Following Jesus into the desert
This is the time of fulfilment.
The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel.
My dear brothers and sisters, Gospel of today emphasizes the need why we must repent.
As we begin this new season of Lent, we are called to a time of personal reflection and examination. After Jesus was baptized by John, He was immediately led by the Spirit into the desert. He fasted 40 days while in solitude.
The reading from the Gospel According to Mark today tells us the story of how Jesus was driven by the Holy Spirit of God into the wilderness - where we are told Jesus was with the wild beasts - and how he was tempted there - and the angels waited on him. It is interesting that Jesus began His ministry by going into the desert for 40 days. Here is the very Son of Almighty God, going into the desert alone, seeking the Father’s council. Returning from the wilderness, where Jesus had been fasting and in the end tempted by the devil and was able to overcome all those temptations, Jesus gives us his own example of putting up a good fight. We too can face our temptations and put up a good fight. Let us follow Jesus into the desert, find time to get away, seeking council with Father God. God does send each of us, as he sent Jesus - into the wilderness. There our character is tested and purified.
Hence, at the beginning of each Lenten Season, we are called to renew our response to God's covenant with us, the promise that God made with each of us at Baptism. Lenten Season, the time has come for us to make a decisive turn around, and to enter into right relationship with God. The idea of repentance in the Old Testament is summed up in the Greek term "metanoia", a turning way from sin and returning to right action. "This is the time of fulfilment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel".
The wilderness experience is an important experience in our lives. It teaches us lessons that can be applied in every area of our lives. None of us can long survive in the wilderness if we do not know where we are and where we are going.
In the spiritual wilderness to which God leads us all - we too have a compass, a means of knowing what direction in which we should walk. Like the compass on the knife - it can save our lives when we use it . That compass is the Word of God. "This is the time of fulfilment. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel".
A time of fulfilment, a time of spiritual surgery, a time to turn around; a time to change, a time to be renewed by Christ, as members of the Kingdom of God, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.
For this reason, today being the first Sunday of Lent, the Church is ushering us into a wonderful season of repentance. The season of lent is a time for us to repent and believe in the gospel. The gospel emphasizes love, charity, humility, penance, etc and we must practice them this season and beyond. This period is going to prepare us for the re-enactment of the best thing that has happened in the history of salvation which is the death and resurrection of Christ. Do not be frightened with the temptations of the devil, be determined and strong and we will see the angels assisting us just as they assisted Jesus in the gospel reading. Now let us follow Jesus into the desert. Amen.
Fr. Joseph Pham Quoc Van, O.P.