1st Sunday of Lent (B)

Gospel Mk 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 fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Ebanjelioa Markos 1: 12-15

12 Berehala, Espirituak basamortura bultzatu zuen Jesus. 13 Berrogei egunez egon zen basamortuan, Satanasek tentatzen zuela. Basabereekin bizi zen eta aingeruak zituen zerbitzari. 14 Joan Bataiatzailea kartzelan sartu eta gero, Jesus Galileara etorri zen eta Jainkoaren berri ona hots egiten zuen. 15 Honela zioen: «Betea da garaia, eta gainean duzue Jainkoaren erregetza. Bihozberri zaitezte eta sinetsi berri ona».

The Desert, the Place of the Encounter with God

Mark presents the scene of Jesus in the desert as a summary of his life. He also offers some clues about how to understand it. According to the evangelist, “the Spirit pushed Jesus into the desert.” It is not his personal initiative. The Spirit of God leads him into the wilderness. Jesus’ life is not meant to be a bed of easy success; rather, a time of tests, insecurity and threats await him.

However, the “desert” is at the same time, the best place to listen to the voice of God in silence and solitude. It is a place to return, in times of crisis, in order to open to the Lord new paths in the hearts of the people. Such was the way of thinking in the times of Jesus.

In the desert, Jesus “is tempted by Satan.” Mark says nothing about the content of the temptations. He only affirms that they come from “Satan,” the enemy seeking the ruin and degradation of human dignity, by destroying God’s plan. This enemy, will no longer appear throughout the Gospel of Mark. However, Jesus sees him, acting through all those people and events that want to divert HIM from the mission given to HIM by God, including Peter.

The short story ends with two images in sharp contrast: Jesus lives among wild beasts, “but” the angels serve him. The “beasts,” the most violent beings of all the creatures in the entire creation, evoke the challenges, which always threaten Jesus and his project: the realization of the Kingdom of God. The “angels,” on the other hand, representing the good beings of creation, evoke the closeness of God that blesses, maintains and defends Jesus and his mission.

Christianity seems to be going through challenging times. Following some sociological studies, we speak of crisis, secularism, and modernity’s rejection of God… If we read these signs of times with the eyes of faith, we may have to ask ourselves the following question: Is it not God, the One pushing us back into the “desert”? Maybe we needed this experience of dejection to free ourselves from pride, worldliness, thirst of power, vanity and triumphalism, which we have accumulated for so many centuries? Surely, we would never have chosen the path into the desert by our own free will!

This desert experience, which will certainly grow in the coming years, needs to be accepted as an unexpected grace and purification time for which we have to thank God. God will continue caring for His project, in spite of our miseries and shortcomings. He only asks from us that we reject lucidly all temptations, which may prevent us from converting ourselves to Jesus Christ.