Homily for the first Sunday of Lent
Year B - Mk. 1:12-15


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan ; and he was with the wild beasts ; and the angels ministered to him.


"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand ; repent, and believe in the gospel.' "





Homily:


"The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness."


To begin Lent in the year 2000, the Church offers us a short passage from the Gospel of Saint Mark. This passage follows that which recounts the baptism of the Lord: "When Jesus came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.' " (Mk. 1:10-11) The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus: he who is charged with the task of propagating the renown of the Savior rests in fullness upon the man in whom the Word was incarnated!


The first action of this Spirit of Love is to drive Jesus into the desert: "The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness." First, it is necessary for Jesus to be alone. For Jesus is the person, unique in himself, who is at once God and Man. We believe this: it is the Mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. So, since God is Spirit, the first aspect of the humanity of Christ to be highlighted by the action of the Holy Spirit is the spiritual aspect. This means, first of all, that Jesus must be alone: for that which is spiritual is necessarily one in itself.


"And he was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan ; and he was with the wild beasts ; and the angels ministered to him."


Jesus is alone in the desert: Jesus lives for forty days as a spiritual man. Certainly, throughout his life, guided by the Spirit of God, Jesus lived as a spiritual man. But here, the spiritual and unique side of his life is manifested to an even greater extent. So, all alone, without the company of any human being, Jesus, spiritual, will encounter in a new way the spiritual universe which is that of the angels: Jesus was "tempted by Satan", but meanwhile "the angels ministered to him."


In this spiritual universe, Jesus encountered all kinds of spirits: evil and rebellious spirits, but also faithful and obedient ones. It is the same for us in our everyday lives. First of all, we can be tempted by the devil, who will suggest to us a thousand temptations, one more deceitful than the next. During this Lent 2000, let us especially beware the temptations of despair or hopelessness: let us not yield to the temptation not to put all our hope in God, he who can do absolutely anything, since he is the one and only Almighty; but let us also not yield to the temptation not to put all our hope in man, a hope tempered by prudence, certainly, but a hope which must allow us to put our full confidence in this other person - this man or woman - whom Providence has put in our path.


Then, throughout the day, we will often - not to say "always" - be helped by angels. If we do not notice it at all, the fault lies with us: it comes from our inattention to the hand of God in our life. The angels help us very much, more than we imagine. Let us not forget to pray to our guardian angel every day: he is unique because he alone among the angels has received from God the gift of knowing us intimately. Let us also remember the angels who minister to our town, our city, our region, our country. But we must be careful! We ourselves are not angels: we are bodies and souls, tied to the material realities of this world! So, all that we can and should do by ourselves, we must first try to do as well as we can, and then we should turn to our friends, the angels, and entrust to them the care of perfecting our actions or correcting all the blunders we might have made.


"Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.' "


Verses 14 and 15 of the first chapter of Saint Mark is part of the Gospel of the third Sunday of the year. So we have already commented on this passage a few weeks ago. However, at the time of this previous homily, the final words: "repent, and believe in the gospel", had not been studied. This was done deliberately, because now is the appropriate time to study these words.


"Believe in the Gospel." That is, "Believe in the Good News." When we hear news, we believe it: of course! Immediately, almost without hesitation, we believe in all kinds of news: the news in the newspaper, weather forecasts, reports from the stock exchange, and others... Undoubtedly, all this news is good in itself, provided that it is true. But, aren't we too attached to it? Do we have enough faith in God, in the Good News of his Son Jesus?


Faith in God, faith in the Good News, reorients our entire life: it turns our existence towards God, so that creatures, all the things that surround us, which are good in themselves, do not take up too much of our thoughts and our time. For our days are numbered: we must use our time well for the sake of our eternal life! "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand ; repent, and believe in the gospel."


The Good News, of course, is that which we will soon hear, on the day of Easter: Christ has risen! Lent is a time of preparation for the great day of the Resurrection: Providence sets aside for us a favorable time which we can use to our profit by changing our behavior, in order that the angels who ministered to Jesus in the desert might become our close friends and proclaim with us the joy of the risen Jesus!


May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, the Queen of Angels, accompany us all on the way to Easter!