Mark 1: 12-15
God’s Kingdom Is Here
At once, this same Spirit pushed Jesus out into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights he was tested by Satan. Wild animals were his companions, and angels took care of him.
After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee preaching the Message of God: “Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message.”
Every Lent is a new beginning! Sometimes new beginnings are welcome, at other times, they may not be welcome at all. We Catholics should welcome Lent as a time to take a fresh look at our faith, although we know from previous Lents, that it can be a busy time in our own churches and there are all the extra things we want to offer to God. We should ask ourselves what Lent is really about. It is a time of repentance and spiritual preparation. Are we trying to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays? Are we making time for extra prayers and attending extra events in our churches during Lent? Are we being tempted not to do these things? Think of Jesus, who was in the desert for forty days not eating, or drinking and being tempted all the time by Satan. He would have been utterly exhausted mentally, spiritually and physically. Yet, He never gave into temptation although Satan tried his very best to entice Him to do so. Take strength from Jesus and keep going steadily throughout Lent. Take time to reflect on what Lent is truly about.
The focus of Lent is not on what we give up, but what we are being given and on what we will give to God and to others. It is time to focus our minds on the self-giving love of Jesus, which we will be celebrating in Holy Week. We allow ourselves believe in this love. Often it is difficult to believe in the tender love of God. This love that conquers everything else in the world is given with the mercy and compassion that only God can give.
‘Repent, and believe in the gospel’ – we heard these words a few days ago, on Ash Wednesday, when the priest made the sign of the cross on our foreheads with ashes. This is meaningful for us all, because we want to repent and change what is not right in our lives. We want to try to make good choices of how we live our lives as true believers in God. So we hear once again ‘Repent, and believe in the gospel’. Take time to reflect on these words and pray that we shall be able to take responsibility for the choices we make in our lives. Take time to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent, to make a good Confession.
The Gospel for today tells of Jesus’ retreat and temptation in the desert and the beginning of his preaching about God’s good news. But Jesus was put to the test by Satan and although he was tempted to eat and drink when he had been fasting for forty days, he did not give in to Satan. He overcame this time of hard testing and did not give in to temptation.
What is temptation? Temptation is anything that inclines a person to commit sin. We can at times be tempted by others to do something wrong, something that is a sin or that will lead to us sinning. It is enticement to evil, seduction to sin and death. Though temptation itself is not a sin, it is more than a trial or test, because it can lead us to sin and death. It can become a real test of willpower. Will we be strong enough not to give into temptation? We are not strong enough on our own to resist sin. We need the help of God to overcome temptation. Jesus Himself knows exactly how it feels to be tempted as He became man and was tempted by Satan. He can help us to resist temptation if we ask for His help. If we put our trust in Jesus, our faith becomes stronger and this will help us resist temptation.
Think of a small child who loves chocolate biscuits. He knows the biscuit barrel is full of nice biscuits as he saw his mother fill it up. He was told he could not have a biscuit until after he had his lunch. The biscuit barrel was sitting on the sideboard tempting him. He went over to it and opened the lid and looked in. Then he closed it again. Mum had said he could have one after lunch. He went back for a second look. He could smell the chocolate. He closed the lid again and went to finish a drawing of a house that he was making for Mum. He could not concentrate on his drawing. He went back to the biscuit barrel and looked in again. It was full of lovely biscuits. Mum would not notice if one was missing. She had not counted them. He took a biscuit out and ate it. Then he had another one. There were so many there that Mum would not notice that any had been taken.
After lunch was finished Mum made coffee for herself and poured out juice for the little boy. She put the biscuit barrel on the table, opened the lid and looked inside. She noticed there were biscuits missing. She asked her small son if he had taken any. The child said no. But his mother knew he had done so. The little boy did eventually tell his mum what he had done. She forgave him but, he was not allowed any biscuits that day and he had to apologise for taking a biscuit when he had been told not to and for telling a lie. Temptation had led to sin. One sin had led to another sin. This is what temptation does.
“Man is never wholly free from temptation… but with patience and true humility we become stronger than any enemy” (Pope Benedict XVI). Once we enter into, give in to and submit to temptation, we are already committing sin which will bring us alienation, corruption, death and ultimately hell where Satan reigns and where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth because of it unquenchable fire. Yes hell does exist!
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. You and I are human beings and therefore we have been tempted by the devil many times. But even Jesus was tempted by him. But He did not fall into sin! We need to know that God is bigger than any of our sins, wars, violence and hatred. God wants his kingdom to come now. Lent is our time of saying ‘yes’ to a partnership with God in saving the world from the effects of evil and sin. You are being called by God. Will you say YES to Him.
Pope Francis warns us “Temptation begins with a tranquil air and grows. It grows and it grows and if one does not stop it, it fills everything. Temptation is contagious and it closes us in an environment where you can’t get out easily. At times of temptation we don’t hear the Word of God. Temptation closes us in, takes away our ability to see ahead, it closes every horizon and in this way it leads us to sin”. “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you”, Psalm 119:11 Words to reflect upon.
This Lent, spend more time in prayer each day, read the gospel every day, do something good for somebody every day. It may be something as simple as holding a door open for somebody, smiling at a stranger, phoning somebody you have not spoken to for a long time, helping somebody without being asked to. Give some time to God by serving others. This is the way to share in the saving love of God. Offer up many little thing to God, the tiredness you feel, the workload you find heavy, the angry words somebody shouted at you, be nice to somebody you do not like very much. Doing this you might actually find that you really like them. Maybe we can ask what our Lent does for others rather than just what we are doing for Lent. It is a time of renewal, which should show itself in love, forgiveness and care of others in our lives. ‘Repent, and believe in the gospel’.
Fr Roman Szczypa SDB
Prayer against temptation
Beloved Jesus Christ: my Lord, my King, my Saviour, my God.
You who are God, but also were man,
who was tempted by the devil as any other human being,
please give me the strength to reject sin and the grace to remain spotless as you are.
Reign in my heart with your Power, Wisdom, Love , Peace , Grace, Purity, Mercy, Glory and Joy.
Lord I pray that not only will you enable me to recognise and resist temptation, but may I grow in grace and in the knowledge of You
as I seek to carry out Your will for my life in the power of the Spirit,
in Jesus name I pray.