SUNDAY OF LENT (Year B) 21st
from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (1:12-15)
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the desert.
He was in the desert forty days, tempted by
Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited
on him. Now after John was arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the
kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the
JESUS IS THE GOOD NEWS
the Emperor Nero was faced with economic collapse in the
Rome of A.D. 64, his strategy was to set the city on fire.
He then accused the Christians of perpetrating the inferno
and consequently an era of persecution began. The followers
of Jesus were thrown to the wild beasts in the arena – the
citizens of Rome were entertained by the mutiliation and cruel
death of their fellow human beings.
The Evangelist Mark, companion of St. Peter, lived in constant
fear of being thrown to the lions. So, when he opens his
account of the story of Jesus he tells how Jesus is with
beasts in the wilderness. Jesus is the innocent one, but
his innocence does not protect him from conflict. Jesus is
seen to face this testing in the wilderness, the traditional
arena of Satan. Before going public, the resolve of the innocent
one is put to the test.
Mark says that Jesus was tempted by Satan. The word ‘Satan’ in
Hebrew means an adversary and in the Old Testament it was
first used of human opponents – a
demonic spirit opposed to God. When Jesus came to be baptised,
the Father declares him to be his beloved Son and in the
wasteland the Son of God encounters the Adversary of God.
Now Jesus, the Son must decide whether to follow the way of
the Father or the way of Satan.
When Jesus emerges from the wilderness of temptation, he
does not leave temptation forever behind him. Jesus was to
think God’s way and be the spokesman,
not for Satan but for the Father. When he begins his mission,
he tells the people that the time has come to let God rule
in their lives. If this is to happen they must repent and
believe the Good News. What God is doing is Good News. And
the Good News is not only the message of Jesus, but Jesus,
in his person, is himself the Good News. Satan was considered
to be the origin of temptation and of sin. It is therefore
fitting that Jesus, ‘the more powerful one’ who
is filled with the spirit, should confront Satan.
Few of us associate the time of Lent with Good News, especially
if that means facing the adversary within and around us.
At the beginning of Lent the Church takes us into the wilderness
with Jesus, to face that power opposed to the Gospel. None
of us should
have to face the wilderness alone. We are all tempted, we
all sin. All of us need to hear, like Jesus, the voice of
the Father that recognises us as his beloved children. When
we hear that voice, the call to repent is the call to stay
in the company of the One who loves us. The Gospel challenges
us to change our minds about the way we think and
change our ways about habits of sin.
This is a lifetime’s task. Jesus did not overcome Satan
in the wilderness, he achieved that only on the cross of
Calvary. Lent reminds us of our own need to begin again,
adversary within. Pope John Paul II wrote ‘Lent is
a time of profound truth which brings conversion, restores
hope, and by putting everything back in its proper place,
and optimism’. G.K. Chesterton declared that he had
only found one religion – Christianity – that
dared go down to the very depths of self discovery. Lent
is not a long brooding over sin, but rather a journey that
be called our upward descent. It ends
before the cross and the wounded face of Christ where we
see ourselves in the white light of a new beginning.
Archdeacon of Glendalough