1st Sunday of Lent
21st February 2021
St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh Homilist – Fr. Tom McDermott, Adm.
Kerri ní Dochartaigh in her book Thin Places, tells of her grandfather who introduced her to the idea of such places. She says, “the places he spoke of were locations where people felt very different from how they normally do. Places from which people came away changed. In these places you might experience the material and spiritual worlds coming together. Blood, worry and loss might sit together under the same tree as silence, stillness and hope. […] places where people had found answers and Grace, where they had learnt to forgive, where they had made peace and room for healing. Places where the veil is lifted away and light streams in.”
Reading those words this week spoke powerfully to me of what Lent is, of the place Jesus goes to for his 40 days, a place of wild beasts yes, but also a place where angels look after him. After this time of testing and trial he is ready to burst onto the scene with his call to a New Thing, a New Place, what he calls The Kingdom of God. And this Kingdom is very close. He calls us to go through this process of change ourselves, to Repent, to change our minds, and then to believe His Good News.
Our second reading reminds us that, “Christ himself, innocent though he was, died once for sins, dies for the guilty, to lead us to God”. Lent is the time where we allow ourselves to be led to God. We are led by three roads, Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving.
Prayer because we are called into a relationship with God, to give the creator of all the worship that is his due, but also to call him Abba, father. Our lives can be so busy that prayer is easily neglected, that’s why Jesus goes away to a lonely place, to spend time with his Father. We should find time especially during lent to spend with God.
We fast, to remember that our ultimate hunger is for God. So often we fill our hunger for God with everything else, and that will never satisfy. Bruce Springsteen sings, “everybody’s got a hungry heart”, ours is the God to whom we sing, “You satisfy the hungry heart.”
Almsgiving, when we know that is Our Father, we realise we are all brothers and sisters, and we feel the urge to reach out beyond ourselves. The second Vatican Council in one of its documents tells us that “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself”. We give as we begin to learn that we are created to be a gift. Can we begin to see the gift that God intended us to be when he formed us in our mother’s womb.
Lent, like Jesus’ 40 days is a time of testing, we come face to face with all that is wrong in and around us.
Watching New Amsterdam, a television show set in a New York hospital, we see a moment when people are trapped by a blizzard, the power is out and the backup generator doesn’t function. The medical director of the hospital says this to the angry, scared and confused folk as they lose hope during that difficult night, “We are in the middle of a night were going to remember for the rest of our lives. We are going to tell the story of how in the worst Blizzard New York has seen in a century we were trapped. And it can be a story about how tired and hungry cold and angry we were. It can be a story about how we couldn’t stop fighting with each other. Or it can be a story of how when every instinct told us to be at our worst we were at our best.”
This Lent feels different from any other, because of the pandemic we are living through, it is one we will remember for the rest of our lives. Lent asks us to face the trial, to recognise our temptations, to know our hunger just as Jesus did. Trusting that in the wilderness there are angels to look after us. And choosing to tell “a story of how when every instinct told us to be at our worst we were at our best.” Because the kingdom of God is close at hand.