Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel
February 17, 2024 // Perspective

Our Actions, Desire for His Mercy, Show Our Love for God

Msgr. Owen Campion
The Sunday Gospel

First Sunday of Lent

The first reading, from the Book of Genesis, presents the familiar story of Noah. It is a story of a contrast and of the consequences of this contrast. Noah was faithful, whereas the world was almost universally unfaithful. God protected Noah from doom, to which the sinful world succumbed.

Warned by God, Noah took his family, and couples of the various animals, onto the ark that Noah constructed. As the floodwaters ebbed, the ark settled on dry land. By God’s help, all aboard Noah’s ark survived.

God assured Noah, and all people, that never again would a flood destroy the earth. God promised a covenant with Noah’s people. Under this covenant, or solemn agreement, the people obeyed God’s Law. In turn, God protected them from peril.

It is the foundational story of all that would be revealed in the long history of salvation. Sin unfailingly destroys, but God protects the truly faithful.

The second reading is from the Second Epistle of Peter. The letter states that it was composed in Babylon, a symbol of Rome, the mighty imperial capital, and the center of paganism and of the most impious culture.

Roman Christians at the time very much required encouragement. This epistle provided such encouragement by recalling the faithfulness of Noah, insisting that God protects and saves the faithful, who in baptism, and in holiness, bond themselves with Jesus.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is very brief, only a few verses, but its brevity gives it drama and directness in its message.

Use of the number “40” is revealing, suggesting the 40 days spent by Moses in the desert before God gave him the law on Sinai. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert. He was the bearer of God’s holy word, as was Moses. “Forty” was code for the perfectly fulfilled.

After 40 days of prayer, Jesus undertook the mission of redemption and reconciliation.

Wild beasts were a threat in the Judean wilderness, but angels protected Jesus. Mark does not lose the chance again to assert that Jesus is the Son of God.

At last, after John’s arrest and removal from the scene, the culmination of salvation awaits in Jesus. Jesus steps forward, proclaiming that God’s majesty literally will be seen.

The Lord calls upon the people to repent. “The time of fulfillment” is at hand. God will be vindicated. Jesus has come to set everything in balance. The sinful will be laid low. The good will endure.


The Church has begun Lent, the most intense period in the year of enabling union with God. While Ash Wednesday was the first day of Lent, many Catholics will begin the Lenten process with this weekend’s Mass.

The readings call us to face the realities of our lives as humans, capable of good or evil, according to what we choose.

Regardless of the exact details of the flood described in Genesis, so often discussed in many circles, the religious message of Noah and his ark supplies a fitting beginning for reflection for Lent. Sin – the willful rejection of God – leads necessarily and always to destruction. Jesus saves us from peril.

His salvation is total and available to us if we sincerely turn to the Lord. He offers eternal life and peace to us now. Always, God is forgiving and merciful. No sin is too evil to be forgiven, no distance from God too wide to bridge.

Essential to asking for forgiveness is honestly to admit personal sin, by delving deeply into our hearts and minds and scrutinizing what we have done or not done.

This process requires humility, courage, and a frank, maybe uncomfortable, analysis of ourselves. The Church gives us Lent as an aide.

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