Thoughts for the first Sunday of Lent

On Saturday, Fr Peter told us that Ash Wednesday and the subsequent three days were added to Lent in the fourth century. Prior to that, the First Sunday marked the beginning of Lent and so we begin what is known as the first week of Lent, and we begin it with a promise.

Not a promise that we will behave ourselves, for Mary Poppins would call that a pie-crust promise: easily made and easily broken. No, this is a solemn and divine covenant made by God to Noah and to his family. God brings forth the rainbow as a sign of his covenant between him and the earth

The Flood is a theme that comes back to us in the second reading. Here, St Peter sees the waters of the flood as prefiguring the waters of baptism. When we emerge from the water of baptism, we find ourselves under God’s rainbow, our spirit washed in the waters, an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Christ.

The Gospel, this week, comes from the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t spend any time on Jesus as a child. We open the narrative in the wilderness with John baptising for the forgiveness of sins. After Jesus is baptised, we see him driven by the Spirit across the Jordan into the wilderness.

Whenever I read this text, I wonder what that must feel like, being driven by the Spirit. I have felt coaxed sometimes, urged sometimes, but never grabbed by the lapels and driven. Maybe we should pray for that more often.

It is worth noting that being out with the wild beasts, tended by angels, is a reflection of Isaiah’s image of paradise (the wolf lying down with the lamb, the lion and the ox lying together). An appropriate beginning for Jesus’ ministry, then, as he re-crossed the Jordan and began to proclaim that now is the time, the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe in the Good News.

Thought for Ash Wednesday

We are ambassadors for Christ, St Paul reminds us today, We appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.

The popular vision of Lent is a time when those crazy Christians give up chocolate for no easily discernible reason, and to no real benefit. Given the overwhelmingly secular society in which we live, I always find it hard to give up chocolate, as Cadbury’s Mini Eggs only seem to be available during Lent. Nobody seems to have told them that the Easter season begins on Easter Sunday and continues with seven weeks of feasting and celebrations. Celebrations and feasting in which it is impossible to obtain Mini Eggs.

But I digress.

The First Reading for Ash Wednesday, from Joel, shows God yearning for his people. His people have, once again, strayed from the path of righteousness that he laid out for them and have abandoned all that is good in the Law, offering all the sacrifices in the Temple and doing all the rituals and ceremonies, but never actually loving God.

Return to me, says God, return to me with all your heart. He is no longer interested in burnt offerings or the trappings of repentance. He wants good, honest atonement, so he and his people can be at one. He reminds us, once more (because we’re a bit slow) that he is rich in mercy, abounding in kindness. It is in his nature to relent, even after the sentence has been passed.

So we blow the trumpet, proclaim a fast and gather all the people. We throw ourselves on the mercy of God made manifest in the body of his son, Jesus. Jesus, the Word through whom God created the universe, truly present to us in the Eucharist, who died to save us from ourselves.

We must be careful with the manner of our fasting, of course, lest we fall into the same trap that Joel mentioned in the first reading. When we fast, we do it silently, with cheerful faces and jovial hearts, otherwise, we are not fasting for the Lord, we are fasting for ourselves. We have had our reward.

Ash Wednesday at OLEM and in Cambourne

There are Masses at OLEM for Ash Wednesday (18th Feb) at 8am, 12.15pm and at 7.30pm.

In addition, there is a joint service, run by Churches Together in Cambourne at 7pm at the church in Cambourne. CTC have warmly invited us to attend this service.

Ash Wednesday is an official day of fasting and abstinence in the Catholic church, and we are invited to join the universal church in eating less than we would normally do and abstaining completely from meat.

It is not a Holy Day of Obligation, so attendance at Mass is encouraged but is optional.

Adoration and Reconciliation 14/2/2015

There will be Adoration from 4pm on Saturday 14th Feb.  Please do come along for a time of silent prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.

While this is happening, a priest will be available for the sacrament of Reconciliation. Always worthwhile, but particularly so as we approach the season of Lent.