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Homily – First Sunday of Lent

This Lent we will be sharing the homilies from various priests within our Diocese. This week we hear from Fr John Adams.

I was doing some reading recently and I came across an article on Lent and it began by telling a story of a Catholic woman getting a job working at a seafood processing factory in America. The article told of her surprise when one day she walked into the general managers office of that factory and saw a poster which said – lets get ready, Lent is coming. Yes this big seafood company in America did its best business during Lent when of course Catholic’s traditionally abstain from meat on Fridays.

So, the season of Lent is upon us for another year. This great season of grace is a gift to the Church. A time when we perhaps ask the question – what are the things in my life that stop me from knowing the great love that God has for me. What is stopping my ongoing conversion ? There are two images that dominate today’s readings—water and the wilderness. Perhaps these two images can help us answer that question.

We see the destructive power of water in our first reading today from the book of Genesis. It is a familiar story to all of us, and it is rich in meaning. You will recall that the story begins with God regretting the act of creation, because of all of the sin that entered the world. God decides to destroy all of creation with the flood.

In fact, this is an undoing, a reversal of creation. Just as in the first chapters of Genesis, we hear that the universe was a watery chaos that God brings into order. Now, a few chapters later, in the flood, God threatens to undo creation, allowing the water to return. God’s mercy thankfully triumphs in the end and God saves Noah and his family, and God promises them, and all living things, that never again will such destruction take place. Yes, just as the wood of the ark saves Noah and his family, so centuries later it will be the wood of the cross that saves you and I. God seals the promise to Noah in a covenant, with the rainbow as its sign.

So, water is destructive. But water is also salvific. In our second reading from St Peter, the author draws on the story of the flood to make a point about baptism. The water of baptism signifies both death and resurrection. As St Paul describes it, in baptism, we die in Christ, so that we might live in Christ. Water signifies death, it also signifies rebirth. And for Peter, the ark with the little band of humans who survive the flood, represents the community of the faithful, again, that’s you and I, in the ark – the symbol of the Church.

Finally in our Gospel today we are confronted by something of a riddle – why was it that the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness ? After all in the creed every Sunday we speak about the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord the giver of life’. It seems, on the surface anyway, a bit odd for the giver of life to be leading someone into a time of trial. The answer to our riddle is of course that Jesus, while being truly divine, was also truly human. Jesus in his humanity was submitted to the same temptations that you and I have to contend with. Jesus shared in the human experiences of ordinary men and women. And lets face it, all of us are tempted by the lure of evil – so, even in this, we are not alone. Jesus also understands our mysterious attraction of evil.

Remember the temptations Jesus had to encounter. Firstly, Jesus was tempted with comfort. The Devil suggested he turn the stones into bread – he knew that Jesus was hungry. Then Jesus was tempted with success, if he would throw himself down from the temple people would admire him more. And thirdly the Devil tempts Jesus with power, by offering Him all the Kingdoms of the earth. Of course, the devil didnt own these himself, he was proving himself, as he always does that he is a liar.

These three temptations of course resonate with us, because they are area’s of weakness for all humans. Comfort, success and power can all grab a hold of us and become our God. Lent then is our time to go into the desert and to confront these things ourselves head on.

People often ask me what they might ‘do’ for lent. Well perhaps these three area’s of temptation might be further examined in your lives. Comfort is of course not sinful – in fact the Lord wants a certain comfort for us all, but lets be honest, the desire for comfort can come at the expense of others, and it can be self-indulgent. Giving up a comfort or two for lent might be a possibility for you.

Similarly there is nothing wrong with success – it’s usually a good thing. However to crave success, the desire to be a ‘somebody’ can become all consuming and principles and virtues can be put aside in our attempts to make ourselves appear successful. Perhaps this lent there might be a need to take our foot off the pedal of self-promotion and to look out for the benefit of others.

Power is of course and ancient corrupter of character. Our desire to take over, to run things, and people, can once again come at the expense of others. Perhaps this Lent its time to take a really good look at our relationships. How generous are we with those we love? Is this Lent a time to take a step back, to seek out a little more tranquility in our lives, and to look for a chance to involve ourselves in a work of service of others.

         As a parish we are offering you some possibilities for helping you have a holy Lent, bearing in mind that a Holy Lent prepares us for the truly joyful festival of Easter. I would like us, as a parish, to consider everyone in the parish going to confession this Lent. To help with that, we have a series running each Sunday night at 7.30pm to explore this great Sacrament. It’s less than an hour, and confession will be available during that time, as it is on Saturday morning in Kaiapoi and Saturday evenings in Rangiora.

          We are also putting on an extra ‘workers mass’ for Lent. It’s 7am each Wednesday, at Kaiapoi. We have placed in at Kaiapoi for those who travel into Christchurch each day for work. Confession will be available after that mass also.

At Both Kaiapoi and Rangiora there will be Stations of the Cross each Friday normally at 7pm – but check the Newsletter. We also have groups running the Caritas Lenten program at all three of our parish communities, again details in this little booklet. And finally, as a parish we are promoting daily bible reading, either by downloading an app, using your own bible, or joining one of the many very good online series – we mention the Bishop Robert Barron series.  Once again, in our little Lenten booklet.

Lets roll up our spiritual sleeves as a community and have a Holy Lent.