Mark is a minimalist. He can tell a powerful story in very few words. In today’s three verses he will show us what Jesus will do and how we should respond. He will also hint as to why we should do it.
The wilderness is a place of revelation. God not only reveals himself to his people but they – we – reveal ourselves in return to Him. It is thus is a place of testing. The faith of the Israelites was tested for 40 days when Moses was on Mt Sinai and indeed for 40 years after their failure. The generation that left the captivity of Egypt were given the opportunity for freedom, but they rejected it and entered a long period of training in the school of the desert.
Jesus is now also tested. Mark is very clear that it is by Satan. Originally, Satan was seen as an official in the heavenly court. He tested creatures to see if they were loyal to the LORD. For Mark, however, he is the prince of daemons, invisible spirits who oppose God’s plan. Mark, of all the gospel writers, most clearly presents Jesus as confronting Satan and destroying his hold on humanity. We have already seen Jesus’ exorcisms and in several key moments in the Gospel and he will tell us very clearly how Satan was defeated. We see today the first defeat. Mark is not interested in Satan’s strategies or deceptions, only that Jesus was stronger and prevailed over him. We know that he succeeded because he escaped alive. Mark emphasizes that Jesus was with the wild beasts. They are often associated with Satan, yet Jesus is unharmed. We remember that Satan appeared to Adam and Eve in the garden as a serpent. They did not pass the test and the animals with whom they lived in peace in the garden became wild and turned against them. But always there was the promise that the LORD would bring all things back to harmony again. That Jesus lived in peace with the wild animals is the first sign of this harmony would come with what Jesus calls the Kingdom. Jesus’ ministry would be a re-creation of the world. Jesus is in the desert because the Spirit literally drove him there. This is the same spirit who appeared as a great wind at the beginning of creation. It is in the power of the spirit that re-creation begins. When Adam and Eve are cast out of the garden angels are stationed outside to keep the gates locked. Now angels are dispatched to help Jesus open them again.Continue reading “1st Sunday of Lent – Homily (Fr. Smith)”