Meditations for February are by Bishop Jason Gordon, Bishop of Bridgetown and Kingstown
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’
READING THE TEXT
The text has two parts. The first about the wilderness and being tempted; the second is about the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. It is texts like this one that lead scholars to believe that Mark was the first of the Gospels to be written. Mark does not give us the three temptations, only the fact that Jesus was tempted. It is difficult to believe that Mark left out the temptations, the beatitudes, the Our Father and many other classic texts. It is easier to believe that he wrote first and thus most briefly. Others writing after with his text in hand would have filled in stories that they would have heard along the way.
Have you ever come to a dry and arid place in your spiritual journey? Not just for a day or week but for a period of time? Many times when we come to such a place we feel as if God has abandoned us. Here the text says: “The spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness”. The wilderness for Jesus was not a haphazard place that he arrived at. He arrived there by the action of the Spirit. This is important.
The wilderness is a stage of the spiritual journey. It is where we go in preparation for ministry. It is a lonely and dry place filled with temptation. Mark does not tell us the nature of the temptation only the duration and the company. Jesus was tempted by Satan. Here the role of evil is brought into the Gospel very early. It is not just temptation in a generic sense or from human weakness; there is cosmic focus to evil, the tradition calls it Satan, the prince of evil. There is good and there is evil in this world. We must all make choices which we will follow.
It is important that Jesus faced temptation, because he is like us in all things but sin. He shows us that temptation is not all powerful. We can choose God in the face of it. This is important. I sometimes hear people speak as if there is a good God and a bad God that are equal and opposite. This is an ancient heresy. There is God. Evil is on a much lower level of reality, it is not equal by any means. It exists, it forces choice, and it tests where our commitment lies. Satan is a liar, he cannot be trusted. Anything he offers involves a lie that will not give what is promised. It always leads to death and to diminishment.
REPENT AND BELIEVE
During our forty days of Lent we are offered the opportunity to choose again. This is an offering from the Spirit. During lent as we are tempted, the Angels will minister to us-the good messengers from God. This year the Holy Father has alerted us to an insidious temptation that is weakening the Christian and the church-The globalisation of indifference. Our hearts are becoming callous to the suffering of those on the margins. We no longer feel the plight of the poor. This is evil and temptation in our day.
Our traditional practice for lent is to give up something. I ask that we give up indifference by committing to prayer, fasting and almsgiving on behalf of suffering humanity. Let us direct our spiritual practice this lent out towards suffering in our family, our nation and the world. Let us resist the temptation to globalised indifference. Find someone within your reach and practice mercy. Pray for them, fast asking God’s grace upon them and if necessary give alms to alleviate their suffering.
Our spiritual practice during lent should take us out of ourselves. Sin is turning in on ourselves. Repentance is turning towards God and the poor and away from indifference towards those in need. As we read the scriptures for lent let us remember the poor, let us turn our hearts in the direction of God. Let us believe the Good News.
Lord, thanks for the times you have led me into the wilderness to speak to my heart. Help me this lent to listen to your still voice calling me out of myself to become mercy for others. Teach me to love with a compassionate heart. Help me face the temptation of indifference and conquer it through love. Through this time of lent teach me to have a heart like yours, open to all, compassionate to all, loving all. Teach me to love as you love. Amen.