Reading 1 Jas 4:1-10
Responsorial Psalm Ps 55:7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23
Gospel Mk 9:30-37
One day left before we start our Lenten Journey. For many, the last day is a day of over-indulgence (even and perhaps especially those who are not even Catholic!) Here in Salvador, Brazil the whole city is aflutter with the preparation and celebration of Carnaval - which makes what most of us from the USA call Mardi Gras seem tame and innocent by comparison. The practice of Lenten fasting traditionally required the removal of fat and eggs from the diet, which is why whatever remained before Ash Wednesday had to be consumed to avoid waste. The Church has always prescribed a different sort of preparation for Lent however: One possible etymology for Carnival comes from “carne levare” which means “taking away of flesh,” and the English “shrovetide” which comes from “shrive” which means “to hear confessions.” The preparation for Lent is not indulgence, it is humility, it is an introspective and contemplative journey to discover the major obstacles we must overcome in order to return to the Lord.
Today’s first reading already encourage us on this path of humility, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” And it rebuke us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.” And it finally assures us of the path to holiness, and true greatness “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”
The Gospel begins with a curious narration, “Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.” The Lenten journey is a secret journey, because Jesus is preparing those closest to Him for an event they will only understand in retrospect. The Cross is a mystery we can only understand in retrospect: everything Jesus teaches us on our Lenten journey will only truly make sense at Easter. Jesus wants us to receive Him so that we may receive the Father who sent Him, and as Jesus humbles Himself every deeper through His passion, His weakness and death on the Cross, He becomes more childlike. The mystery of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is the mystery of Christmas, the mystery of the God-Child, in its ultimate development. Jesus is on a journey with His disciples, the Lamb becomes more like a child - revealing His Father’s love by His total trust and obedience even unto death. The path to greatness is the Lamb’s way of the cross, it is a path of humility, it is a path of spiritual childhood - becoming children to discover the Father of the Lamb and His eternal love.