and Homily Notes
by Archbishop Joe Harris C.S.Sp.
Gospel Mk 1:12-15
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
In 1993, after I was appointed rector of the regional seminary at Mt. St. Benedict, I felt an irresistible urge, in fact the need to visit three shrines in Europe, Lourdes, Fatima, and Assisi. I felt the need to go to these places in person to ask the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Francis to help me overcome my fears and to assist me in the very important task that I was being asked to do; i.e., to help the seminarians
in their discernment process as they sought to discover whether or not they were called to the priesthood. I knew it was not going to be easy and so I sought all the help I could get.
In the Gospel passage given to us for our meditation this weekend, the same scenario is being played out. We are told that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert; the phrase “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert tells us that Jesus had no choice he had to go. Jesus had to go into the desert, the place of silence par excellence so that he could reflect on what had happened to him and what it would mean for his life. Jesus spent forty days in the
desert and then he is tempted by Satan. We are not told by St. Mark what these temptations were but we can take it for granted that these temptations were attempts by Satan to wean Jesus away from the task which the Father had asked of him. Jesus rejects the enticements of Satan and gives himself over to the work of preaching the gospel. We are told that “after John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” In a very true way Jesus underwent his own Lent and after forty days of introspection and reflection Jesus rejected Satan and committed himself to what God was asking of him.
The experience of Jesus, as related in this Gospel passage has to be reproduced in our lives. The Church has given us these forty days of Lent. We can use them as Jesus used the forty days in the desert which were given to him or we can waste them. We will in fact waste them if the forty days of Lent are not used in such a way that at the end of Lent we will truly renounce Satan and all his works and all his empty promises and commit ourselves to working for God’s Kingdom in the way that God asks of us, i.e., by being faithful to our particular vocations. If I am a priest therefore I examine myself on the way in which I have fulfil my priestly duties, if I am an agriculturalist, on my care
for the earth and the way in which I seek to produce its fruits; if I am a teacher in the way in which I help my students to learn and discover the truth; if I am a public servant, on the way in which I seek to serve and make this land a better place.
My dear friends, all of us have lived many Lents but our observance of lent has often enough not brought any great change to our lives. We must make this Lent different, not only because we are growing older and getting closer to the day when God will call us to himself. Let us make this Lent special, seeking to become what God has called us to be, not only for ourselves but for this land
which we inhabit for this land will become better in the measure that we fulfil the particular vocations to which we have been called.
All powerful and ever-loving God, as we begin this period of Lent, help us your people to understand the need for personal introspection so that we see ourselves as we truly are. Give us the courage we pray to correct in our lives what needs to be corrected and to reinforce the good which your grace has worked in our lives. We ask this through the intercession
of Mary, our Mother and Jesus, your Son. Amen