Today we continue our Lenten Journey. We begin by reading from the Book of Genesis where we hear about an exchange between God and Noah. God says to Noah that a covenant will be created between God and the whole of creation – never again will God destroy the earth as he has just done. God is doing something new from this day forward; God will no longer punish creation. Every time a rainbow appears it is a reminder that God has established a covenant with the earth and with the people of the earth.
In the Gospel, Mark tells us that Jesus is driven out into the desert by the Spirit to deal with temptation, with Satan. Mark tells us he is in the wilderness with wild beasts and with angels. Mark does not tell us what happened except to say that after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus returns and begins his ministry in Galilee. The message of Jesus is that the Kingdom of God is near – repent and believe in the good news. The arrest of John and the beginning of the ministry of Jesus mark the beginning of a new era, a new time.
Peter, in his letter, reminds the early Christians that his faith tells him that Christ has died for his sins but Christ is now alive in the Spirit. The suffering of Jesus is not a punishment from God but rather a sign of the love that Jesus has for His Father and for the whole of creation. Christ’s suffering is a light that leads us to God. Peter tells the Christians that Baptism is not so much about removing dirt, it is about a relationship with God, and all the heavenly host.
In our first reading today God affirms his desire to be in a relationship with us, and not just us, but the whole of creation. Never again is God going to destroy the earth and the inhabitants of the earth. This is the promise of our God, a God who wants us to live. Every time we see a rainbow we are reminded of God’s great love for us – his promise that he will not destroy the earth or us. This idea marks a new way of seeing our God – a God who longs that we might live and have life – a God who will never again destroy the earth as a punishment for our behavior.
Jesus tells the people of Israel that the Kingdom of God is near. He invites them to change their lives – the way they think and act. Jesus seems to suggest that naturally, we are hostile and disrespectful – we need to change, repent and believe in the Good News.
What is the Good News? We are loved by God. Our sins are forgiven. We are alive in the Spirit. We will be raised from the dead.
If we want to support life, if we want to help build up the reign of God we must learn to see the world through the eyes of others. There is a wonderful saying, “Walk a mile in his/her shoes!” Too often we see and we measure others according to our standards – standards we don’t live up to.
Today people are working to:
There are men and women who are opposed to this work – who want things to stay just the way they are. Just this week there was a suggestion to rethink the name of the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association to reflect the make-up and diversity of the farmers and ranchers at work today. Good idea, right? It was rejected because the leaders of the Association said the name is just fine as it is. They said there is no need for change despite the fact that there are countless women managing farms and ranches today.
Over a hundred years ago Mary Lathrap wrote a poem – inviting us to see others differently. Mary was a poet, a Methodist preacher, worked for women’s rights – especially the right to vote and own property, and she worked to limit the sale of alcohol. Listen to the language and ideas of a woman from 1895.
“Judge Softly” ~ by Mary T. Lathrap, 1895
“Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.
There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too.
Don’t sneer at the man who is down today
Unless you have felt the same blow
That caused his fall or felt the shame
That only the fallen know.
You may be strong, but still the blows
That were his, unknown to you in the same way,
May cause you to stagger and fall, too.
Don’t be too harsh with the man that sins.
Or pelt him with words, or stone, or disdain.
Unless you are sure you have no sins of your own,
And it’s only wisdom and love that your heart contains.
For you know if the tempter’s voice
Should whisper as soft to you,
As it did to him when he went astray,
It might cause you to falter, too.
Just walk a mile in his moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through his eyes, instead of your own muse.
I believe you’d be surprised to see
That you’ve been blind and narrow-minded, even unkind.
There are people on reservations and in the ghettos
Who have so little hope, and too much worry on their minds.
Brother, there but for the grace of God go you and I.
Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions
And see the world through his spirit and eyes
Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.
Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.
Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.”
In the Book of Genesis, God makes a covenant with creation and marks the beginning of a new time. In the Gospel, Jesus speaks of the nearness of the Kingdom of God; he marks the beginning of a new time. In Peter’s letter, we are told that Christ suffered, died and rose so that we might find our way to God.
As our Lenten journey continues, let us walk together towards this new time, seeking to understand what it is like to walk the road that others walk. Let us, with the help of God, shape a new time for our community, our parish, our family.
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Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI