First Sunday of Lent (21 February 2021)

   Gen 9:8-15, 1 Pet 3:18-22, Mk 1:12-15

This Sunday’s Gospel brings us to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Following his baptism the Spirit sends Jesus, ‘at once’ into the desert. Here the narrative states that he is in the desert for forty days, a referral to the forty years experience of Israel as told in the book of Exodus. After Jesus’ experience of being in the desert with only the wild animals and angels who attended him he went to Galilee to proclaim the good news of God. There is no struggling of Jesus with Satan in this account of his time in the desert. He doesn’t seem to have allowed his imagination run wild on him and come to believe any made up figments of the imagination! Jesus is the as a human figure standing steadfast, certain of God’s love for him, as written, ‘angels attended him’. He emerges from the desert to journey towards Galilee and begin his ministry of leading people towards God’s love for them.

 With the season of Lent we hear the word, ‘repent’.   ‘The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!’          Mk 1:14

The Kingdom of God is not, as we know, designated to a place but points to a realisation of the presence of God in all of life. The word ‘repent’ carries a sense of a change of heart, turning to…… 

  ‘….the pledge of a good conscience towards God’. 1 Peter 3:21

Our journey is always a movement towards God. Our lockdown experiences are in so many ways like being in the desert for we have time to meet ourselves anew. A time to flourish. There is no physical escape. Whether we live with others or live alone, we can embrace this time as gift to learn from our awareness of ourselves.  As Timothy Radcliffe OP recently shared with us, we have to become ourselves and dare to be seen. To be ourselves as God calls us to be. If we don’t we can isolate our conscience and end up believing many strange fantasies without having proof![1] The wild animals of the desert can play tricks on us if we become unaware of God’s presence of love.

In Ireland we cannot, for now, go beyond 5 km. Thankfully I am by the sea and daily walks have awakened so much of what is literally on the doorstop. In the sky I see the rainbow at times, I take note of the strength of the sea, observe different birds, greet other walkers,  all of which remind me of the story in Genesis and God’s covenant with all of life;  ‘….every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you.’ Gen 9:11

Along my daily routes if I look up and outwards I see a sculpture, “The Triple Cross” which is 18 feet high, made of bronze and consists of three scenes which symbolise three distinct aspects of Christ’s life – desolation, consolation and triumph. (a photo of which is inserted below)

It was created by an American artist, Andrew O’Connor  in 1926. It now sits overlooking The Metals in Dun Laoghaire and faces out towards the harbour. The sculpture piece depicts the resurrected Christ with arms outstretched; and Christ pulling clear of his bondage and emerging to greet his followers. In these outstretched arms of the resurrected Christ we are offered the gaze of God who loves us. 

“…this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also ….. and it saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 1 Pet: 3:21

 May our time during this season of Lent allow us to be led by the Spirit to a place of turning towards God, a place we come to know that we are loved, a place where we can let go of the demons that limit us into thinking we must always be having to prove something of ourselves. May we enter the place where we can flourish, to come back to who we are, to be at home with that awareness that we are loved so that we may go outwards, to journey towards the other and display our living out of the loving gaze of God for all of creation.

 Edel Murphy OP

The Triple Cross by Andrew O’Connor





[1] Pope Francis, Let Us Dream- The Path to a Better Future”, p.73

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