FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT - B
Mark 1: 12-15
Today on the First Sunday of Lent, the Church enters with Jesus into the desert. During this season of Lent, just like Jesus and the Church, we also enter into our personal deserts. As Jesus stayed in the desert for forty days to prepare him for this public ministry, we also begin a journey that will prepare us to embrace Jesus' Paschal Mystery.
In the gospel this Sunday, St. Mark presents Jesus as the New Adam who after defeating Satan inaugurated a paradise-state of the messianic era.
The desert has always been believed to be the domain of the devil being a harsh and unfriendly place. Entering into a state of prayerful retreat with his Father, Jesus, led by the Holy Spirit, defeated Satan in his very own terrain. Being the embodiment of the law and the prophets of the Old Testament, he fasted for forty days the way Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) fasted for forty days. In rabbinic and apocalyptic literature, the number forty refers to a complete period of time which we see throughout the scriptures. Because Jesus was about to embark on a very important mission, that is the spread of the Kingdom of God, he was tempted by the devil not to pursue the mission. St. Mark does not write the three temptations like St. Matthew and St. Luke. In the wilderness, Jesus was with wild beasts which indicates peaceful and friendly coexistence and the arrival of the messianic era. When angels ministered to him, this shows that where the first Adam fell, Jesus as the New Adam is now victorious over Satan hence the restoration of the lost Eden.
The second part of the gospel this Sunday is the inauguration of that messianic era in Galilee. This is seen in the very first spoken words of Jesus in the gospel of Mark: “The time is fulfilled…” Then Jesus proclaimed “The Kingdom of God is close at hand.” That is the gospel, the Good News! It was a proclamation that Jesus Himself was the Kingdom-personified (auto-basilea). Then the condition in the acceptance of that Kingdom is “Repent, and believe the gospel.”
There is an inherent goodness in all of us, a pulsating energy that swells out and seeks for creative expressions which is the manifestation of the divine consciousness that was gifted to us when we were born. Yet at the same time there is also a desert deep within us trying to pull us towards the opposite direction away from goodness. It is called concupiscence. Our heart is a battlefield between good and evil. All of us have been tempted, and will always be tempted; left alone to ourselves, we will not survive. That is why Jesus has entered into the desert of our lives to accompany us in our struggles. He is our friend when we feel alone in the midst of a hostile world; he is our victory in our tragedies.
With Jesus as our rainmaker, expect our deserts to bloom!