry of angels to Jesus, and the proclamation of Jesus to the people of Galilee, all remind us of the salvation that God wants for us and for our world.  This salvation must extend to our structures and institutions so that all men and women can enjoy salvation.  In the gospel Jesus proclaims: "This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."

Questions for Reflection in your Faith Sharing Group

What are the temptations that you encounter in our contemporary culture? 

How do they pull you from the spirit of Christ?

Actions - Links

Lent is a season when communities and individuals pray on the suffering of Christ and make use of the Stations of the Cross.  Fr. William Hart McNichols' illustrated Stations of the Cross of a Person with AIDS, can be found at:

Africa Action is an organization in the U.S. working on African affairs. "Our mission is to change U.S. Africa relations to promote political, economic and social justice in Africa. We provide accessible information and analysis and we mobilize popular support for campaigns to achieve this mission."  Go to .  Their "action center" allows an individual to write letters on line in order to bring justice issues to the attention of people in power. 

Zimbabwecontinues to face many large problems. "A devastating cholera outbreak has killed more than 3,000 people, hunger is widespread, and political issues remain unresolved despite months of negotiations."  The One Campaign is asking the African Union to do everything it can in its official role as guarantor of the new unity government.  You can add your name to its petition to the African Union at

The Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of "religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America."  Go to:

"Crazy Facts"

According to Shopping Centers Today, the United States has 20 square feet of real estate person per person. That's six times more than any other country. Sweden is number two with 3.3 square feet per person.

America Magazine writes in a recent issue:  "The number of undernourished people in the world rose to 963 million in 2008 (more than the combined populations of the United States, Canada, and the European Union), up 40 million from 2007, according to the United Nations."

Prayers of Intercession

Response: God, help us to help one another.

For those who are hungry today, we pray....

For those without employment today, we pray....

For those without housing today, we pray....

For refugees and immigrants, we pray....

For those who are suffering in lands of war and violence, we pray....

For those living in situations of domestic abuse and violence, we pray....

For those who enjoy material blessings and yet feel empty and alone, we pray....

For those who look for their salvation in power over others, we pray....

Prayers for Forgiveness

Response: Lord, have mercy.

We acknowledge how we see our worth by the things that we have. We acknowledge consumerism, greed, and materialism and so we pray....

We recall the temptation to be rugged individuals who forget about real solidarity and community and so we pray.....

We see around us how our institutions sometimes seek to control or manipulate others rather than respect freedom and human rights, and so we pray.....

We live in the midst of so many situations filled with war and violence and so we pray.....

We are aware of the attractiveness of power and the use of fear and intimidation and so we pray.....

We humans so often end up pre-judging and even excluding others.  We are guilty of racism, sexism, and all kinds of discrimination.  We pray.....

We are sometimes afraid and silent in the face of injustice.  We pray.....

Prayer - Meditation

Prayer for World Peace by Joan D. Chittister, OSB

Great God, who has told us

"Vengeance is mine,"

save us from ourselves,

save us from the vengeance in our hearts

and the acid in our souls.

Save us from our desire to hurt as we have been hurt,

to punish as we have been punished,

to terrorize as we have been terrorized.

Give us the strength it takes

to listen rather than to judge,

to trust rather than to fear,

to try again and again

to make peace even when peace eludes us.

We ask, O God, for the grace

to be our best selves.

We ask for the vision

to be builders of the human community

rather than its destroyers.

We ask for the humility as a people

to understand the fears and hopes of other peoples.

We ask for the love it takes

to bequeath to the children of the world to come

more than the failures of our own making.

We ask for the heart it takes

to care for all the peoples

of Afghanistan and Iraq, of Palestine and Israel

as well as for ourselves.

Give us the depth of soul, O God,

to constrain our might,

to resist the temptations of power,

to refuse to attack the attackable,

to understand

that vengeance begets violence,

and to bring peace - not war - wherever we go.

For You, O God, have been merciful to us.

For You, O God, have been patient with us.

For You, O God, have been gracious to us.

And so may we be merciful

and patient

and gracious

and trusting

with these others who you also love.

This we ask through, Jesus

the one without vengeance in his heart.

This we ask forever and ever.  Amen.

"Reprinted with permission from Pax Christi USA, "

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