Genesis 9: 8-15 1 Peter 3: 18-22 Mark 1: 12-15
Experiencing marital problems a Christian couple sought out the advice of a marriage counselor. After numerous sessions, it became quite evident that their problems centered on monetary issues. “You have to quit spending money foolishly” he said. “The next time you feel tempted just forcefully say, “Get behind me Satan!” They both agreed that this would work. Within a week things where getting back to normal in their household. For whenever they got the urge to spend money they would both repeat the words, the counselor told them, “Get behind me Satan.” However, by the third week the woman succumbed to her weakness and bought an extremely expensive evening gown. Her husband was furious “Why didn’t you say, “Get behind me Satan” “I did” replied his wife “But when I did I heard a response!” “Yah, and what was that response?” growled back her husband. “Well, I heard him say, “It looks better from the back than it does from the front!”
What is the most important event in the history of the world? It is the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus’ death and resurrection is the “center of gravity” of all time. It is so important that the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night celebrating Jesus’ resurrection is the greatest celebration of the Church each year. It is so important a celebration that we spend over six weeks preparing for it, this season of Lent.
We will renew our baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night. The season of Lent is to give us time once again to die to our old sinful ways of life and rise out of the tomb with Jesus to a new way of life so that by the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night when we renew our baptismal vows we will also have renewed our lives. So it is a time when we try to control our desires and exercise self-control.
The Gospel today tells us of the time Jesus spent in the desert. All the synoptic gospels agree that Jesus experienced a period of temptation. While Matthew and Luke give graphic descriptions of Jesus’ temptations in the desert at the completion of his forty days of fasting and prayer following his baptism in the River Jordan, Mark just reports that the Spirit led Jesus to the desert and he was tempted by Satan.
The desert was the place where ancient Israel in Moses’ time was tested for 40 years. The 40 days of Jesus’ fasting may also recall the 40-day fasts undertaken by Moses (Deut 9:18) and Elijah (1 Kgs 19:8). The temptations described by Matthew and Luke and hinted at by Mark refer probably to the main temptation Jesus faced during his public life, namely, the temptation to become a political messiah of power and fame according to the Jewish expectation, using his divine power, and to avoid suffering and death.
Jesus’ forty days in the desert not yielding to sin despite temptation, is our model for overcoming sin during Lent. In the desert Jesus was tempted by Satan to totally wreck his Father’s plan. He inspires us to die to ourselves so that the Father’s plan can be accomplished. That is why the Sacrament of Reconciliation is an important part of Lent because as we die to ourselves we realize that we need to come before the Lord confessing the times when we didn’t die to self in order to rise to new life with him.
Throughout the centuries, to help us die to ourselves and rise to new life with Jesus during Lent, the Church proposes that we consider taking on ourselves three things during Lent: praying more, fasting from something, and helping the poor.
May this Lent be a time of special grace for each of us. The highpoint of our year is our celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week and during the next six weeks we also want to prepare for that celebration by dying to sinful ways and rising to new life with Jesus.