February 25, 2021.

 Theme  –  God of the Covenant

My dear friends in Christ, I welcome you to the grace-filled time of Lent.  Lent commemorates the forty days Jesus spent in the dessert to prepare himself for his ministry.  Jesus fasted and faced difficult challenges in the desert.  However, he was enabled by the Holy Spirit to overcome the challenges by praying and remaining focused on the mission entrusted to him by the Father.  As disciples of Jesus, we are invited during this period Lent to have a pause and to beam the search light on the aspects of our lives which need spiritual ventilation.  The ashes we received on Ash Wednesday underscored the urgency to have a change of heart.

Are you dishonest?  Are you easily agitated?  Are you in perpetual loggerhead with your siblings or spouse?  Is your prayer life rusty? Do you find it very difficult to forgive others?  Do you find it difficult to seek for forgiveness?  Are you envious?  Do you steal?  Do you bear false witness against people?  Are you careless with your tongue?  Are you addicted to gambling or drugs?  Are you an alcoholic?

Lent is a time for a new beginning; it is a time for us to put God first again in our lives by avoiding vices and choosing virtue.  Lent is a time for prayer, fasting and almsgiving.  Prayer, fasting and almsgiving should elicit a change of heart in us and help us to renew our baptismal covenant with God, for God is a covenantal God.

The first reading narrated the covenant God made with Noah and his descendants. Noah’s family, in this account, represented the whole of humanity.  For these were the known survivors of a devastating flood that almost wiped out all living creatures on the earth.  In this episode, God showed himself as the covenantal God who was willing to condescend to the level of humanity in order to be in relationship with us.  He protects and sustains us.

God later made covenants with Abraham the patriarch of the Jews and our father in faith.  In those covenants, God promised to be the God for Abraham and his descendants and to give them the promised land as their heritage.  When the Jews arrived in Mount Sinai after their exile in Egypt, God made another covenant with them.

The people of Israel were to be a priestly nation, a consecrated nation, a people set apart to worship God, if only they kept the commandments of God.  The people of Israel promised to follow God’s commandments when they said to Moses, “all that God had said, we will do, (Ex 19:8).  This covenant, which was sealed with the blood of bulls, (Ex 24:1-8), had been broken severally by the people of Israel.

Hence the need for a new covenant.  God through Prophet Jeremiah promised a new covenant that he will make with the whole of humanity, (Jer 31:31-34).  The new covenant was sealed in Christ through his life, death, and resurrection.  The second Reading reminded us that Noah went through a form of baptism when he was saved by the help of an ark from the flood.  Jesus after his resurrection had commanded his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations and baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  We become members of the new covenant in Christ through our Baptism.

In the Gospel of today Jesus was tempted by Satan, but he did not succumb to his enticement.  We in our Baptism promised to reject Satan and sin and to acknowledge and worship the only one true God.

We know that we do falter from our Baptismal promises, sometimes we fall into the trap of the evil one.  Lent calls us to repentance.  On this first Sunday of Lent, I invite you to re-commit yourselves to your Baptismal promises by committing yourselves to a Lenten plan.  Choose an aspect of your live that you hope to work on, or a cause you wish to dedicate yourselves to during this Lenten season.

I pray that the Lord of the Covenant will grant you a grace of renewal during this Lenten period, so that you will rise with Jesus at Easter! 

Commissioning

Today, as we undertake our annual Commissioning of the members of the Parish Pastoral Council and the members of Staff at St John’s Primary School, we should be mindful that the Holy Spirit has endowed the members of the Church of Christ with different gifts which include being apostles, prophets, teachers and so on.

The Members of the Parish Pastoral Council help the Parish Priest in the pastoral care of the Parish by giving him constructive advice.  They represent different aspects of Parish life which includes worship, education, outreach and safeguarding children and young people.

Teaching is a vocation for which those who are called should consider themselves as fortunate.  To teach in a Catholic school means that you have been called to become evangelisers.  Through what you do and say, you proclaim the word of God by nurturing the young minds in the Christian way of life.  What the ordaining prelate says to the Deacon at his ordination when he hands him the bible is also relevant to you teachers: “Believe what you read, teach what you believe and practise what you teach.”

Teachers should be good role models to the students.  Since children learn more through observation, ensure that your actions are congruent with your words.

To our students who are committing themselves today to follow the Parish Sacramental Programme as they prepare to receive the Sacraments of Reconciliation and Holy Eucharist, we pray that this programme will lead them to a better understanding and appreciation of their Catholic faith.  We thank their parents and guardians who have signed up to be their prop throughout the duration of this programme.

Fr Chinua Okeke     CSSp

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