(Mk 1:12-15)
At once the Spirit drove him 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."

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(Mk 1:12-15)

Each year the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Lent is about Jesus’ testing in the desert. Mark’s emphasis is distinctly different from that of Matthew and Luke. No details of the testing, but rather Jesus’ sojourn in the desert is rather almost a return to the peace of the Garden of Eden. The desert of Judaea, between Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, is a noble and dignified solitude of smooth, sandstone hills. Nothing grows, of course, but wild camels and the occasional leopard prowl around. There Jesus was ‘with the wild animals’ as, led by the Spirit, he made his preparation for his mission. In what way was he tested? We may presume that in solitude and prayer he was working out the implications of the Voice from Heaven at his Baptism. How was he to run his course as the beloved Servant of the Lord? Precisely how was he to bring the presence Kingship of God into people’s lives? The ‘forty’ is often used in biblical accounts for a period of preparation, as Israel’s forty years in the desert, or the apostles’ forty days of preparation between Easter and Ascension. We may use our forty days to reflect how we may bring God’s presence to bear in and through our lives.


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