Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan’s Homily For the First Sunday in Lent 2/22/15 with Commentary by Rev. Judy
I am pleased to present here Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan’s insightful homily for the first Sunday of this Lenten season. Rev. Roberta ,who lives in Arizona, is also a biologist and a professor of biology. Her faith-filled homilies are a blessing for this season of self-examination and service as we walk the forty days with Jesus. The forty days represent Jesus’ time in the desert and (not counting Sundays) walking with Jesus to the cross and ,thanks be to God, to Easter.
Last night we celebrated Ash Wednesday and the start of the Lenten season at our Good Shepherd Church. I looked into the eyes of those assembled-I saw those who were tired from the heavy work and heavy blows of life-from hard manual work and demanding professional work, to seeking work where there was no work, from serious bodily illnesses, from family strife and living in neighborhoods where drive-by shootings have become common place, as recently as yesterday. I saw faithful followers who came to renew their vows to live like Jesus removing any obstacles from the path. I saw steady golden glimmers of the hope that faith brings. I saw the burdens of sin laid down in baptism and the mantel of life put on. I easily recalled their baptisms as I had baptized several of the young people and adults who came to accept the sign of the cross in ashes on their foreheads. I easily remembered with regret my own sins and affirmed the joy of my own baptism and all of the sacramental blessings I have received. I saw the freshness of life in the eyes of the youngest and the constant hope in the tired eyes of the oldest. As I looked into the eyes of those assembled it was not hard to embrace the fragility of life and know that whether it be star dust or good rich earth our bodies are temporal and will all too soon return to the earth while our spirits are united with our Loving God in life forever through the covenant that Dr. Roberta discusses-God’s promise to be our God forever and lead us to eternal life. As Christian’s we live in the sure hope of the resurrection- that Christ leads us to God (I Peter 3: 18),that through Christ and through the water of our baptism we do not end up a pile of ashes. When I said this to the congregation, I heard “Amen, Amen”.
And I saw before me those struggling, as I am, to lead a life in imitation of Christ. Beyond our shortcomings I saw the intentions to get closer to Christ in this Lenten season, not only by giving much less priority to those things that may take us away from God,(our teens have identified technology addiction as something to fast from this Lent and they are so right) but by actively increasing our service to others. It was so helpful when our Co-Pastor, Judy Beaumont said,”… and if you find yourself doing the same things that keep you from God over and over again, forgive yourself and just start again-but don’t give up, DO start again”. One of our young people is stricken with AIDS and is so (understandably) angry that possibly imminent mortality dawns so early and curtails so much. All close relatives have learned to duck at the anger that sometimes gets strongly (verbally and physically) mis-directed at them. Thank God for a God that understands and forgives. After Mass,a family member told me, “The rage is so hard. We, here, are the only ones in our large family that forgive the rage that gets directed at us. Everyone else strikes back. It is because of our faith and trying to follow Christ”. “Amen”, I said, holding her in my arms, and reaching out to the sufferer who stood nearby and heard this, saying, “I am trying, I am trying”. “Amen”, I said “and they are forgiving you, as our loving God does, we understand your terrible hurt and pain, but you do have to control the striking of others” widening my embrace and holding them gently together. I imagine that is what God is doing with all of our sins,asking us to change our ways, and forgiving and holding us close.
As Jesus struggled in the desert for 40 days we too struggle with those things that challenge, dilute and diminish our dedication to the Gospel of service, love and justice especially to God’s poor,outcast and struggling. In the Aramaic translation of the “trials/temptations” of Jesus in the desert, we see that the word “dnethnasey” means less being tempted and more trying out or being tried out. And Satan is not a supernatural being but a deceiver and the battle is with deception. So we see Jesus struggling with what his mission is to be and if he will accept it and live it. He knows how hard it will be. He emerges- preaching repentance, preaching turning our lives around, changing our lives and believing the good news, with all our hearts. “Believe” in Aramaic connotes “believing in” in the sense of loving another. So, as we have accepted the cross signed on our foreheads and either recalled that we are dust, or as we say, ” turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” may we try in these forty days to imitate Christ in the way that we love and serve others.
As Rev. Roberta says: Welcome to Lent! Thank you, Dr. Roberta Meehan for sharing your wisdom with us. Dr. Meehan also has a Play out entitled “The Trial of Judas Iscariot” that can be enacted to deepen our understanding during this Lenten season and at any time. It can be purchased on Amazon .com. I would advise getting your copy.
Lenten Blessings, Rev. Dr. Judy Lee,RCWP
Pastor Good shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community Fort Myers, Florida
Rev. Dr. Roberta Meehan’s Homily
Homily for the First Sunday of Lent – Cycle B – 22 February 2015
Copied from http://www.lectionary.com/index20112012.html
Today is the First Sunday of Lent. We are all familiar with the desert and water symbols so often used for Lent. The desert represents the barrenness as we await the events of Holy Week. Water represents the fullness of life and our re-birth with the fulfillment of Easter.
Today we know that the desert is not barren; it is teaming with life. Those of us who live in the desert know this very well. We also know very well the value of water. Not only are we constantly reminded to stay hydrated, we are also vividly aware of the need to conserve water for ourselves, our animals, our crops, and for all generations to come.
Our biblical ancestors had a slightly different – maybe slightly less sophisticated – view of the desert and the water symbolism. Nevertheless, they definitely knew of the need all of creation has for water. They also knew of the problems of being caught in the desert without a water source. That has not changed.
Because our understanding is slightly different than that of our ancestors, perhaps we should look at these scripture passages in a slightly different way by taking these symbols one step further and showing how they relate not only totoday’s readings but also to our lives as people of the desert – as well as to people of the 21st Century.
While we think of the desert and the water, let us also remember that one of the prevailing themes in today’s readings is covenant. A covenant is a contract – but it is more than just a contract in the sense that we think of contracts today. A covenant is a solemnly binding contract. For that reason, today we often speak of the marriage covenant – a contract between the couple and God.
Throughout Scripture, we have numerous examples of covenants. These covenants were solemn contracts between God and the People of God. If we read the Old Testament, we find that these covenants were often sealed in very elaborate and ritualistic ceremonies, usually involving the slaughter of animals, the best and unblemished of the flock in order to be the perfect symbol of this lasting contract between the people and their God.
Let us look at today’s readings and see how we can find the concept of covenant and bring that concept of covenant right up to our present day and our First Sunday of Lent.
The first reading is from the Book of Genesis. This is a familiar story. It takes place immediately after the flood as God tells Noah over and over in a very few sentences about this covenant – God’s solemn promise that never again will the earth and all living creatures be destroyed by a flood. God sealed this covenant with a sign for all ages. That sign, as we all know, is the rainbow. Today, of course, we are cynics. We understand the physics of the rainbow. We can even demonstrate this sign with simple soap bubbles. But, think of the people back in the time of Genesis. They had no understanding of physics. To them the rainbow was a wonderful and beautiful sign of God’s promise. Not only that, after the Deluge, the earth was refreshed and clean because water is refreshing and cleansing. Do we not still feel this same way today? Think about your last shower. Did you not feel clean and invigorated? Or think of the last time you saw a rainbow. Rainbows are always fascinating – even when we understand the physics. Did that rainbow not get you just a little bit excited? I know my last rainbow got me excited! Now think about this passage from Genesis. We have a marvelous reminder of God’s covenant with us. Yes, us! Not just our religious ancestors, but with all of us. And we still have that sense of wonder when we see the sign of the covenant – the covenant for all of humanity.
Now look at the second reading – from the first letter of Peter. During our ecclesiastical year, we do not read a great deal from Peter. Part of this is probably because not much is written under the name of Peter but another part is because our liturgical cycles have so much to cover. But notice! All of the major lectionaries use exactly the same reading from Peter. That is a critical point. Covenant is not mentioned specifically in this reading, but the events of the flood are. Furthermore, Peter draws a correlation between the flood waters and the waters of baptism. Baptism is a part of our covenant! Baptism initiates us into Christ’s church. Baptism signifies the new covenant. Baptism is the seal of the new covenant that we Christians have with our God. Everybody – regardless of Christian denomination – accepts that. And we do indeed have that covenant with our God! We are bonded to our God by baptism – just as the people who left the Ark were bonded by that rainbow. Not only that, in addition to baptism, we still have the rainbow to remind us of our covenant.
What does our third reading from the Gospel of Mark have to say about this concept? Jesus was driven into the desert and remained there for 40 days. The most important thought we can derive from Jesus having been driven out into the desert is twofold. First, we must ask why Jesus was driven out. It must have been because he had something important to say! Second, we must look at the symbolism behind the 40 days. The number 40 comes up over and over in Scripture. And, 40 was a special number to the Hebrews. Think of all the 40’s that come up in Scripture – from Moses wandering in the desert right on down to Jesus in this passage here in Mark.
But, what does Mark say? He says that Jesus says that the time of fulfillment is at hand and that we are to repent and to believe in the gospel. That is rather straightforward but how does it relate to our theme? If we look at it, we can see the connection very clearly.
Jesus says, “Repent and believe.” What does that mean? Simple. We acknowledge our wrongdoings. We walk in the desert. Yes, 40 days is a symbolic number but it is still meaningful! And when our desert walk is complete, we will come out of the desert and we will be refreshed by the waters of life. For us as Christians, that means we will be baptized and if we are already baptized, we will be cleansed. But, for everyone in the kingdom of God, that will mean that we will be washed and we will be ready to continue on our journey.
You have been washed by the flood of Noah. You have been baptized by the blood of the Lamb. Now you have been sent on a journey through a desert (a desert whose trail you know too well!). At the end of the journey you will be washed again and you will know the purpose of your Lenten covenant.
Welcome to Lent! And welcome to your 40 day journey toward the Resurrection of Christ! Do you see the Rainbow that Noah saw? It is there! And it is waiting for us! The covenant our God has made with us has been sealed.
— Roberta M Meehan, D.Min.