In typical Marcan fashion today’s Gospel succinctly gets right to the point: Jesus spent forty days and forty nights in the desert, where he was tempted by Satan. After this he began his public ministry by proclaiming: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” This time of fulfillment will continue until the end of human history. We are in the “final age.” Our redemption has been accomplished; God has given the final revelation in his Son, the Word made flesh. It is the work of humanity to turn away from sin and to proceed toward the kingdom of salvation.
Today’s Gospel mentions that while Jesus was in the desert, “He was among the wild beasts.” Perhaps this is why a passage about Noah and the ark was chosen for today’s First Reading. However the First Reading relates more to the Second Reading, where Saint Peter alludes to the flood waters as a prefiguration of baptism. This is mentioned also in the prayer for blessing the baptismal water: “[T]he outpouring of the flood foreshadowed regeneration, so that from the mystery of one and the same element of water would come an end to vice and a beginning of virtue.” The waters that washed sin from the face of the earth at the same time raised up those who were in the ark and saved them from destruction.
The goodness with which we emerged from the waters of baptism, however, has likely been tarnished by sin. This Lent it is time again for us to “Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Gospel) The sacrament of penance is the most powerful means of persevering in this resolve because its grace is the result of Christ’s obedient sacrifice for the redemption of the world. The Lenten discipline of prayer and penance finds its completion in a good confession and act of contrition. The prayer of absolution frees us from the sinful entanglements into which we have fallen. Take advantage of the opportunity for confession and the conversion it affords.
Lent originated as a season for catechumens to complete their final preparation to receive the sacraments of initiation—baptism, confirmation and holy communion—at the Easter Vigil. For us already baptized it has become a season of prayer and penance offered for those who are coming into the Church, and for our own ongoing conversion and purification from sin.
The penitential aspect of Lent is characterized by liturgical simplicity. The Gloria and Alleluia are omitted. The sanctuary is devoid of flowers and other decorations. All this noble restraint will give way to the joy and solemnity of Easter.
FEAST OF THE CHAIR OF SAINT PETER
This Monday, February 22, we celebrate the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter. It is not the feast of a piece of furniture, but of the office and authority of Saint Peter and his successors which it represents . Saint Peter was appointed by Christ to be the head of the apostles, also known as the Apostolic College. Peter eventually traveled to Rome, where he was martyred in the Circus of Nero on the Vatican Hill, not far from where Saint Peter’s Basilica now stands. He was buried nearby; and the Basilica stands over his tomb, which is under the main altar. Recognized by tradition as the first bishop of Rome, the bishops of Rome down through the centuries are considered to be the successors of Saint Peter. Bishops are regarded as the successors of the apostles, so the bishop of Rome, the pope, is the head of the episcopal college, as Saint Peter was the head of the apostolic college. Therefore this feast celebrates the role of the successor of Peter as shepherd or bishop of the universal Church, who is currently Pope Francis. We celebrate the supreme governing and teaching authority of the pope. We also celebrate the unity of the church, which is maintained by the bishops of the world in communion with the bishop of Rome.
Because this is a significant feast day for Saint Peter Parish, there will be Mass there on Monday at 11:00 AM with the students from St. Peter’s School and also at 7:00 PM. The Mass at St. Charles at 5:30 PM will be held as usual, but enhanced with music. All are welcome at any of these Masses.
Pray the Rosary this week for people seeking reconciliation with God and the Church this Lent or preparing to become Catholic. Pray for the young people in our parishes preparing to receive their first holy communion or the sacrament of confirmation after Easter. As always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.