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Is Sacrifice Really Necessary This Year?

February 21, 2021   First Sunday of Lent (Lectionary: 23)

Reading I   Gn 9:8-15
God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
“See, I am now establishing my covenant with you
and your descendants after you
and with every living creature that was with you:
all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals
that were with you and came out of the ark.
I will establish my covenant with you,
that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed
by the waters of a flood;
there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.”
God added:
“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come,
of the covenant between me and you
and every living creature with you:
I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign
of the covenant between me and the earth.
When I bring clouds over the earth,
and the bow appears in the clouds,
I will recall the covenant I have made
between me and you and all living beings,
so that the waters shall never again become a flood
to destroy all mortal beings.”

Responsorial Psalm   Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9
R. (cf. 10) Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
In your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
Good and upright is the LORD,
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and he teaches the humble his way.
R. Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.

Reading II   1 Pt 3:18-22
Beloved:
Christ suffered for sins once,
the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous,
that he might lead you to God.
Put to death in the flesh,
he was brought to life in the Spirit.
In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison,
who had once been disobedient
while God patiently waited in the days of Noah
during the building of the ark,
in which a few persons, eight in all,
were saved through water.
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
It is not a removal of dirt from the body
but an appeal to God for a clear conscience,
through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,
who has gone into heaven
and is at the right hand of God,
with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Verse Before the Gospel   Mt 4:4b
One does not live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.

Gospel   Mk 1:12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested,
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.”

By Melissa Velez

Today is the first Sunday of Lent and, admittedly, I had been feeling uninspired. The thought of purposely imposing more sacrifice on my life was not a thought I welcomed with the way life has been lately. When reflecting on the Gospel for today, I had to read it through several times before a line finally spoke to me. 

But eventually one did: the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. 

When praying about Lent and with this passage, I typically don’t spend a lot of thought on why Jesus went out into the desert. I’m usually stuck on the simple fact that he was there and the devil was tempting him, and he probably struggled against loneliness and misery. But in reading through this Scripture a few times I realized, not only was it something specific, but something good that drove him there. This gave me a lot to think about. 

Every year I struggle between two frames of mind: eagerness to enter into Lent, simplify my life and deepen my prayer, versus reluctance to make a sacrifice that I know will cause me hardship.

On my bad days it feels like Lent is just a manmade hurdle the Church has given us to jump. 

But focusing on this line helps me to understand otherwise, because it was the Holy Spirit that moved Jesus to enter the desert. It puts the idea of my sacrifice in a whole different light, knowing that the Holy Spirit who I call on several times a day for guidance, was the cause of Jesus’ forty days of sacrifice. It was not just a trivial occurrence, and it was not the devil (or an otherwise negative force) that drove him there.

It makes me wonder, how many other times has the Holy Spirit called me to sacrifice something for my own good and I ignored it, never thinking it was divine guidance urging me to simplify?

To stop and pray? To offer it up as a prayer for another? When reflecting on this occurrence it’s obvious that the Lenten season is not a manmade hurdle, but a time inspired by the Holy Spirit to draw us closer to God by a similar experience; our own desert that the Holy Spirit drives us into, not for the sake of misery or punishment but for growth and goodness.

The next time I find myself lamenting the fact that I’ve gone without something, whether that be food, a comfort object, or personal time, it will be good practice to stop and remind myself perhaps the Holy Spirit drove me here, and see how I can turn the moment to prayer as Jesus did, for goodness and for growth.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 

Melissa Velez is from Southern California, born and raised, and a current Cincinnati, Ohio transplant. She has also lived in Portland, Oregon and Salt Lake City, Utah. A teacher by education, she now works in social services as a client advocate at St. Vincent de Paul. She is a lover of all things beautiful and educational, most especially poetry, the performing arts, and travel (goal: visit all 50 states, 30 more to go!) Three things she is constantly craving: sushi, matcha lattes, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. She has written for NET Ministries, LifeTeen, and The Catholic Woman. Find more about her here.

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