We are now on the third Sunday of Lent (Year A), and as we progress towards Holy Week, I would like to give a summary of our Lenten journey this year by offering some reflections on the Sunday readings for the five Sundays. A longer explanation of each of the Gospel readings together with some points for reflection are offered at Biblista.NET. Here, we will make a run through of the readings and try to determine a guiding thought that guides the liturgy towards Easter. Below is a table showing what I think to be the focus of the Sunday readings and a brief comments on it.
|I||The Temptation in the Desert (Matthew 4:1-11)||Make your own Christ’s victory over the Tempter|
|II||The Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-9)||Make your own Christ’s victory over death in obedience to the Father’s voice|
|III||Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well (Jn. 4:4-26)||The waters of Baptism and the Holy Spirit|
|IV||The Man Born Blind (Jn. 9:1-41)||Baptism and Gaining Sight: The Sacrament of Regeneration and the Light of the World|
|V||I Am the Resurrection and the Life||Lazarus as the Type of the Baptized|
The first two Sundays of Lent are about Jesus’ victory and the invitation to the Christian to make it his/her own. Our baptismal renewal during Easter will involve the renewal of our baptismal vows, the rejection of Satan, his lies and his works. In a more positive note, our baptismal renewal also involves making our own the victory of Christ over death. The last three Sundays are about baptism: the living waters, sight and illumnation and new life are all gifts received in the sacrament of regeneration.
The schema provided above has a sub-theme that is given in the second readings for those Sundays. For the first Sunday, the reading was taken from Rom. 5:12-19 with the focus on the contrast between the disobedience of Adam and the obedience of the New Adam. Christ’s victory over the Tempter undoes the disobedience of Adam. 2 Tim. 1:8b-10 (Sunday II)with its exhortation to “bear your hardships for the gospel” is in syntony with the account of the Transfiguration which is a vision that assures the disciples of Christ’s glory through the cross. Romans 5:1-8 was selected for the third Sunday so as to highlight the love of God that has been poured in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). In the Johanine gospel, the “waters gurgling unto eternal life” that springs from within those believing in Jesus is the Holy Spirit (see John 7:37-39). Ephesians 5:8-14 is offered together with the account of the Man Born Blind (John 9) for the fourth Sunday. The high point of the reading is a quotation from an old baptismal rite: Awake O Sleeper and arise from the dead; and Christ shall give you light. Emphasis is laid here on an old name of baptism: illumnation. With the exhortation “Live as children of the light”, the Pauline theme harmonizes well with the theme of the Johanine reading. Finally, for the fifth Sunday, the liturgical selection is once more taken from the epistle to the Romans (8:8-11) with its exhortation about living in the Spirit. The theological motive given is that those who live in the Spirit are assured of the Resurrected Life of Christ.
Given the above considerations, it is clear as to the direction our Lenten journey is taking us: through fasting, prayer and acts of mercy, we prepare for the renewal of our baptismal consecration by allowing the Holy Spirit more space in our lives. Through the work of the Spirit, we strengthen ourselves against the promptings of the Devil and allow the new life of Christ invigorate us. During these days, we drink from the inexhaustible spring that the Spirit releases in us in prayer (cf. CCC 2561), allow Christ’s light to illumine our knowledge of ourselves, others and the world, and respond to the call to leave the darkness and move towards the light that gives life. Our journey towards Easter is a journey towards life. The five Sundays of Lent is an invitation for us to complete the journey. During the Holy Week, we will be uniting ourselves with the Lord who suffered and died for us that we may live. That too is another phase of our journey.
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