LENT I (B)
At once, the Spirit drove him out into the desert…. – Mk 1: 12
There is no time for congratulations or post-baptismal receptions. There
is important work to do & little time in which to do it. So the Spirit
drives Him out into the desert to confront those serious temptations we
all have to struggle with. Mark omits the details, but Luke fills them in
for us: the temptation to satisfy our bodily needs to the exclusion of
God’s demands; the temptation to power; & the temptation to wow the crowds
with flashy miracles that test God’s power.
The baptismal gift of the Spirit, you see, is not a personal privilege but
the foundation for a struggle. While we welcome the Good News, we must not
forget that it coexists with a bad world. Satan might be characterized as
the inner, invisible energy of people, groups, & social & political
structures that inflict suffering on people. This adversary of God
manifests itself through these people, groups & structures by turning them
into “wild beasts” who devour God’s creation. Satan & the demons actively
keep people alienated from God & divided among them selves. Jesus actively
seeks to unite people to God & to one another. These two are
Why is it so difficult to repent & believe the Gospel? Because we harbor
so many other beliefs that do not fit into the Good News. Here are some
examples:“ Health & beauty, money & power are necessary for happiness. I
am identified by my body, personality & possessions. My welfare is more
important than yours. No one can be trusted. They hurt me, so I must get
even.” We are not always aware of these beliefs, but our instinctive &
repetitive responses to certain situations can reveal our hidden beliefs.
Where do these beliefs come from? Some of them come from the mindless
internalization of cultural assumptions. Others come because we have
universalized one of our negative experiences. Instead of allowing it to
be a partial & painful piece of life, we have made it into a norm that
must be obeyed.
Again, we need to recognize that these beliefs have not been imposed on
us. We hold on to them, nurture them by our attention & obedience. We
enshrine them by allowing them to dictate our moods, decisions & actions.
Putting aside these beliefs is an involved lifelong process, & our Lord
sets the standard for dealing with them constructively. He is the one who
is supremely conscious of divine love & human solidarity, & initially
there is a need to have faith in Him without having His consciousness. But
eventually we all need to move away from complete dependency on Jesus &
appropriate His consciousness as our own. St. Paul called it “putting on
We can value ourselves for our beauty, our brains, our achievements, our
ability to make friends, our wit, our charm, or any number of attributes;
but they are all subject to the corrosions & thievery of time. What our
Lenten struggle in the desert is about is learning to value ourselves in a
way that time cannot destroy. Our faith IN Jesus will gradually change
into a faith WITH Jesus. We will
see for ourselves what once we could only see by trusting in Him. This is
not an adventure that can be confined to Lent, for it permeates all of
We tie knots to our failures so tight we can barely
breathe. We know we have to untie those knots, but we do not know how.
Sometimes we untie them slowly; other times it is a swift blow that frees
us. An unlikely Jesus comes out of nowhere & wields the words of freedom.
We are “unparalyzed” & on our feet, knowing that forgiveness & walking are
the same thing. AMEN!