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SUNDAY OF LENT (18th
reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
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
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
the wild 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
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,
facing the 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, brings peace 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
could 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
Archdeacon of Glendalough