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Believe in the Gospel

Gospel Reflection for the 1st Sunday in Lent

Mark 1: 12-15

This week’s homily by Fr. Mike Schmitz wrecked me. It was about trusting in the heart of the Father. After a short Gospel this Sunday, I believe this is a simple, yet convicting question to ask ourselves: Do we trust in the Father? With tears in my eyes, I admitted in the quiet of my family room that I do not trust Him like I want to. It’s hard to type that, but it is where my heart is as we begin… or more accurately continue this Lenten season.

I’m tired. I’m anxious. I’m hungry. I’m scared.

Not always about the same things or in the same situations, but these feelings are all very real on my journey with Christ. What are your feelings as you dive into another 40 days in the desert?

As I read the Bible in a Year with Fr. Mike this year, I have walked through the history of the Christian story - our story - from the very beginning. Jesus not only knows our story; He IS the story! Everything in the Old Testament is fulfilled in the New. Jesus is the fulfillment as the Word-Made-Flesh.

He did not run from any suffering or temptation. He endured all… for our sake. As the new Adam, He redeemed humanity through each and every experience in the flesh. The Ignatius Catholic Study Bible notes that, “Jesus faced the same ordeal that Adam and Eve endured and succeeded where Adam and Israel failed.”

The first sin in the Garden of Eden and the root of all sin is lack of trust in God:

“Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God’s command. This is what man’s first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness.” CCC 397

In the Old Testament, the faith and trust of the Israelites wavered day to day. They grew hungry, confused, and frustrated. They had unhealthy attachments and even created their own idols. They grasped for control because they could not see God. They ultimately didn't trust the Father.

One of my favorite stories about the faithfulness of God is known as “Golden Calf Theology.” In Exodus 32, Moses stays on the mountain a little longer talking to God than the people expected him too. They didn’t know what happened to him, so they used their gold – the very sign that was given to them after God freed them from slavery – to make a molten calf to worship. The people were so quick to forget God and what He had done for them. They did not trust. They did not remain faithful. Moses interceded on their behalf to the Father so that the Father would be slow to anger and rich in mercy. The lesson learned in this story is that no matter how unfaithful we are, God is always faithful. Whether or not we trust Him, He remains worthy of our trust. He is a good, good Father!

Moses’ mediation with God is a foreshadowing of how Jesus Christ would become known as our one, true mediator as both God and Man. He mediated for us in every early morning prayer, every miracle, and every ache and pain. Even from the Cross, He cried, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Lent leads up to this moment on the Cross. We don’t remember this day as torture, but as passion. Passion means “strong and barely controllable emotion.” In its very name, the Passion of Our Lord highlights the unconditional and enthusiastic love of Our Lord. Jesus’ trust in that love brought forth abundant graces!

Jesus was not quiet about His love for the Father. The central purpose of Christ’s earthly ministry was to make His Father known, loved, and served. Through Christ’s radiant faith and radical trust in His Father, countless children were adopted into His eternal family on whom He would pour out His mercy and love.

“The victory that Christ won over sin has given us greater blessings than those which sin had taken from us “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20).” CCC 420

The commentary about this Sunday's Gospel in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible states that, "Victory is assured if, like Jesus, we commit ourselves to fasting, wait upon the Lord with patience, and have no desire for things beyond our need."

When we think of the desert of Lent, fasting likely comes to mind. Days, weeks, months and even years in the desert led to isolation, detachment, hunger, and frustration. While we prepare for these 40 days each year, we can be reminded that the Israelites were in the desert for 40 years! There would be no way to persevere without trusting in the bigger plan.

Jesus was driven into the desert before He began His public ministry. That time taught Him about the temptations we face each day. The devil knows who Jesus is and what He has come to do. He pounces when Jesus is tired, hungry, and alone. Jesus' trust in the Father keeps Him strong in His weakest moments. In each and every moment, He chose the Father.

“There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.” C.S. Lewis

When the time had come for Jesus to make Himself known, He came to Galilee and proclaimed, "believe in the gospel!"

Believe: to accept (something) as true; feel sure of the truth of

Synonyms: be convinced by, trust, have confidence in, consider honest, consider truthful, regard as true, accept as true, accept, be convinced by, give credence to, credit, give credit to, trust, put confidence in, count on, rely on, depend on Informal: swallow, swallow something hook, line, and sinker, fall for, go for, buy, take as gospel

Believe is a loaded word. When one claims to be a "believer," it is not to be taken lightly.

A believer is convinced that waiting is worth it so they can be patient.

A believer swallows the truth so they do not choke on the lies.

A believer depends on another for what they need so they don't have to grasp for what they don't.

A believer is confident that all will be well so they do not despair.

A number of studies on the power of belief show that our thoughts have power on our perspective, actions, and outcomes. When we adopt a belief, we look for facts that justify it. We surround ourselves with others who share our beliefs. It is belief that gives us a sense of hope and without hope, we cannot survive.

Jesus is not only telling us to believe in the gospel as a story but to also believe in the gospel as a person. Jesus is the gospel. He's the Good News! All we need to do is believe in Him and the belief will carry us through every moment no matter if our hearts are rejoicing, grieving, breaking, or stretching. We don't need to know what or how God is working in and through our lives. When we believe, He will take care of the rest. Believing, after all, leads to action. Believing in the gospel makes it impossible not to live the gospel.

Why did the Israelites survive for 40 years in exile? They believed in the gospel.

Why did the disciples drop everything to follow a man they just met? They believed in the gospel.

Why did martyrs have joy as they died? They believed in the gospel.

Why do we fast from meat on Fridays? We believe in the gospel.

Why do we offer our first fruits to the Church? We believe in the gospel.

Why do we forgive those who hurt us? We believe in the gospel

Why do we "waste" time with God in prayer? We believe in the gospel.

“You have everything you need if you just believe.” Josh Groban

Do you BELIEVE in the gospel?

Think about your Lenten penance. How are you praying, giving, and fasting this season?

Can you honestly say that you are doing [fill in the blank] because you believe in the gospel?

In the process of writing this, I recognized that I do indeed trust the Father and I do believe in the gospel, yet it feels miniscule and inadequate -- I'm a sinner.

2020 and 2021 have been interconnected roller coaster rides as these months have stretched, deepened, challenged, and purified all that is in and around me.

I want to not give into the exhaustion by doubting, I want to lean into the suffering by trusting.

I want to not let the news blared through the media be louder than the good news Christ whispers in my heart. I want to not live a life of a sinning orphan who does not believe that God only gives good gifts. I want to live a life of a saint and beloved daughter of the King who believes I am in good hands.


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