by: Fr. Scott Karnik
First Sunday in Lent Homily (B) Sunday, February 18, 2018:
This is St. Mark’s version of Jesus’s Temptation in the Desert. St. Mark’s version is concise. The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into the desert. Satan tempts and tests Jesus in the desert during His forty day fast. Mark writes simply that Jesus has withstood Satan’s tests and is ready to begin His brief and saving life of ministry and service to God and mankind.
The desert or wilderness is a place of decision. Mark writes that after this, Jesus will announce the good news and He will select His disciples. St. Mark writes that the good news begins with Jesus’s first words: “This is the time of fulfillment.” It is in Jesus Christ that God’s reign of power has begun. It exists today. God reigns, not Satan. Salvation reigns, not sin. It is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who is God’s Good News in person. It is Jesus who connects God’s Good News to an equally important call for a radical response of repentance on our part. St. Mark says that God’s own power is available to each and every one of us who sincerely receive Jesus and His Gospel Way of Love.
The Spirit that led Jesus out into the desert protected Him while He was there. St. Mark tells the readers of his gospel that the same Spirit is available to us, to protect us, and to strengthen us in our weakness. Jesus remained in peace and communion with God in the desert during His Forty Days. Satan’s efforts to tempt Jesus and make Him turn away from God His Father failed. That is an important point. Satan failed. Sin failed. Pride failed. Disobedience failed. Grace won. Holiness won. Virtue won. They won because God’s grace and Jesus’s salvation are always more powerful. They are also always faithfully available to us to reach out to. Israel was tempted in the desert and failed. It didn’t have to. Jesus has broken Satan’s power by remaining united with God His Father, by remaining filled with the Holy Spirit, and by remaining faithful to His mission of salvation.