GOSPEL REFLECTION: First Sunday of Lent (B)
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: Mark 1:12-15
After Jesus was baptized, the Spirit drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan: and he was with the wild beasts, and the Angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Last Wednesday, the Season of Lent has begun starting with the celebration of Ash Wednesday. Thus my personal spiritual journey has officially commenced. I always make the season of Lent an opportunity to have a forty day self-directed personal retreat. In the same manner that it should also be a season for everyone to take extra steps for some spiritual growth.The ashes that were imposed on our forehead is sending us a strong message i.e. that this time we really mean business. It is time for us once again to show some seriousness in our spiritual life. Thus we are being called to a sincere repentance. “Turn away from sin and believe in the Gospel.” The message of Ash Wednesday is tough since we are being reminded also of our mortal nature.”Remember, man, you are dust, and unto dust, you shall return.” It means to tell us that” One day we shall die.” And therefore there is a need to prepare for the inevitable. We are but pilgrims here on earth. We have our final destination.Heaven should be our goal and our reward. In the end, if we wanna succeed in this journey then there is a need for us to heed the Lenten call. It is a challenge to all of us – i.e. to repent and to change our ways. The word “metanoia” should be on our mind. It is a Greek word which means a radical change of mind and heart.
To make metanoia possible in us, we need to go to the basic.The First stage should be a recognition of our sinfulness and weaknesses. The second stage should be an avoidance of anything that could lead us to sin. In the “Lord’s Prayer,” we say “And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.”
What is Temptation? It is an occasion of enticement. A seduction to commit sin. It is a deception trying to present something to be good when in fact it is not. Sin is presented to us as something pleasurable and harmless, thus we find committing them so attractive.
Is it a sin to be tempted? Have we committed sin when we were tempted?
The temptation is NOT a sin per se. Even our Lord Jesus allowed himself to be tempted by the devil, but he did not sin. There’s a common misconception that one commits sin when he is tempted. But no, the person is just being enticed to sin. It only becomes sin when one entertained it and took pleasure in it.
The good news is that no one can make us sin. Not even the devil. They can only seduce us into committing sin. But it is an entirely personal choice. It is a decision that we make. “You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make it drink,” so to speak.The bad news, however, is that man is weak. We all have our weaknesses and shortcomings. We all commit mistakes. Nobody’s perfect. Even St. Paul struggles, “I do not understand what I do. There are good things that I want to do but I do not do. Yet there are evil that I hate, but I do.” And therefore we need help. Before the Lord, we should humble ourselves and admit that on our own, we can not make things possible. We need God’s help as we say, “Lead us not into temptation.”
In the face of the Test, Jesus wants us to succeed. He wants us to pass the test. This is the very reason why in today’s Gospel text our Lord Jesus showed us the way to stay strong when we face temptation.
The Gospel relates to us that after a forty day of Prayer and Fasting in the wilderness, our Lord Jesus was tempted by Satan. The evangelist St. Mark in today’s Gospel text did not tell us how Jesus was tempted but St. Matthew gave us a detailed account i.e. Satan challenged our Lord to do three different things.
The First Temptation is to turn the stones into loaves. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But Jesus said, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
The Second Temptation was meant to test God himself. “If you are the Son of God throw yourself down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you.”. But Jesus said, “Do not put your God to the test.”
And Third Temptation concerns power and wealth. “All these I will give you if you fall down and worship me.’ But Jesus said, “Away with you Satan, for it is written, worship the Lord your God, and serve only Him.”
Story (by Bruno Hagspiel) Once upon a time the devil decided to go out of business. He offered all of his tools for sale. He attractively displayed the whole bad looking lot: Malice, Hatred, Envy, Jealousy… Each was marked with a price tag.
Apart from them lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, very much worn out, but priced higher than any of the others. Someone asked the devil what tool that was.
“That’s discouragement, “he replied.
“But why is it priced so high?”
“Because,” answered the devil, “discouragement is more useful to me than all the others. With discouragement, I can pry open and get inside a person’s conscience, when I cannot get near him with any other tools. And once I’m inside his conscience, I can use him in any way that suits me best. It is so much worn because I can use it with nearly anybody since very few people know that it belongs to me.”
A person is never weaker than when he or she is fed-up, is down in the dumps. He or she couldn’t care less about anything.. and then anything can happen.. and usually does.
Yes, Bruno was right! When a person feels so discouraged and when he is ready to give up, that’s the time when he is easily tempted. I notice that I am most vulnerable when I am lonely and feeling so low. But when I am happy and contented, that’s the time that I am spiritually strong. The bottom line, therefore,e is to be always spiritually joyful. A joyful person cannot be easily tempted.
There are essential elements we need to be able to succeed in the face of Temptations – I call these the three “Ps” – Perseverance, Prayers, Providence. Saints had to persevere and not to give up. Persevere and not to lose heart. We may be imperfect but our perseverance could lead us to perfection. Practice makes perfect. Then Pray, we need to pray. For when we ask God for the strength he will never fail us. Lastly, believe in God’s Providence and grace. A recognition that we are weak may help but we also need to recognize that God provides us the grace that we could be strong.
Remember, Temptations can only have power over us if we let them in.
In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul advises, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.