FEBRUARY 21, 2021. FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT
GOSPEL: Mark: 1, 12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested,
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:
"This is the time of fulfilment.
The kingdom of God is at hand.
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
The Gospel of the Lord: Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ
SHORTER HOMILY . . . The first Sunday of Lent presents us with Jesus’ time in the desert before he begins his ministry. Mark’s version is very dense and concise compared to the other Gospels. In fact, he mentions just four elements of these forty days: it is the Holy Spirit who drives Christ into the desert; he is tempted by Satan; he is in the company of the wild animals; and he is ministered to by the angels. The reference to the wild animals recalls the fact that the harmony between humanity and the animals was disrupted by the Fall. The mention of the angels serving him is also interesting because service is the sign of the new life of the redemption. After the time in the desert, John is arrested and Jesus begins to preach the Good News of the Kingdom. The first reading recounts the covenant between God and Noah which comes after the purification of the flood. Similarly, before we can arrive at the proclamation of the Good News, it is necessary to go through purification. We recall also that Jesus has just spent thirty years in silence before he begins preaching! In our culture of touch-button ordering and mindless channel-switching, we expect everything to happen immediately. But if something is to be authentic, then it needs a foundation! The preaching of the Gospel requires that the preacher be someone who has lived that same Gospel in his life. He must have gone through a period of purification in which that very word of God has formed him. Just as the Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, so the Holy Spirit brings us to these bitter and difficult trials. Salvation must be deep, not superficial. We need Lent! We need to pass through the desert in order to arrive at Easter. Using the weapons of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, we can be transported to things that are more important, more significant, more beautiful. If our life is simply gratification and security, then we will never learn to love truly. We need the defects of those around us to challenge us to move out of ourselves, to purify us and thus become children of God by grace. We need Lent! We cannot do without it. The Good News is not to be understood in an intellectual sense; rather it must be lived and experienced. It must challenge us. This time of Lent is a time of simplicity and truth, a blessed and sacred opportunity for each one of us.