February 28, 2020.

Jesus’ Recommitment to the Father
My dear friends in Christ, I welcome you to this grace-filled season of Lent. Lent is a penitential period when we commemorate the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness to prepare himself for his ministry. He fasted and faced difficult challenges; however, he was enabled by the Holy Spirit to overcome these challenges by praying and remaining focused on the mission entrusted to him by His Father. As disciples of Jesus, we are invited during this period of Lent to have a pause and to beam a search light on the aspects of our lives that need spiritual ventilation.
The ashes we received on Ash Wednesday underscored the urgency for us to amend our ways, because despite the pomp and pageantry that may surround our lives, we are mere mortals who would have to farewell this world one day and present an account of our stewardship to God.
Do you live a dishonest life? Are you easily agitated or angered? Are you in perpetual loggerhead with your siblings or spouse or neighbours or friends? 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? Do you use your tongue as a missile to hurt people? Do you abuse your power or your authority? Are you suffering from unhealthy pride? Are you greedy? Are you wasteful with money or resources? Are you lagging in spending quality time with your family? Do you procrastinate? Are you addicted to gambling or drugs? Are you an alcoholic?
Lent is a time for a new beginning – a time to reset the button by putting God first again in your life through avoiding vices and choosing virtues. It is a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving should elicit a change of heart in us and enable us to renew our Baptismal covenant with God, which is to reject Satan, (evil), and place our trust and hope in the one true God.
The First Reading from the Book of Genesis, (Gen 2:7-9,3:1-7), recounted the creation of our first parents Adam and Eve and the quality of life they had before they disobeyed God and fell from His grace. According to the narration, Adam and Eve lived in a garden which had many food plants blossoming in it. They were permitted by God to eat from all the edible plants except from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” which was in the middle of the garden. Yet, when temptation came their way, they could not resist eating from that forbidden tree.
This fall of Adam and Eve is referred to in our Catholic tradition as the Original Sin. This was the loss of their “original holiness”, (Catechism of the Catholic Church 396 – 409). Humanity was created with free will, thus, Adam and Eve made a wrong choice. We too, at different moments of our lives squander multiple blessings that come our way by succumbing to the temptations from the Evil One.
The Second Reading, (Rom 5:12 –19), continues the theme of the fall of humanity in our first parents and its consequences on humanity. Adam, (in this Reading), prefigured the whole of humanity. St Paul stated that, “sin entered the world through one man, and through sin death, and thus death has spread through the whole human race because everyone has sinned”. ‘Death’ in the context of the above quotation is not merely physiological but estrangement from our friendship with God. Adam and Eve experienced this estrangement in their relationship with God after their disobedience. The love and friendship that had existed between them and their creator changed to a relationship of guilt, fear and distrust, because they started ‘hiding’ from God. The voice of God was no longer a source of joy and comfort but a cause of torment which they must avoid, (Gen 3:9 – 10). At times, when we betray or disappoint our friends or relations, their voices or presence may become torturous to us.
Thanks to Jesus Christ our sole mediator with the Father, (1Tim 2:5), the throne of divine grace has been re-opened to humanity again. For “as one man’s fall’’ brought condemnation on everyone, so the good act of one man brings everyone life and makes them justified. As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:18-19). This new Adam that brings grace and justification to us is Jesus Christ.
The Gospel of today, (Mt 4:1-11), narrated some of the temptations Jesus had during his ministry. The Book of Hebrews testified that Jesus is our high priest and that he “is not indifferent to our weaknesses, for he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin” (Heb 4:15). Jesus’ temptations covered the areas of the use of power, (turning stone into bread), pride, (jumping down from the parapet of the Temple), and the search for vain glory, (bowing down to worship the Devil in order to be a king and wealthy).
Jesus, unlike Adam and Eve, resisted the temptations from the Evil One. Hence, he recommitted himself to the mission entrusted to him by the Father for the salvation of the world. During our Baptism, we promised to reject Satan and sin and we professed to worship the only one true God. We know that like Adam and Eve, we do falter from our baptismal promises by succumbing to the traps 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 life that you hope to work on, or a cause you wish to commit yourself 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 anew with Jesus at Easter!
Fr Chinua Okeke CSSp

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