Saturday, February 25, 2012
First Sunday, Lent B. "The days of Noah prefigured baptism, which saves you now": into the desert of sin the Lord bears the covenant waters of Life
It is the absence of water that makes a desert on the earth and brings death where life should be. The sin of Adam and Eve, and all of their children, made of the world a desert: evil took the presence of God and His life from all of humanity.
When Christ goes to the desert for forty days He brings the water back to the parched earth, for in Him is found the waters that well up, making the dry soul bloom again with grace for sons and daughters of Adam.
In the sacrament of baptism those waters flow abundantly again from the Lord in the Church and, for all who receive them, the soul which was formerly a desert because of the presence of original sin teems again with the life of God through His grace.
Temptation is possible because freedom can always choose to go back to the desert. The reality of temptation can threaten the courage of all who are baptized. Today we begin our forty days of penitence and prayer, fasting and almsgiving. We take up in a more intense way, and together as the Church, the weapons that help us to better defend the life of grace won for us by Christ on the Cross and in His Resurrection and conferred in the sacrament of Baptism.
Why forty days in the desert? It's about life. "Probably because it is forty weeks that a woman carries her developing baby before a new life can come forth from the womb."
Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains further: "And Jesus? What did his forty days mean? The birth of a new Israel liberated from sin, reconciled to God, and governed by the law of the Spirit rather than a law chiseled in stone."
Because the forty days of Christ in the desert are about life, these forty days of our lent here and now are about all life, including yours and mine. God continues to bring to birth through Christ in each of us the new and saving covenant that brings us to this moment, right here and now, together in this church at this holy Mass and leads us forward through forty days of fasting, abstinence, prayer and almsgiving. Our penances are the weapons, reminders of the strength of Baptismal grace, needed for strength in the battle with temptation and sin which we fight together with the Lord.
As Saint Paul says, the waters of the flood, the waters of the Red Sea and the saving waters of life which He brought with Him into the desert of sin, these waters are for all of us, because sin has touched all of us, beginning with the sin which we have by our origin from Adam and Eve, our first parents. And this is why we call it "original sin". God begins our salvation in Christ at the moment of our baptism by forgiving this sin first and by fortifying us against the temptation to sin.
"Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: 'Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.' " (CCC 1213)
Saint Paul tells us that the grace of Baptism "saves you now". Baptism saves us now as we live in faith, depending upon the graces God gives as upon a rock. And that rock is Christ from which flows always for us the abundant waters of new life through grace, welling up to eternal life.
Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever. Amen.