Begin Again

1st Sunday in Lent (Year B)

“The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 12:15

The readings on this first Sunday of Lent are all about new beginnings. The first reading from Genesis tells the story of Noah and the flood. We might be tempted to read this as a story of destruction, but really it is a story of salvation. It is a story about how God does not allow His creation to undergo corruption (cf. Ps 16:10), but restores and renews it so it might begin again.

In the first creation account in Genesis, God’s Spirit is said to hover over the waters (Gen 1:2). From these primordial waters came forth land and life. God looked at everything He made and saw that it was good (Gen 1:31). 

When that original goodness became corrupted by sin to the point that evil could no longer be tolerated, God once more used water to bring creation to a new beginning. Noah and his wife became like a new Adam and Eve, restoring fallen humanity. 

The cleansing waters of the flood prefigure the sacramental waters of baptism, as attested in the second reading this Sunday from 1 Peter: “[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” (1 Pt 3:20b-21).

While God declares everything He made to be “good,” human beings He declares to be “very good.” So when our hearts are corrupted by sin, we have even further to fall. But, just like Noah and the flood, God offers us a new beginning. 

It is through the purifying waters of baptism that we are saved, as St. Peter attests, because in baptism we are “born again” and made a new creation. We are given new spiritual life; a life in Christ as members of His Body. This is why St. Paul can say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives within me” (Gal 2:20). 

The season of Lent has its origins in the spiritual disciplines catechumens would undergo in the early Church as they prepared for baptism at Easter. Over time, the Church extended this observance to all Christians, who at Easter would renew their baptismal promises, as we continue to do to this day. 

For those who fall into sin after baptism — which is all of us — God continues to offer us a chance at a new beginning in the sacrament of reconciliation (aka confession), which restores us to our baptismal grace. 

Here at the start of Lent we hear the voice of Jesus in the gospel inviting us to “repent” — that is, to turn away from sin that leads to spiritual death — and to “believe in the gospel” — that is, the good news that wherever we are, whatever our sins, Christ continues to offer us a new beginning.

If it’s been a while since you’ve been to confession, do not fear! Here is a pdf of a short guide prepared by the US Bishops for those who are returning to the sacrament after some time. 

Confessions are offered in our chapel every Sunday at 3:30 (before Mass) or by appointment.

Speaking of Noah’s Ark…

Do Catholics have to believe in a literal interpretation of the Great Flood? What does science have to say about the idea that the whole earth was covered in water? Does the Bible really say that? Check out this two part episode of “Jimmy Akin’s Mysterious World” podcast for a deep dive into these questions.