I Rea - Gen 9:8-15
II Rea - 1 Pet 3: 18-22
Gos – Mk 1:12-15
The readings on the first Sunday of Lent invite us to a desert experience. In the Bible, the desert has always been the place where people have encountered God – discovering themselves, God’s will and their true potential. The desert is the place where people felt close to God and away from the distractions of the world. It seems necessary then that those whom God calls including God’s own Son must be purified by spending their time in the desert.
The forty days symbolize the temptation of Israel in the wilderness for forty years, Moses’s experience in the desert, and Elijah’s flight. During that time in the desert Jesus was tested by the Evil One. Mark does not tell us how he was tested but Matthew and Luke do. Fasting and praying for 40 days and nights, Jesus was able to clearly distinguish between the voice of God and the voice of evil, and better understand His mission.
They were the temptations to be unfaithful to God’s call. Faced with such challenges, each time Jesus said a firm 'Yes' to his Father's way, even when it came to hand over his own life. Jesus did not allow himself to be subdued by Satan.
“Why was Jesus tempted by the devil?
St Mark beautifully in one line… illustrates the reality of the Person of Jesus Christ: Fully Man and Fully God. Jesus “was with the wild beasts” to tell that He was fully Man! He had, “the angels who waited on him” to tell that He was fully God!
Every human being has experienced the lure of evil. One would not really be human if one had never had any contact whatsoever with the attractiveness of sin. That’s why Jesus went off to the desert: to give the devil his chance, to experience the appeal of evil that infects every human being. The temptations of Jesus were not to see if He would sin, but to prove, He couldn’t! He is indeed the Sinless One, who underwent temptations in order to identify Himself with all sinners!
Yes, in Jesus, we have God, who understands all our struggles and sufferings, because He Himself went through hardships, who empathizes with us in all our temptations and trials, because He Himself was tempted!
Why does the Church give us the narrative of the temptation of Jesus every year on the First Sunday of Lent?
One would think that there might be some other aspect of Jesus’ life that would be more appropriate for the beginning of the penitential season – perhaps Jesus’ baptism, or his teaching about the need for loving our neighbour? No, what the Church is teaching us here is that, during Lent, we are supposed to do the same thing Jesus did; that is, we are supposed to go apart from our ordinary life and face up to the evil that threatens us. We are supposed to acknowledge that the devil is after us and that we need to respond and react to the devil’s overtures.
We are all among the wild beasts like Jesus was in the wilderness. During Lent the Church invites us to live with Jesus in his desert experience, to undergo trial with him and to come out of the desert at the end, ready to share a time of fulfilment with him in the kingdom of God
When you are surrounded by the “beasts of temptations” we need to have recourse to the angels of holiness to overcome them. When you are pounced upon by the “beasts of enticements and allurement “seek the intercession and help of the angels to conquer and overpower them!
St. Montfort says in his Friends of the Cross no: 57, “when you are assailed by temptation and other crosses, arm yourself with the shield, breastplate, helmet and two-edged sword, which is the remembrance of Christ crucified’. In other words, he says when you face temptations, put on the armour of Christ (Eph 6:11)
The Season of Lent is given to all of us as a time to seriously consider in overcoming our sins, our faults, our bad actions, our wrong relationships and cooperate with the Grace of God in order to grow in holiness! The presence of sin is serious and our Blessed Lord is strongly exhorting all of us to say a “FIRM NO TO SIN” and a “FAITHFUL YES TO JESUS!”
Fr. Nashwin SMM