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First Sunday in Lent [B], March 5th, 2006

By: John Bucki, SJ

Readings
Genesis 9:8-15
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Calendar
March 8: International Women's Day
March 10-13: Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global Peace with Justice

Quotes
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).
- US Catholic Bishops, Economic Justice for All, 42

Faced with the tragic situation of persistent poverty which afflicts so many people in our world, how can we fail to see that the quest for profit at any cost and the lack of effective, responsible concern for the common good have concentrated immense resources in the hands of a few while the rest of humanity suffers in poverty and neglect?
- John Paul II, 2003 Lenten Message

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.
- US 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 some type of rugged individualism, rather than to 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

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, 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?

Actions - Links
Africa Action is an organization in the U.S. working on African affairs. "Our mission is to change U.S. Africa relations to promote political, economic and social justice in Africa. We provide accessible information and analysis and we mobilize popular support for campaigns to achieve this mission." See www.africaaction.org/index.phpTheir "action center" allows an individual to write letters on line in order to bring justice issues to the attention of people in power. For example, recently people were asked to write an online letter on the situation in Darfur.

The Jubilee USA Network is an alliance of "religious denominations and faith communities, human rights, environmental, labor, and community groups working for the definitive cancellation of crushing debts to fight poverty and injustice in Asia, Africa, and Latin America." Go to: www.jubileeusa.org

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,
to understand
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
and patient
and gracious
and trusting
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, www.paxchristiusa.org

Type of content: Lectionary Reflections