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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Sparkles of Light (Mk 1:12-15

27 February 2012, Tuesday of 1st Week of Lent


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."
Mk 1:12-15

Today’s Gospel is about prayer.  I will not use the passage from Matthew 6:7-15 for our reflection, but instead I will a similar passage from Mark 1:12-15 which also speaks about prayer.  This Gospel is simple yet portrays a very good message for all us during this season of Lent.  In this part of Mark, Jesus went to the desert for forty days and somehow he faced dangers like the temptation of Satan and presence of wild beasts.  However there is also the good presence of angels who administered him.  This is what Jesus did before he started his public ministry.  “This is the time of fulfilment: The Kingdom of God is at hand.  Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”  Unlike in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke (both in chapters 4) where the parallel story for this one is more detailed, Mark seems to be the main source for both Matthew and Luke.

Perhaps you may ask why did Jesus go to the desert before starting his ministry?  Is it a sort of “training” before facing the different challenges ahead?  If so, why does he need it since he is the Son of God and he can face any tests and challenges with ease?  There are two ways to answer these questions.  There is the symbolic way and the pastoral way.  The passage, especially in Matthew and Luke, is very symbolic.  It reveals to us many truths about Jesus, the reality of evil, the Kingdom of God, etc.  But I will not dwell into that.  I like to dwell more on what this Gospel means to us today especially as we are in the season of Lenten.  Jesus is fully divine and fully human.  Though he can face these challenges as a divine person, yet because he is also human, he perhaps encountered difficulty and was even tempted.  However I think the important thing here is that Jesus still went to the desert, faced these challenges and temptations.  Though we really don’t know what really happened at the desert, yet for sure he was able to gather spiritual strength so that as he started his public ministry, he was filled with life and grace.  This is the message of the Gospel for us.  In these days of prayer and fasting, we are also invited to go into our own “deserts” and face the challenges and temptations.

Why “desert?”  Why not a Church or a garden?  The desert I am referring to is not really a physical place.  The desert I am referring to is a figurative place that we go when we pray and try to encounter ourselves and our God.  The image of the desert can be a barren, dry and empty place.  Yet it can be a very powerful and holy place to encounter one’s self and God.  When you pray or quiet yourself, try to imagine you are in place where there is nothing.  There are no comforts of home, no television, no movies, no phones, no iPods, no computers, no internet, no Facebook, no friends, no family, except your very own self.  Try to imagine that.  It’s hard right?  I know someone who can’t survive without her phone even for five minutes.  And yet when we are in our deserts, we have no distractions and we can focus fully in ourselves and to God.  Sometimes we may encounter our broken and wounded self, that’s fine.  Sometimes it is just empty and quiet, that’s fine.  It’s all in the process.  Jesus himself went to the desert and faced all of these, not because he has to, but because he really wanted to face himself and God.  Hence, when you pray, especially this Lent, you must create your own deserts so that you may be able to really self-examine and mortify yourself.  When you do this, you are ready to face the noisy “marketplaces” in your lives. 

This Gospel passage is very timely since we are in the Lenten season.  Lent is 40 days before Easter Sunday.  Eventhough we have already started Lent since Ash Wednesday, it is not late to enter into the desert and journey with Jesus, so that our lives may be a true witnessing to his passion and glory; a dying from ourselves to a new life with God.  May you find inner peace, hope, healing and a more truthful perspective of life during this Lent.              

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