It is the first Sunday of Lent but Lent doesn’t start on the First Sunday; rather, it starts on Ash Wednesday. So, in this reflection we will consider Lent in general and notice the four days leading up to the first Sunday. Today the exhortation from Mark is “Repent and believe the good news”. Other Lenten readings are the temptations of Jesus by Satan and again the encouragement to prayer, fasting and alms-giving.
Lent serves as a reminder of what is always important so this year when we are asked what we are doing for Lent, one answer may be that we decide to read our Bible more than we usually do. Vatican II stressed the importance of the Bible for the laity. It stated that “bishops and priests must do all in their power to provide the nourishment of the scriptures for the people of God, thereby enlightening their minds and strengthening their wills and setting people’s hearts on fire with the love of God. (Dei Verbum 23). In 2019 Pope Francis wrote a special letter on the Sunday of the Word of God (3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time), exhorting Christians to read the Bible not merely during Lent but every day.
So, this week let us consider the readings carefully and prayerfully. The first reading every Ash Wednesday is from the Prophet Joel. Paul quotes Joel in Romans 10:13 when he says: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Joel 2:32). In Acts 2:17 Peter in his great Pentecost sermon quotes Joel generously: “It will come to pass in the last days God says, and I will pour out my spirit on all flesh” The Psalms are also a great source for prayer. On Ash Wednesday we read Psalm 51, widely used by the Church, and a gem in the psalter. Then on Thursday we read from Psalm 1 “Blessed is the man who follows not the way of the wicked.” On Friday and Saturday, we have Isaiah, Chapter 58 which must be one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible illustrating powerfully the importance of a faith that does justice.
So, it is Lent again, and the scripture readings are shouting with urgency. It is for us to respond in a Christian and responsible way in a world that is ever more materialistic, selfish and unjust. Through the Scriptures of these early days of Lent Joel, Isaiah, Paul and Jesus all invite us to a more sincere relationship with the Father who – through all the prophets though maybe in differing ways – says “Come back to me with all your heart.”
Let the Bible be our Treasury this Lent.