“This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set a bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:12-13)
MANY of us are familiar with the sign that God set on the sky in the story of Noah, which we hear on this First Sunday of Lent. It’s the rainbow that spoke of God’s covenant with Noah, his commitment to rescue his people and the earth from the destruction of the Great Flood. It’s the same covenant that God would make over and over again with the people of Israel in all their trials and tribulations until the coming of the reign of God through his Son, Jesus Christ.
On this beginning of Lent, we reflect on God’s continuing covenant with us, his promise to give us life through our renewed faith in Jesus Christ. The ashes that we put on our foreheads last Ash Wednesday were not mere signs of our pledges of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. They were also signs of God’s offer of abundant graces for us who will take this journey of 40 days of Lent more seriously.
I told a seminarian of this promise of God last week when he asked me for advice on how he would speak about Lent to people in his apostate. I told him to relate to them that Lent is a period of heightened grace—kairos–a time when we can grow, renew, and strengthen our faith through the disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
We all are in dire need of renewal of faith, especially in this society that has become violent and dangerous. The mass shooting that happened in a high school in Florida last week is another indication of the society’s dire need for change. It’s a sign for all of us to put faith in our homes and our schools. Indeed, it’s a sign to live out our Christian faith more seriously.
The Gospel of Mark this Sunday summons us to a change of heart, a reorientation of life. After Jesus spent forty days in the desert, he came to Galilee proclaiming: “This is the time of fulfillment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”
This vision of fulfillment demands a response of steadfast faith from all of us. Indeed, it is a kairos moment, which means an opportune time as well as a time of crisis. God invites us to take this vision of fulfillment seriously, a transformation of our lives and the world. But this kairos demands sacrifices, disciplines, work, and most of all faith from all of us. It asks us to trust and hope that God cares for us and guides our lives. It involves the conviction that God wants to save us from the destructions of sin, death, and evil forces even in the here and now, as much as he wants us to share eternal life with the risen Christ in the fullness of God’s kingdom. It entails hope and dreams for a much peaceful and safer world, especially for our children.
Let’s seriously spend this time of Lent. Let’s look at our homes and see how our families can live a more faith-filled life. Let’s take the tragedies and crises of this world as challenges to wake up from our lackluster faith to one that is active and engaged in bringing peace and order in our lives and the world!
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From a Filipino immigrant family, Reverend Rodel G. Balagtas was ordained to the priesthood from St. John’s Seminary in 1991. He served as Associate Pastor at St. Augustine, Culver City (1991-1993); St. Martha, Valinda (1993-1999); and St. Joseph the Worker, Canoga Park (1991-2001). In 2001, he served as Administrator Pro Tem of St. John Neumann in Santa Maria, CA, until his appointment as pastor of Immaculate Heart of Mary, Los Angeles, in 2002, which lasted 12 years. His term as Associate Director of Pastoral Field Education at St. John’s Seminary began in July 2014.