Let this be a different Lent

18 February 2024 1ST Sunday Lent, Year B

Listen to reflection

Mark wrote his gospel for persecuted Christians living in Rome. These early believers lived in fear of being thrown to the wild beasts in the public square; their cruel and agonising deaths a source of grotesque ‘entertainment’ for Rome’s citizens!


Interestingly, today’s gospel situates Jesus with wild beasts in the wilderness, where Mark says that he was tempted by Satan. The word satan in Hebrew means an opponent, and in the Old Testament, it typically referred to human opponents. In time, the word also came to be understood as a kind of ‘public prosecutor’, someone who accused people before God.  


Eventually, it came to mean God’s adversary; a demonic spirit opposed to God. So, in the New Testament, Satan was seen as the powerful spirit of evil, engaged in a great tussle against God. By Jesus entering the wilderness, he ‘took on’ Satan on his home ground; an encounter which Jesus clearly won!


But when Jesus leaves the wilderness of temptation, we know it’s an experience that he will encounter again and again at various stages throughout his public life and ministry, including those last hours in the garden and on the Cross.


For example, recall when Jesus tells Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! Because the way you think is not God’s way but man’s.” So, in his preaching, Jesus, who is the way to God, urged his followers to see that the time had come for them to embrace God’s way, to allow God to guide and direct their lives and to allow the Good News to illuminate their minds, hearts and actions. But for that to happen, they need to repent and believe.


For us, too, temptations and evil are part of our lives. Selfishness, greed, dishonesty, jealousy, revenge, resentment, control and power constantly surround and seduce us. But the true value, worth and beauty of life, comes with building and fostering a loving and just society, founded on Jesus the Way to God, and his Good News of truth, integrity, love, compassion, freedom and peace.


That’s why we need this purifying period of Lent every year. If, in recent years, we let it pass us by largely unnoticed, let this year be different. Let it be a time to review our lives, reflect upon our thoughts, words and deeds, and concentrate our efforts more fully on the things of God, and to repent and believe.


At the beginning of Lent, the Church always takes us into the wilderness with Jesus, to confront the powers that are contrary to the gospel. The good news is that we face this lifelong task under the guidance, strength and inspiration of the Holy Spirit and with the powerful nourishment of the Eucharist, and together with the support and encouragement of our fellow pilgrims of faith gathered here with us today                                                                                                                                                                 

David J Hore CSsR

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