1st Sunday of Lent

Genesis 9:8-15      1 Peter 3:18-22      Mark 1:12-15

Lent 1The beginnings of all four of the Gospels deal with the revelation of Jesus as Son of God and Word made flesh. Jesus came as one of us in order to identify with us in every way. He was to be like us in all things but sin.

At the beginning of Lent we again become conscious of the weakness of our humanity and our constant tendencies to do wrong, make bad decisions and opt for what pleases our humanity rather than what does the will of God.  We can so easily lose sight of our calling to live in the image of God and as followers of Jesus Christ.

The liturgy of the 1st Sunday of Lent each year remind us that Jesus shared our weakness as humans but did not sin. It is humbling to realise that, like us, Jesus was tempted!  He was drawn out into the wilderness where He was vulnerable and defenceless. Here we notice the reality of human nature and its three distinguishing great weaknesses or needs; our need for food, our need for power and our need for a higher power than ourselves.

In the Gospels of Matthew and Luke there are accounts of the actual temptations that Jesus endured in the desert.  Jesus resists the temptations to rely on worldly food, to exercise control and power himself and to worship a false god.  But the Gospel of Mark, which we read today gives us just one sentence to record this event, or these events, in the life of Jesus: “He remained in the desert for forty days and was tempted by Satan.” It seems that Mark is so intent on emphasising the urgency of proclaiming the Good News that he moves on!

There is an urgency even to overcome the temptations and start building up the Kingdom. But it is also important for us to note the reality that Jesus was led out into wilderness, a wild and deserted place where the evil one lived. We are warned of the existence of the evil one and assured that we can confront evil and sin and Satan. Not all our encounters with sin or evil will wear us down. Just as God assured Noah that after the flood, the covenant with Him would be renewed, “there would be no flood to destroy the earth again” (our 1st Reading from Genesis) so too with us, when we are tempted we are also looked after by our angels. “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness … and the angels looked after him.” And then Mark moves quickly along!!  “The time has come ….” The Good News cannot wait. Today’s message from Mark’s gospel is ‘Repent and Believe’, put on the mind of Jesus, be encouraged by the way Jesus confronted the evil one, rely on the angels to look after you.

Another way of saying it might be “take up your Cross and follow me”. The Gospel of Saint Mark is very much given to that image of the Christian way of life; the Cross that brought Salvation and the Call to discipleship. By our Fasting this Lent we make space for the Lord in our lives, by our Almsgiving we attend to the needs of sisters and brothers and in our Prayer we encounter our God in a deep and personal way.  May these pillars of our spirituality sustain us in the wilderness of Lent.