Let us return to the picture hanging on the wall. The picture, which drew the three children into the world of Narnia, captures the mystery of the Gospel. St Mark writing the first Gospel has given the listeners access to the person of Jesus Christ. The Gospel account, through the power of the Word of God, brings us face to face with the Son of God. Listening to the Gospel we step into the mystery of Jesus Christ in a sacramental way. Like his first followers, we, the Church, the Body of Christ, are placed within the reach of his voice and his touch. The two millennia are not separating us from his saving ministry. There is no gulf keeping us away from where Jesus ‘is at God’s right hand’.
The Good News proclaimed to us draws us into Jesus’ saving action. We are not distant observers. We are participants like John the Baptist, Mary and Joseph, the Twelve, Mary Magdalen, the thousands who were fed by the Lord in the desert, the paralytics, lepers, the blind, Zacchaeus, Lazarus and many others whom we meet in the Gospel. We are in that action too.
My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Gospel passage for this First Sunday of Lent shows us what happened after Jesus was baptised. St Mark tells us that ‘the Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness.’ The dynamism and urgency of the Spirit is the manifestation of God’s determination to accomplish our salvation through Jesus’ ministry.
In the previous verses we saw how John the Baptist’s preaching triggered repentance in the people. They were coming to the Baptist to confess their sins and to be immersed in the Jordan River. That stream of self-confessed sinners became the moment of Jesus’ first appearance as an adult. The Incarnate God joining the queue of sinners at the Jordan promised by his presence to be with those who seek God’s mercy. He came to be baptised because there were sinners searching for God.
At the beginning of Lent 2018 we are called to examine our situation. Did we receive ashes as a sign of our contrition echoing the contrition of the people who were coming to the Baptist? If we did St Mark draws us, 40-day-Lenten-penitents, into Jesus’ 40-day-fight in the desert. The Satan, who can tempt us successfully when we are away from the Lord, will be cast out by the power of Jesus to whose fight we want to connect the temptations we face.
St Mark doesn’t explain what temptations Jesus underwent in the desert. The Evangelist leaves it to us to name our temptations and to see the Lord overcoming them in us through his profound unity with us poor sinners. The event captured in the Gospel for this Sunday and our own reality are not two separate worlds. In Jesus Christ it is one history of salvation. ‘The time has come’ said Jesus. It is not the time marked by our clocks but it is Kairos – the time of God’s intervention. ‘The kingdom of God is close at hand’ because Jesus Christ is close at hand. The length of that hand is measured by the length of our hand stretched out towards him like that of the drowning Peter.
My fellow believers, repent to Jesus and believe the Good News he is. Return often to the Lenten Gospels which draw us into the saving action which determines our today and our eternity.
Have a good Lent.