Homily: 1st Sunday of Lent Year B

Year 2018 (2nd Theology)

Growing up, the season of Lent always posed one big dilemma: What am I giving up this Lent? Chocolate? or ice cream?… And then after about a week or so, a new idea would emerge… What if… for Lent… I gave up just chocolate ice cream?

Reflecting upon my approach to Lent, I think I really missed the whole purpose of the Lenten season… And I don’t think I am alone in this confusion about why we are even on this journey of Lent. 

So what is the purpose of Lent? In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us answer that might shock us: “Repent!”

Repentance has a pretty bad reputation in our culture today. We associate it with shame, guilt, and an overall negative view of what has happened in our past.

But here is something quite remarkable. When we look at the actual word used for repentance in today’s Gospel, it is the Greek word, metanoia, which means a “change of mind.”

Jesus wants us to experience metanoia this Lent, to have a change of mind. Jesus is offering us a new mind, a whole new way of thinking. This is Christian repentance. A personal invitation from Jesus to repent. This is not a word of condemnation in which we look back at our past and beat ourselves up… no… Christian repentance… metanoia… is a word of invitation into a new life in which we look to a future that will fulfill our deepest desires. Yes, Jesus is calling us to repent. The purpose of Lent is repentance. And this is truly good news.

Since today is the 1st Sunday of Lent, a time when catechumens are enrolled in the Book of the Elect as they prepare to be baptized at the Easter vigil, a helpful image for us to understand what this repentance looks like can be taken from the ancient baptismal rite in the Church. Those to be baptized would literally face West, the direction of sunset, signifying the cosmic darkness associated with sin and death, and then renounce Satan 3 times. Then they would turn 180 degrees and face east, the direction of sunrise, signifying the coming of Christ, and make a threefold profession of faith in their belief of God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. This literal turning from left to right — from west to east — symbolized their desire to experience metanoia — to have a complete change of mind — to turn their gaze from sin and towards life — to reorient their entire lives to Jesus and walk in the path that He had set before them.

Friends, this act of turning — this metanoia — is what Jesus is calling us to do… today. Jesus is inviting us to experience metanoia, to have a whole new mind centred on His plans for our lives. You might ask, well what does this look like?

For example, if every time I feel a desire to pray, I go rather to the kitchen and eat chocolate ice cream that I was supposed to give up for Lent, then that chocolate ice cream is something I need to repent of because it has turned me away from intimacy with God in prayer. I need to change my mind from the short-term pleasure of chocolate ice cream to the long-term joy of friendship with God through prayer. If, instead of spending time with my family on the weekend, I binge on watching inappropriate Netflix videos, I need to repent and change my mind about what is important in life and start loving my family well! If, instead of going to Mass every Sunday, I go play a round of golf when it is sunny, I need to repent and take on a new priority for how I spend the Lord’s Day — trust me, golf is not worth it! If every time I meet my friends for coffee we gossip about others, I need to repent and change my mind — refocus the conversation towards blessing others and speaking about the good in other people.

Since Lent is a personal invitation from Jesus to experience metanoia, we must actually ask Jesus right now… today… what He is calling us to repent of. And since every act of Christian repentance also involves turning towards something truly good, we need to ask Him what that good is as well. We are going to spend the next 2 minutes asking Jesus these 2 questions. You can close you eyes if it helps. Really try to listen in your hearts what Jesus is calling you to do today.

“Jesus, what is 1 thing that you are calling me to turn away from today?” 

“Jesus, what is 1 thing that you are calling me to turn towards today?”

Don’t worry if you feel like you did not get a clear answer. What’s important is that you asked Jesus the question. And He is glad that you did. Friends, this metanoia, this change of mind, is not just a one-time act, but a daily decision to redirect our entire lives towards Jesus Christ.

You can even write this down every morning in your phone or on a notepad. Be specific about what Jesus is calling you to turn away from today and what He is calling you to turn towards.

This is Lent. A personal invitation from Jesus to experience metanoia, to say NO and turn away from anything that prevents a deeper relationship with God, with family, with friends… and say YES and turn towards anything that fosters these relationships.

This type of radical change can be scary for us. But don’t worry. Jesus is with you right now. Remember that it is Jesus who is calling you to metanoia. He is perfect love and is with you always. Keep asking Jesus on a daily basis how He is inviting you to repent. This is great news.

Let us pray, Jesus help us to believe that metanoia is essential for our journey with You, help us to believe that you have far better things planned for us in our lives. Help us to say no to everything that goes against Your will for our lives and help us to say yes to everything that brings us closer to following you in this season of Lent. Give us the courage to take that next step in the journey today and prepare our hearts for your coming in the most holy Eucharist. Amen.

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