Gospel –Mark 1: 12 – 15
The tone for Lent was set on Ash Wednesday when we heard the call to pray, fast and give alms. The First Sunday of Lent continues this as it addresses temptation, prayer and fasting through one of the synoptic Gospels. This year we hear the Gospel of Mark and while his Gospel does not mention prayer and fasting it is generally understood from Matthey and Luke that this is what Jesus was doing in the desert. Mark’s account is also different in that he says, “the spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,” while Matthew and Luke say Jesus was “led” to the desert by the Spirit. With Mark it seems that the point is being made that the Spirit who appeared in the form of the dove at Jesus’ baptism now drives him to the desert where he will face temptation. It is not a description of a reluctant Jesus who must be pushed to go about his mission, rather it dramatizes Jesus as one who is driven to confront satan and evil so as to begin his ministry. While being “led by the Spirit” is a nicer and a more common phrase the description of Jesus being “driven” provides those of us who are at times reluctant to embrace change a model of how we at times need to be “driven” by the Spirit. We might express a desire to grow in holiness and even feel compelled to make radical changes in our life, but there tends to be reluctance to truly embrace the challenges and changes that growing in holiness involves. For us being “driven” by the Spirit is more about getting pushed beyond our comfort zones, than just beginning something new.
As we begin Lent let us not resist the Spirit as it drives us to deeper holiness. Let us take on prayer, fasting and almsgiving with a renewed vigor. Our Lenten prayer hopefully will lead us closer in our relationship with the Lord to a deeper realization that, like any good relationship, our relationship with the Lord calls for daily and honest conversation that will lead us to talk to God not only about what we need, but also bring the needs of others to him. Our Lenten fasting will lead us to reflect on how much we eat on a normal day. Do we consume more than we really need? May we become more aware of those who don’t have the luxury of food that we most likely have, and act in concrete ways to alieve the hunger that is around us. Our almsgiving will be more than just offering the extra to the needy, but will truly be sacrificial in our offering that involves truly doing without something we want.
As we move through Lent we need to be mindful of the Gospel of Ash Wednesday and carry within us the desire and the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Doing all of these from our desire to repent of our sins and grow in holiness. It seems that often when people work at growing in their relationship with the Lord satan steps into our lives to try to pull us away from God. We face temptation similar to Jesus in the desert. Temptations to think that we are already doing enough, or others are not worthy of our help, or it will make little difference. Do not give into these temptations, but rather allow the spirit to drive us through them so as to grow in holiness. May we grow in holiness throughout this Lent and continue to hold on to this gift long after the end of Lent.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.
Image: Brother Placid Sellers, O.S.B.