A reading from the Book of Genesis
The term covenant is essential to understanding God’s relationship with Israel. It means a promise made by God to the people. This is the first covenant between God and his people—a promise to spare future generations from a devastating flood like the one that occurred in Noah’s time. This is all pre-history. There is no historical record, but it is a powerful story in which God makes a broad all-inclusive promise that includes protection of “every living creature.” A whole series of promises follow to Abraham, Moses, David, and Isaiah, each of which calls on the people to repent and be faithful to their promise. This leads to the New Covenant in Jesus Christ which you and I live today.
“Your ways O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.” If we keep our promise, our covenant with God we will live in truth and love. Of course none of us does that perfectly, but part of God’s promise to us is forgiveness, beyond any we can imagine.
A reading from the First Letter of Peter
As we read about the persecution and martyrdom of Christians around the world, including priest seized in Nigeria and Ukraine, let us pray for them and all those throughout the world who die through hatred and violence. And let us remember the martyrdom of Jesus that Paul talks about here as he tells us, “Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit.” May we continue to remember and honor all who have followed the New Covenant of Jesus and given their lives in his service. May they rejoice forever as they are brought to new life in the Spirit as Jesus was.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
The Jewish people wandered in the desert for 40 years after they were liberated from Egypt through God’s covenant. Jesus goes into the desert and is tempted for 40 days as he prays about his role in bringing a New Covenant of Good News to all people. He came to proclaim the reign of God, not in some future time but now. The Gospel, the Good News, is now, for us. We are loved now, as we are, not as perfect beings in another life. Now is the time to hear the Good News, but we need to take the time during Lent to hear it again, to relish it, to appreciate what it really means to us. Jesus went into the desert for 40 days to reflect on who he was and what he was called to do. What about us? Can we take a little time this Lent to consider the gifts we have been given, to be truly thankful for all God has given us, and consider our continuing role as people of the New Covenant? What is God calling us to do in our families, our work, our communities, and our parish? Our lives can go by so fast. There are so many obligations and tasks every day and so many distractions that keep us from reflecting on the Good News in which we live. How can we find our own desert place from time to time this Lent to awaken the power of the Good News in us and around us?
Image: Temptation of Jesus in the Wilderness, William Hole (1908). Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved. The passage regarding the wedding garment is from The New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.