Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

Feb. 18: First Sunday of Lent

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Beginning anew

Gn 9:8-15; Ps 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9; 1 Pt 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15

What’s in a name? The Latin word for Lent is “Quadragesima.” It comes from the word for 40 and refers to the length of this liturgical season, i.e., 40 days.

The words for Lent in the modern languages derived from Latin reflect this usage: “Qaresima” (Italian), “Carême” (French) and “Cuaresma” (Spanish). Other languages use words connected with the penitential discipline that was a principal feature of this season. In Polish, it is “Wielki Post” (the Great Fast) and in German it is “Fastenzeit” (Fasting time).

The English word “Lent” is derived from the Middle English word “lente,” which means “springtime.” This gives an entirely new perspective on this holy season. It is a season for beginning anew and starting fresh. Today’s Scriptures point us in that direction.

The reading from Genesis imagines the scene following the end of the Great Flood. God is determined to begin anew with his human creatures by assuring Noah that there will never be another flood that ends the lives of so many people: “The waters shall never again become a flood that destroys all mortal beings” (Gn 9:15). The rainbow serves as the sign of this commitment to the human family

The second lesson speaks of Noah’s experience as prefiguring baptism. It is through our baptism that we begin living a new life. The waters of baptism are not for the cleansing of the body, but for the regeneration of the spirit. The baptized are loved by God, saved by Jesus Christ and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we are born again with a share in God’s own life.

The Gospel lesson describes the beginning of Jesus’ mission to “proclaim the Gospel of God” (Mk 1:14). Jesus left behind his family, his home, his livelihood in Nazareth. He did not do this lightly, but spent time in prayer and fasting to be certain that he was making the right choice. He had to shut out those voices that sought to keep him from fulfilling that mission.

Once Jesus made his decision, he immediately began to announce the good news, calling people to repentance and faith.

This Sunday’s Scriptures urge us to find in Lent an opportunity to begin again — to reclaim our place in God’s family, to recommit ourselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to revive our life with God.

Lent is a time for an honest and sober assessment of our life with God and our relationships with people. We ask ourselves important questions. Am I growing in my Christian life? Am I becoming more generous, forgiving, understanding, loving? Do people think of me as a blessing in their lives?

Once we make our assessment, we can develop strategies that will help us become the kind of person God created us to be. Lent should not be so much a time when we think of things we give up and do not do. It should be a time when we think of things that we can do and ought to do to grow as Christians.

Life gives us opportunities every day to express our loving concern for our sisters and brothers. We ought to look for those opportunities and take advantage of them.

Lent can be the springtime of our life with God. It can be a time to begin anew. It is a time of reassessing our priorities, remembering the one thing necessary: to love God with all our heart, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a time to have a laser-like focus on the state of our Christian life.

Like Jesus, we need to shut out those voices that lead us in other directions. The voice we need to hear is the voice of the Spirit who is urging us to recommit ourselves to the ideals of the Gospel. These ideals give direction to our lives, enabling Lent to be the springtime of our life with God.


  • scripture