First Reading
Genesis 9:8-15

God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “See, I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you: all the birds, and the various tame and wild animals that were with you and came out of the ark. I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” God added: “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 my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, 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.”

Second Reading
1 Peter 3:18-22

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah during the building of the ark, in which a few persons, eight in all, were saved through water. This prefigured baptism, which saves you now. It is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers subject to him.

Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

This year we can look at the second reading, from the First Letter of Saint Peter. This small piece of this letter gives us a strong understanding of what Lent can be in our lives.

First, if we want to live Lent strongly, we are invited to believe once again that Jesus is truly sent by God the Father to free us from sin and to lead us to God. Jesus dies so that we might live. We are also invited to follow that example: giving our lives so that others might live. We are invited to believe that Jesus is truly the Son of God, God’s unique Son, and that He invites us to be adopted daughters and sons.

We become daughters and son through Baptism into Christ. We can understand Baptism through the imagine of Noah and the ark. When floods come and destroy the earth, a few people are saved, passing through the waters in the ark, given to them by Noah because of God’s intervention.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, God intervenes in lives in order to save people. God doesn’t always intervene, but God always wants to save. God hopes—these are human images trying to describe how much God loves us—that we humans will choose to do right by our own choices. The Scriptures report that over and over we do not choose righteousness nor justice nor mercy and compassion. So God keeps intervening, trying to draw us to the Divine Life.

Finally God seems to decide that we are not going to choose for that which is true and good, and so God sends His only Son. After Jesus suffers and dies for us, he is raised by the Father as a promise of our own eternal life.

We can become one with Christ through Baptism. Lots of people today see Baptism as a simply ceremony more like a christening. The word “christening” is wonderful! It means bringing someone to Christ and their putting on Christ. In our Catholic tradition, we believe that Baptism is a sacrament that incorporates a person into Christ. Lots of Christian Churches do not believe in infant Baptism because of the insistence that only a free choice of a person can incorporate them in Christ. So even though some of those other Christian traditions may practice Baptism, they do not understand it in the Catholic and Orthodox way. We believe that even a baby is profoundly changed by Baptism. Just as Noah and his family in the ark were saved without really realizing what was happening, so can others be incorporated into Christ. There is always the choice of how to live one’s life afterwards and we know from the stories of Noah that not everyone makes the right choices, even after having been saved!

We can hear strongly that Baptism “is not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a clear conscience.” That clear conscience can only exist within us when we choose to lead good and righteous lives by the grace of God.

So as we begin this Lent, let us remember our own Baptism, whether that too place in infancy or later on, and strive to live profoundly this divine life that is given to us in Baptism. May we use our freedom of choice to choose for God in every aspect of our lives. May this time of Lent strengthen us in virtue through God’s presence and help us fight against all within us that is not yet faithful to God. Most of us, let us trust in God and in His compassion and mercy.