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.' ” Mark 1:12-15
Today's Gospel reading is the same theme as every first Sunday in Lent: Jesus in the desert, being tempted by Satan. For most Christians, this is familiar territory. For those who observe the Lenten fast, it is our example. Christ spent those 40 days in preparation for ministry. As we know from the other Gospel accounts (Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), Jesus spent that time fasting.
Mark's account says the Spirit "drove" Jesus into the desert. He compelled Jesus to go. Matthew and Luke use the word "led." The concept is of One who is surrounded by the Spirit, and is being pulled forward into something God wants Him to do. Not "forced," but "led."
This morning, our pastor, Fr. Joe, said something very profound: "The wilderness is not just a place of desolation. It is a place of learning."
These Lenten fasts can sometimes seem to last fooooreeever. In the midst of it, it is tempting to just give in. Jesus was tempted to make bread from stones. After all, He was hungry, and He was God in the flesh. Why not? Clearly, Jesus knew it wasn't the time for that. During our fast, we will be tempted to give up our fast because "we just can't do it" for a full 40 days. There is a beauty and strengthening in the discipline and tenacity of sticking to our fast.
Even if we feel that the "wild beasts" of our lives (the temptations) are pulling at us, let's hold fast (pun intended) to our resolutions, and allow this time to draw us ever closer to Christ.