Catholic Mass Readings and Reflection February 18, 2024


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R/. All your paths, O Lord, are mercy and faithfulness, for those who keep your covenant.

V/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ

V/. Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

R/. Glory and praise to you, O Christ.

At that time: The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

1. Today, on this first Lent Sunday, we shall take a slightly different route. We shall start with the kingdom as the departure point.

2.  Jesus begins his mission and this is well-prepared for. He spends an intense time of prayer and fasting. He prepares himself in a rigorous struggle with temptation and perseverance.

3. This points to a significant ingredient in our life: sacrifice, self-restraint, self-discipline and prayer. What about our preparation, our orientation for our Christian vocation and mission?

4. As Jesus commences his ministry, he proclaims, “Kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the gospel”. Thereby, he makes it abundantly clear that the Kingdom is the focus of his mission.

5. For him, the kingdom is not a territory, not a political reign or a juridical domain. Rather, the kingdom is a holy sphere where God reigns.

6. Kingdom is more a matter of experience, belonging, relation, loyalty and commitment. Kingdom is there where and when God reigns and acts, and where man submits and commits himself to God, the supreme king and ruler.

7. Jesus not only points to a kingdom-oriented mission, but also points to the essential conditions or requirements. They are “to repent and to believe in the gospel”.

8. These both are the means, as well as the expressions of the kingdom. They become the features and testimonies of one’s belonging to the kingdom. This implies that one cannot be a kingdom-member, unless one repents and believes. One cannot work for and spread the kingdom unless one repents and believes.

9. “Repent and believe” indicate two essential movements of the kingdom: the first indicates a “turning away from sin” and the second, a “turning toward God and good”. It is a decisive step, a crucial paradigm shift, a transition from one realm to another. It is opening oneself to operate on totally changed norms.

10. “Repent and believe” indicate two essential aspects or layers of life: of attitude or perspective, and of action and conduct. That is, primarily ‘repent and believe’ indicate an attitudinal or perspectival change.

11. And this reflects and manifests itself a concrete changed way of acting and behaving. In other words, it is primarily an interior change but flows into an exterior change as well.

12. As interior change, ‘to repent’ involves a deep anguish over one’s sinfulness. This cuts one’s heart to the core for the lapses and infidelities. True repentance is not a mere feeling sorry, not a mere emotional outburst of sorrow.

13. Certainly it is not a load of guilt or remorse. True repentance is profoundly positive. It is humble, confident and surrendering. Thus, one who truly repents cannot but detest sin, cannot but cut off his clingings to it and decisively turn toward God. True repentance opens up to faith.

14. To believe then implies a positive passion, relation, reliance and commitment toward God. It is not only believing-that, but much more believing-in. It is not merely propositional but personal and relational. It is something experiential which leads to a thorough existential transformation.

15. If this is the real mission of the edifice of the kingdom, with its pillars of repentance and faith, then it is time to check and see how do we shoulder this mission of the kingdom? How much do we train and orient ourselves to belong to it? How much do we bear the signs of the kingdom?

16. How much do we bear testimony to the kingdom through the marks of repentance and faith? How much do we constantly turn away from sin and turn to God? How much do we become aware that it is not only a mission to others but essentially a mission to our own self?

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