CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 16 June 2018

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First Sunday of Lent: The desert experience

Every year, on the first Sunday of Lent, the gospel is on the temptations of Jesus in the desert. In Mark’s brief narrative of the temptation it is the Spirit who, leads him into the wilderness.
 
If “to tempt” is tantamount to “incite to evil,” the Spirit does not do that. There are temptations that are not incitement to evil. These are the times when one is forced to make choices that are conducive occasions to make faith more solid and unwavering.
 
Those who want to grow, improve, purify, strengthen one’s commitment to God cannot be spared from these tests. Not even Jesus was spared and this brings him close to us, placing him on our side because he too “was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sinning” (Hebrews 4:15).
 
Why does the evangelist place the trial of Jesus in the desert? This was a short period of time that Jesus spent in the desert. Did Mark want to restrict the time when Jesus was tempted, reducing it to the duration of this short experience? It is not possible. The Letter to the Hebrews states that Jesus was human like us with our difficulties,  our  anxieties and doubts that instead accompany us throughout life, except sin.
 
The number forty is the biblical symbolism to indicate a whole generation, with particular reference to the one who crossed the desert, tempted and died in the wilderness. The whole life of Jesus is thus depicted in these forty days in the wilderness. 
 
Who do the wild animals, and the angels represent? Many believe that, speaking of wild animals becoming tame, Mark refers to the heavenly state, when Adam assigned animals their names and lived with them in perfect harmony (Genesis 2:19-20). With the beginning of his public life, Jesus would begin to establish universal peace in the world and new relationships with nature and with animals.
 
In the second part of the passage, Mark offers a synthesis of his message: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; Repent and believe the gospel.” The kingdom of God, for the majority of Israel, pointed to the restoration of the Davidic monarchy and the coming of the messiah to defeat and humiliate the pagan nations. In announcing the nearness of the kingdom of God, Jesus awakened in many, the ancient, dormant hopes; in others distrust, and in some open hostility. 
 
Jesus, instead, envisioned a radically new society. It is no longer domination, but service; not selfish hoarding of goods, the pursuit of self-interest and the race to the top, but the choice to share everything so that no one would be poor; not revenge but forgiveness and unconditional love for the enemy.
 
For those who believe in the Gospel, the new kingdom has already risen (2 Corinthians 5:17).
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications
 
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com/2018/02/02/6th-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-b-february-11-2018/ 
 
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Kandamkulathy Jijo CMF