Engaging Faith | Tue, Feb 21, 2012
Lectionary reflections for the first Sunday in Lent.
First Sunday in Lent [b]
February 26, 2012
1 Peter 3:18-22
God destined the earth and all it contains for the use of every individual and all peoples.
-- Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, 69
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).
-- U.S. 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.
-- U.S. 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.
Lent is a time for us to slow down and reflect on the temptations we encounter and learn from them. Lent is a time for us to grow into a new way of being.
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?
What helps you to be aware of the issues and problems (and temptations) of the world?
What things inspire you to take action?
Two jewel merchants arrived at a caravanserai in the desert at about the same time one night. Each was quite conscious of the other's presence, and while unloading his camel, one of them could not resist the temptation to let a large pearl fall to the ground as if by accident. It rolled in the direction of the other who, with affected graciousness, picked it up and returned it to its owner saying, "That is a fine pearl you have there, sir. As large and lustrous as they come."
"How gracious of you to say so," said the other. As a matter of fact, that is one of the smaller gems in my collection."
A Bedouin who was sitting by the fire and had observed this drama, rose and invited the two of them to eat with him. When they began their meal, this is the story he told them:
"I, too, my friends, was once upon a time, a jeweler like you. One day I was overtaken by a great storm in the desert. It buffeted me and my caravan this way and that till I was separated from my entourage and lost my way completely.
Days passed and I was panic-stricken to realize that I was really wandering bout in circles with no sense of where I was or which direction to walk in. Then, almost dead with starvation, I unloaded every bag on my camel's back, anxiously searching through them for the hundredth time.
Imagine my excitement when I came upon a pouch that had escaped my notice before. With trembling fingers I ripped it open hoping to find something to eat. Imagine my disillusionment when I found that all it contained was pearls!"
Actions - Links
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace, and humanitarian service. They invite people to participate in their online advocacy.
Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.
America Magazine writes in a recent issue: “The nation currently endures the highest rate of poverty since 1993, at 15.1 percent. Child poverty is particularly bad, at over 20 percent; and within the nation's African-American community, poverty has hit crisis levels, approaching percentages last seen in the late 1960s. Add in the near poor, people who are just above the poverty threshold, and the picture becomes even more depressing—and more accurate—knowing that almost 50 percent of the nation is in a daily struggle to get by.”
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,
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
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**