Lenten Sunday1 A (13 March 2011)
Gn 2. 7-9; 3. 1-7; Ps 51; Rm 5. 12-19; Mt 4. 1-11
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Variations on a Theme
Lent “has a twofold character: 1) it recalls baptism or prepares for it; and 2) it stresses a penitential spirit. By these means especially, Lent readies the faithful for celebrating the paschal mystery after [40 days] of closer attention to the Word of God, and more ardent prayer.”1 The church reminds first that Lent “recalls baptism or prepares for it.” Our lenten practices help us deepen our baptismal vocations and live them.
A most significant ministry of a parish is to help people prepare to be initiated into Messiah Jesus’ dying and rising. The process of initiation is named the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. Worshippers at the 10:30 weekend mass enjoy the presence of Catechumens and Candidates preparing for the Easter Sacraments of initiation into Jesus’ dying and rising. Catechumens and Candidates, my friends, you fulfill an important ministry for us: you help us recall our baptisms. Some among us did what you are doing, so they vividly recall the rites of their initiation. Others of us were baptized as infants with no memory of our baptism. Our memories of communion and confirmation, too, may be dim.
More important than the rites of initiation is the identity it offers us: united with Jesus Messiah, our vocations are to live day to day as his disciples. Catechumens and Candidates, you help us recall our baptismal identities, and recalling them allows us to be with you in various ways and help you come to share our union with Jesus and our vocation to live as his disciples.
As catechumens and candidates you have been living as disciples of Jesus, practicing faith, hope and love. Lent is a more prayeful time for you; at the cathedral today you will receive a new name: Elect, that is, chosen to receive the sacraments of initiation. I want to reflect with you what that will mean for you, and I do it with St. Paul’s words. Through the Easter sacraments you will receive the abundance of grace and [by]the gift of justification come to reign in life through the one Jesus Christ.
St. Paul used transaction language to describe that: just as through [the] transgression [of Adam] condemnation came upon all, so through one righteous act [the dying and rising of the second Adam], acquittal and life came to all. St. Paul did not limit himself to transaction language. He had experienced being united in the dying and rising of Jesus Messiah had limitless effects. Before using transaction language to communicate the limitless effects God worked in Jesus by their Spirit, St. Paul said God...gives life to the dead and calls into being what does not exist.2 God’s power in our Messiah is boundless.
God...gives life to the dead is resurrection. God…calls into being what does not exist is creation. Resurrection and creation are variations on a theme, namely divine life. Divine life is active always, even when we are unaware or when evidence shouts the contrary. Divine life set us apart from all other creatures: The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and so man became a living being. Divine life transforms humans into images of God. Jesus is not a resuscitated corpse; he lives an absolutely new, limitless life, the very life of God, which seemed hidden in his passion and death.
Messiah Jesus is a new creation, not clay to human, but the Living One born from death. That staggers the imagination. Don’t worry; no one understands it. Do be amazed at it. Let the paschal mystery—Jesus’ dying and rising—enfold you; become absorbed by it; and express your praise to Jesus in deed as well as word. The way other Catholics live, after all, attracted you and moved you to surrender yourselves to become new creations in Jesus. Lent helps you and all of us surrender more to Jesus and allow him to minister to us and work through us for the sake of our world. God bless your Lent! I can hardly wait for your initiation at Easter.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the life of our triune God. Ask St. Paul to present you to Jesus. Speak with Jesus: praise him for rising from the dead and making you a new creation in him: not improved but baptized and sealed by his Spirit as a new creation. Ask Jesus for grace to live your baptismal vocation with freedom. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. His words on our lips not only remind us that our baptisms have freed us to live as disciples of our Messiah here and now; his prayer shows us how to live as his disciples.
- Constitution on the Liturgy, 109 of the Second Vatican Council.
- Romans 4.17.