First Sunday of Lent
February 18, 2018
Mark’s report of the “Temptation in the Desert” is the shortest of the 3 versions that appear in the Gospels. While Matt. and Luke offer details of the encounter between Jesus and evil, Mark simply says that He was: tempted by Satan. This brevity and simplicity somehow add power to key elements of the story that might otherwise not be given proper attention or weight.
First of all, consider how Jesus came to find Himself in the wilderness, among wild beast. The Spirit DROVE Jesus!
Yes! That’s correct. THE SPIRIT drove Jesus!
What a striking thought. Those few words enable us to almost feel the Holy Spirit propelling Jesus through time and space to engage the enemy without further delay. Salvation is an urgent matter. Certain of a final victory over sin and death, The Holy Spirit urges The Lord forward, to engage in battle without delay.
So then, why would we pray: Lead US NOT into temptation? Could it be that we aren’t as certain of a favorable outcome?
If there was “a rush” to get there, things seemed to have slowed way down once Jesus arrived in the desert. This was a 40 day war, not a swift victory. Hopefully you have made the connection between our Old Testament Reading from Genesis and our Gospel on this First Sunday of Lent. 40 days happen to be the exact duration of the torrential rain that wiped out every living thing on earth: man and cattle, the creeping things and birds of the air. Everything on dry land with the faintest breathe of life in its nostrils died. Only Noah and those with him on the ark were left.
Maybe we are being told that there is no quick fix when it comes to the war against evil. Purification takes time. Conversion is typically a long, drawn out process, which for most takes an entire life time.
And so now we look to our 2nd Reading to bring things all together. At 1Peter 3:18-22 we are given the comforting news that God patiently waits. With this reassurance, we follow the Holy Spirit into the 40 Days of Lent 2018. If we feel uncertain of the outcome of our personal confrontation with those things that tempt us, the 2nd Reading reminds us that Jesus has already defeated Satan. Granted, evil is still very much a part of this world and temptations of every kind, are very much a part of our day to day lives. But through Jesus’s 40 day war, sin has been permanently weakened. More importantly, through our Baptisms, we have been permanently strengthened. So, we should engage the “enemy within” totally confident of victory. Do you feel the driving force of the Holy Spirit? Don’t resist! Salvation is an urgent matter.