1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

We have just celebrated the 23rd Anniversary of People Power or the Edsa Revolution when through non-violent mass action, the Filipino people drove Marcos and his minions out of power after fourteen years of Martial Law. A generation has passed. Assuming that one was a teen-ager when the event happened, such witness would be forty years old by now. His children would just have a second hand knowledge from books or tv and film clips. It is like my father telling me stories about World War II. He went through it but I was born after the war.

Action starter: What sins do we deny?

One thing stands out. After Marcos and Edsa, I have not heard anyone say, “I’m sorry.” Nobody ever admitted he has done something wrong. No one admitted having killed Ninoy Aquino and many others murdered during the martial law regime. Nobody showed any remorse for the countless acts of torture, rape, pillage, plunder and brutalities that took place during those dark years. This may be the reason why, like the mythical seven-headed serpent, the forces of social evil are again rearing their heads.

As one historian said, we are bound to repeat history if we have not learned our lessons from it. How can there be social renewal if we deny the need for it? When there is no admission of wrongdoing, then there can be no repentance. How can we be sorry for sins which we do not admit we have ever committed?

Lent is about repentance, renewal, and reconciliation. We have just entered the Season of Lent which began with the ritual of imposition of ashes last Wednesday. As the priest placed the ashes on our foreheads he said, “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel” or “Remember, you are dust and to dust you will return.” The reminder of our temporary existence on earth should lead us to resolve to live our lives in a manner worthy of our being children of God.

This Sunday’s readings are all about repentance and renewal. The first reading tells the story of Noah (Gen. 98-15). The flood that took place was God’s act of renewing and re-creating the world. The second reading describes the same event as a form of baptism (1 Pet. 3:18-22). The Gospel contains the beginning of the preaching of Jesus, “The time has come; the kingdom of God is at hand. Change your ways and believe the Good News” (Mk. 1:12-15).

The Catholic Catechism describes the three essential acts of the penitent who desires to be reconciled with God – contrition, confession, and satisfaction. Contrition, which takes first place is defined as “sorrow of the soul and detestation for the sin committed, together with the resolution not to sin again.” Confession is the humble admission and disclosure of one’s sins. In the early days of the church, this was done publicly before the whole congregation. In sacramental confession these days, it is done through the priest, sometimes with a public penitential rite. Satisfaction is also called penance. It is to do reparations or to repair the harm we have done, inasmuch as we are able. We have to return or pay for stolen goods, restore the reputation of someome we slandered, and pay compensation for injuries we have inflicted.

Given the conditions we have just mentioned, perhaps we can judge the sincerity of the penitent in this apocryphal story. A parish priest’s chicken was stolen and a man went to him for confession. He admitted having stolen two chickens from the convent. When the priest told him that he lost only one chicken, the man said, “I intend to steal the second one, also.”