Reflection for the Vigil of the First Sunday of Lent (Cycle B)
By Deborah Peters, OSB
Readings: Hebrews 4:14-5:10; Mark 1.12-14
“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” are the first words of Mark’s short gospel. These eleven verses give an amazing synthesis of "the beginning." Here we are told Mark’s version of John’s preaching, the baptism, the heavens being torn apart, and God’s proclamation "You are my Son, the Beloved . . . ." Brief? Absolutely! Even briefer is the content of tomorrow’s gospel. The spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness to endure forty days with Satan, the wild beasts, and angels. That's it. After Jesus is baptized; after he goes to the wilderness; after he experiences the grief of losing John, the Baptist; he is ready to take up where John had left off. He says, "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
Once more, we are at the beginning of Lent. We are baptized, we are God’s beloved children, and now we face yet another forty days. What do we expect? What do we want? Certainly, Lent gives us the opportunity to consider our limitations, the way we are living our lives; but doesn’t our baptism have a greater circumference than this, a greater sense of union with the Church and with all peoples? On this point Patricia Sanchez's Lenten reflection refers to a painting by the commercial painter William Zdinak who, after a great loss in his life and attempting to fulfill an impetuous promise, strove to do a painting for a religious art show. Some of you may know this painting entitled "In His Image" that depicts the suffering head of Jesus crowned with thorns (view image). It is typical of many such paintings--except for one thing. A closer look at this fifteen-hour painting reveals that it is comprised of the heads of--according to one account--forty-eight persons taken from the pictures Zdinak found in magazines. Among the faces are Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, Jr.; however, as Zdinak points out, the identities are not important; what is important is that all persons are one in Christ.
Perhaps we can take our cue from Zdinak and from Sanchez, that Lent is a time to embrace our role in the body of Christ--our baptism, our Father’s love, and our mission to be Christ in our prayers, in our fasting, and in the generous gift of ourselves to others.