Lectionary Reflection: First Sunday of Lent, Year B

Lectionary Readings: Gen 9:8-15 / Ps 25 / 1 Pet 3:18-22 / Mk 1:12-15

My favourite celebration of the Liturgical Year is no doubt the Easter Vigil and even if it must be celebrated in less exterior solemnity, it will still be my favourite Liturgical celebration of the year. Am I sense a “Liturgy Geek?” Maybe, but I think it is so much more than just signs and symbols, but rather, because of the journey that leads to this very celebration.

Our journey to Easter formally began with the Liturgy of Ash Wednesday this past Wednesday with the blessing and imposition of ashes on our heads. It is with this act that we begin a forty-day period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. But why? The First Sunday of Lent in either cycle A, B, or C will make reference to the temptation of Jesus in the desert. I think the storyline is so familiar to many of us. I remember listening to this story over and over again during the Lenten season back in my years of elementary school. However, in this Year B, the cycle of Mark, there is only a one short paragraph merely mentioning the temptation of Jesus. However, we are reminded at the end of the Gospel, to “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mk 1:16) Does this sound familiar? It might, because this is one of the two formulae used in the imposition of ashes this past Wednesday and it is with this line that concludes today’s Gospel.

Maybe this will give us a deeper perspective of this Lent. Like Jesus going into the wilderness, to spend time in prayer and fasting before beginning His ministry, this Lent calls us to take the time to pray and fast. However, sometimes we go through these pillars of Lent as if it were a routine, or maybe even a competition among each other. “Everyone else is going it, I should do it too.” Today’s Gospel reminds us of the reason why we pray, fast and give alms – because in doing so, we recognize that we need God within our lives. We cannot go on this world thinking that I can do everything because the reality is, we can’t. We need God to be welcomed into our lives because we were made with a thirst for God (cf. Ps 63) and even when we try to run away from Him out of the freedom that we have, nothing of this world will satisfy us. The act of fasting and abstinence that we observe this Lent further reinforces this fact. It is through fasting and abstinence that we come to realize how sometimes we are too attached to earthly things. The “good” feeling we get from earthly things is only temporary while the things of “God” brings back a lingering “good.” This is what St. Ignatius of Loyola noticed when he was bedridden: the “good” of stories of romance quickly faded away but the “good” of the story of the Life of Christ and Lives of the Saints lingered with him to the point that it changed his life forever, writing the Spiritual Exercises, and founding the Jesuits who continue to serve internationally, “ad majorem Dei gloriam.”

We must allow Lent to be a challenge of detachment, so that by the time we are sprinkled with holy water at the celebration of Easter Vigil this year, we will be reminded of this journey of Lent. The Easter Vigil will be the culmination of these 40 days, and let’s make it mean something. Let us not let this time pass as if it were routine, but rather fight the temptations in us so that Easter will mean something more than just chocolate and Easter eggs, but rather, a stronger relationship, and conform our lives with the One who died and rose again to bring us everlasting life.

About Vincent Pham

Vincent is a humanities student of the University of Toronto’s Trinity College of the Faculty of Arts and Science. He hopes to pursue a double major in Ethics, Law and Society, and Philosophy.
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