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Select Exegesis
February, 18 2018

First Sunday in Lent (B)

Sr. Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.

Genesis 9:8-15 Psalm 25:4-9 1 Peter 3:18-22 Mark 1:12-15

           Lent is a wonderful time of the year.  It brings with it a kind of busyness that can even be welcome.  It is not the frenzied busyness of the Christmas season which can distract us from the real focus of the season.  Lent is a time to step aside to a space where we can review the direction of our own spirituality and look with gratitude to our redemption and final glorious resurrection. 

            In our area, if we are lucky, the weather and Mother Nature help us think of renewal.  Things begin to green up, and every new blossom is an inspiration.  Now, how do our readings for this week help us steer our thoughts in that direction?

            Our first reading from the pre-history is set in the context of Noah and his family going out of the ark after the flood.  They were blessed by God and set upon the earth to be fruitful and multiply.  At that time the Lord established a covenant with Noah and his family and descendants, as well as with every living creature.  God promised Noah that he would never again destroy the earth by water.  He also established a sign of that covenant whereby he and humankind could remember their relationship.  It was an everlasting covenant (Gen 9:16) that would be a witness to God’s eternal election and love of the people he had chosen for his own.  The bow in the heavens suggests that God’s wrath had subsided, as the flood waters had, and now it was time for beauty again to be restored.

            Our second reading from 1 Peter 3:18-20 latches onto the theme of the salvation of Noah’s family through water.  The mention of the flood provides a way of comparison with Baptism.  In the flood, water destroyed wickedness; in Baptism water brings about saving grace.  Over all, the passage may be difficult to understand.  However, what the writer may be trying to say is that in being put to death in the flesh Jesus really did die; and being made alive in the spirit may mean that death did not hold power over him.  Thus, the resurrection and ascension of Jesus placed him at the right hand of God with power over all.  Jesus having preached to the spirits in prison may refer to those in the days of Noah who were not faithful.  The writer is not explicit about their salvation through the redemptive act of Jesus, but it would be possible to hope that the all-embracing power of Jesus’ redemptive death could also embrace them. 

            Finally, the Gospel reading is short and swift.  In preparation for beginning his ministry Jesus spent forty days of renewal in the desert.  Then he began to preach that the time of fulfillment for God’s promises had come, and the kingdom of God was at hand.  People were called to embrace the kingdom through repentance and faith.  This passage is the seedbed from which the whole of Mark’s Gospel will expand. 

            With the Psalmist let us pray to the Lord, “Lead me in the truth, and teach me, for thou art the God of my salvation.”

©Betty Jane Lillie, S.C.



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