From The American Bible Society:
February 26, 2012
First Sunday of Lent
THE KINGDOM OF GOD IS NEAR! BELIEVE THE GOOD NEWS!
Mark 1:12-15 (Good News Translation)12 At once the Spirit made him go into the desert, 13 where he stayed forty days, being tempted by Satan. Wild animals were there also, but angels came and helped him. 14After John had been put in prison, Jesus went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God. 15 “The right time has come,” he said, “and the Kingdom of God is near! Turn away from your sins and believe the Good News!”
After a few Sundays of Ordinary Time, last Wednesday we started Lent, a penitential period which will lead us to Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. This first stretch of our liturgical route links directly with the previous Sundays. We have seen Jesus in Galilee, receiving John’s baptism and beginning his ministry. In today’s Gospel, Mark sums up in just four verses three different elements, all of them essential to understand Jesus’ mission: his baptism, temptations and preaching of the “Good News of the Kingdom of God.” Each of those elements can be related to Jesus, as a feature to describe his person and his mission. As we saw some weeks ago, Jesus’ baptism was a two-fold event in his life. On the one hand, it meant that he assumed and shared our human condition; he even took upon himself the appearance of a sinful man looking for the cleansing of his faults through John’s baptism of repentance. At the same time, the Spirit of God coming down on him and the words proclaiming him as the “loved Son” underlined his divine nature. The same Spirit drove him into the desert to be tempted by Satan, just as any other man can be subjected to the lures and illusions of sin. There is a contrast between the account of Mark’s Gospel and that of the other two Synoptic stories, in the sense that Mark does not give any details about Jesus’ temptations, nor does he tell us how Jesus resisted them. The only image the Evangelist offers to describe how Jesus opposed and overcame Satan is that, just as Daniel (6:1-28) in the pit of lions, he was in the sole company of wild animals and helping angels. As for the third element, Mark ends this section with the mission entrusted to Jesus by the Father: “he went to Galilee and preached the Good News from God.” As Jesus himself will say about his preaching just a few verses later (Mark 1:38), “that is why I came.” In fact, all three dimensions can also be applied to us humans, as far as the process of our own salvation is concerned. In baptism (in our case, a baptism of cleansing, for we are sinners), through faith we also receive the gift of becoming “children of God.” We can also find here a link with the symbolic dimension of baptism and its relation to the flood: just as from the destruction by the waters a new world was born and a covenant was established…so through our dying with Christ in the waters of baptism we are born to a new life and enter into the Kingdom and the New Covenant in his blood. If, like Jesus, we believe that man must only serve the Lord, and that it is through his Word that we can find true life, then we will also overcome temptation. Finally, as the Father sent Jesus to the world to announce the Good News of the Kingdom, so he sends us to offer the forgiveness of sins to the world (John 20:19-23). In that threefold dimension of today’s Gospel, then, we can find the lines to follow in our present Lenten observance: renewal of our baptismal promises in the vigil of Easter; struggle against sin through our Lenten ascetic practice of fasting and penance; and, finally, acceptance and announcement of the Good News.
As we saw, today’s Gospel shows three dimensions in Jesus’ life, and also in the life we share with him. Three hints, then, to reflect about our response to our Christian vocation: Tossed as we are by so many forces around us (an unstable economy, a society which seems to have become utterly pagan, overwhelming propaganda in every realm of life…), are we aware of our dignity as Christians, beloved children of God? Which are the real temptations to which we are subjected? Let us admit that they are deeper than those we normally accept. Perhaps greed, or our need for acceptance, or our desire of power, limited as it may be. Do we take seriously that we, too, “have come to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom”?
Jesus’ temptations concern mainly his future, his response to his calling as the Messiah of Israel. One simple prayer today: for those who face their own future in response to God’s calling, that they may not feel alone in their inner deserts but find light to make the right decision.
For Roman Catholics, Lent is a time of “penance.” Its traditional signs were prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Forget your routine, read Isaiah 58:1-12, and then see in which ways you can make a real, “biblical” penance in the following weeks.
Reflections written by Rev. Fr. Mariano Perrón Director of Inter-Religious Affairs Archdiocese of Madrid, Spain