Sunday, March 1, 2009

First Sunday of Lent: The Annual Contract Review

Take up your cross, the Savior said,
If you would my disciple be;
Deny yourself, the world forsake,
And humbly follow after me.
(A 1st week reminder)

The grace or the insight that we seek today is an understanding of and living in a covenant with God. The first reading of today’s Eucharistic Liturgy expresses the covenant relationship between God and ourselves. It is not a promise of loyalty or fidelity for a season such as a sports figure makes with a team. It is his promise to true to us for another season. The reading reminds us that we are called to a response that is embedded in our baptismal promises to follow the ways of the Lord. It is in our mutual covenant that marks an unusual, yet permanent, relationship. Ours is a divine-human personal covenant unlike the player-team-league relationship. Ours is a relationship we can easily take for granted -- one that we might easily relegate to the back burner.

However, the Lenten season is a reminder that God was and continues to be the first actor in this divine-human pledging. He made the first step in reconciliation with sinners, pledging his fidelity to the eight people who were saved from drowning by being aboard the ark of Noah. They were saved from the horrors of the then-known world-wide flood. God’s pledge reached forever forward as a multi-generational promise to be with his people. This brings us into the promise, covenant relationship, through our baptism. As a seal of his promise to humankind, God made real on his pledge by bringing his Son to our earth and by his suffering and death. What he asked of your and me was and continues to be is fidelity to our baptismal promises. And, we might ask this question of ourselves especially during this Lenten journey we embark upon each year: what are the baptismal promises I renew so often each year? How faithful am I to my pledge?

Recently on this blog you were introduced to several of the statues that remind me of the “team” that supports me in every season. Again, look at the sports model, since it seems to be the strongest national diversion from the challenges of life. In our nation’s capital city alone, how prominent are the caps, jackets, t-shirts, sweat shirts, individual favorite team player posters? They abound! Even our automobiles become traveling billboards, reminding others of a personal covenant, a personal relationship with the “gods of the gridiron or (baseball) diamond or the ice or the courts or the fields.” Did I miss any team? In many ways the statues and our religious items are similarly reminders of another team that has a perpetual contract with us --- the community of the saints! Remember them?
Just as sports paraphernalia remind us of a special relationship to a team, God chose the rainbow as a permanent reminder of his fidelity to each of his creations. It is a contract that never needs renewing. It is always present to us. God chose a rainbow as a sign to Noah and his seven companions.

As we start out once again on the Lenten journey that serves to remind us of God’s fidelity to us in his Redeemer Son, ask yourself about your contract with God, your fidelity to your baptism contract. You know how easy it is for all humankind to pull out of the contract with our God for what appears to be a better offer! When you see a rainbow, when you see the colors of a rainbow, recall how bless you are by God’s fidelity to his contract with us while at the same time examining how faithful you have been to your promises.

This Lenten journey is a time when we pray:
“In this time of repentance
we call out for your mercy.
Bring us back to you
and to the life your Son won for us
by his death on the cross.”
(Alternative Opening Prayer from today’s Eucharistic Liturgy)