In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 18, we’re driven into the desert with Jesus. Lent begins with the baptismal image of Noah on the ark, reminding us for what Lent is preparing us.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
In the readings for this Sunday, Feb. 18, God gives us a preview of baptism via Noah, and invites us into the desert with Jesus — both for 40 days. There were many “40’s” in the Bible; all of them were times of preparation for something big. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that this is the time of fulfillment, but to be fulfilled we first have to recognize what’s not working in our lives, let go of it, and live the Gospel values more completely. We’re offered this 40 days to really pray, remove distractions, and give of ourselves to make those things more clear.
“I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”
Your ways, O Lord, are love and truth to those who keep your covenant.
1 Peter 3:18-22
This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Welcome to the First Sunday of Lent. Lent is a time of final preparation for adults preparing for baptism, and for the already baptized to prepare to renew our baptismal promises. And so, our first reading brings us back to the covenant that God made with Noah, which was made after 40 days on the water. The covenant is God’s promise to never destroy the world with water again, and the rainbow is the sign of this covenant. Although most of the world was destroyed with water, Noah and his family and a certain amount of animals were saved through the water — as Peter says in the second reading, as a pre-figured baptism. It’s a foreshadowing of our salvation through baptism. Peter reminds us that it was through Jesus’s death and resurrection that we were saved, and that we should work hard to keep a clear conscience, once we receive it in baptism.
The Gospel shows us a little Lent for Jesus — but instead of repenting, because he had nothing to repent — he went out to the desert to prepare himself for his public ministry. God gave Noah 40 days on the ark to prepare him to make a new earth, and God gave Jesus 40 days to prepare to make the earth new with his ministry. Jesus was led into the desert by the Spirit. He took that time to make sure that, in his humanness, nothing would get in the way of his mission to save the world. He proved that his physical needs wouldn’t become more important to him than his spiritual ones, that God the Father was his number one priority, and that he would trust himself to God’s care no matter what happened.
We take 40 days, too. This is a time of preparation for us to recommit ourselves to our baptismal mission. So, we fast, pray and give alms to make us ready. We may have trials that make us feel like we’re floating aimlessly for an unknown destination, or we might feel like we’re alone in a desert; dry, thirsty, undernourished, afraid. Sometimes things get very dry and seemingly lifeless before they bloom. Whatever our Lent brings, we know that it is leading us to the refreshment of Easter and that we are never alone in our trials.
God made a promise to Noah in today’s first reading. God always keeps his promises. Is keeping promises important to you? Are you good at it?
Ponder the significance of the number 40. What other biblical references to the number can you think of? What were the people in those stories preparing for? What is God preparing you for?
What trials do you need God to help you with this Lent? What is currently standing between you and God, preventing you from living your baptismal call most full?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Listen to U2’s song, “40” together as a family. It’s about Psalm 40, but the words are very applicable. How can this song be a prayer for your Lenten Season?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”