Reflection – First Sunday of Lent

Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson

You may remember the most challenging part of an essay exam from your school days. It began with the words “Compare and Contrast.” You had better know your material to answer smartly. If for any reason you were weak on the subject at hand, you would likely spin a web of conjecture with the vain hope that your lengthy burst of meaningless verbiage could fool your
teacher. I leave to your imagination another more coarse definition of what that’s called!

Readers of Sacred Scripture have no such problem with the Holy Spirit, who is its real Author. He compares and contrasts with a masterful touch as expressed by the human writers. This first weekend of Lent, we read the enchanting recap of the flood story in Genesis, wherein the newly dry land becomes the setting for a new covenant God makes with mankind. Combined with His pledge of never sending a flood comes His choice of the rainbow as a perpetual reminder of the Covenant.

Retaining the watery theme is today’s excerpt of Peter’s First Letter, telling us that the waters of baptism have the innate power under the Final Covenant to save us all from destruction.
Then comes today’s Gospel. In his trademark almost texting style Mark tells us how Jesus was tested in the harshness of a water-less desert. We have to depend on the other more detailed gospel versions of the story to learn the devil’s tactics’ exact nature. But what Mark does add is the comfort Jesus derived afterward from ministering angels.

It is relatively easy to compare and contrast floodwaters and an arid desert as different backgrounds for the birth of covenants. But what might be more difficult for you and me right here at the beginning of Lent 2021 is the comparison and contrast we can make of keeping our baptismal covenant promises since Lent 2020 until now. Back then, the arrival of a certain pandemic
came upon the scene. We have presumably since learned a lot about ourselves and how we have handled all the shutdowns and restrictions. Through it all, have we been true Christians with all around us? I believe that with our answer to that one, we could “have our hands full.”

There is lots of room in the process to list those nasty little sins we have committed against others, like impatience, rash judgment, and mean words. This not to omit the bad choices we may have made in seeking comfort from our pain with unchaste thoughts and actions along with overindulgence in food and drink. Above all, and more importantly, our Lenten resolve this year
and what changes we will implement going forward.

God’s Covenant of loving mercy and salvation still stands as strong as it ever was. Our spiritual posture is the only variable. This kind of comparison and contrast is a demanding but pertinent Lenten exercise, hopefully, targeted at something called “conversion.”

In the “Alice in Wonderland” story, at one point, Alice says to the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.  “I don’t much care where,” said Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

As with Alice, so with us and the Church. Without objectives, we will have nowhere to go, and we’ll just keep wandering aimlessly. We need to remember that Jesus once declared for all to hear: “I am the Way.”

God love you and give you His peace.