Today is the First Sunday of Lent. Every year, on the First Sunday of Lent, the Gospel passage tells us about the temptation of Jesus in the desert at the beginning of his public ministry after his baptism. In Year A, we read Matthew’s account of the temptation; in Year B, we read Mark’s account; and in Year C, we read Luke’s account. Since this year is Year B, we are reading from Mark’s account of the Temptation of Jesus.

I have pointed out some of Mark’s characteristics a few times since the beginning of this liturgical year, Year B. One characteristic I have not directly mentioned is that Mark is the shortest of the four accounts of the Gospel. One thing you would notice about the stories in this Gospel is their brevity. For example, in giving his account of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism, Mark does not give us the contents of the temptation. Matthew and Luke are the ones who let us know that Satan tempted Jesus three times in the desert.

In Mark’s case, after telling us about Jesus’ baptism, he goes on to say, “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.” In his attempt to be brief, Mark left out the contents of the temptation, but there were other points he could not leave out. Two among the points are: 1) It was the Holy Spirit that drove Jesus into the desert, and 2) Angels ministered to Jesus in the desert.

Remember that this desert experience came right after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. At the baptism, a voice came from heaven and identified him as God’s beloved. After such a wonderful experience of baptism, one would have expected him to have had a smooth sail from then. Instead, the Holy Spirit led him into the desert, a harsh environment inhabited by wild beasts, where the devil was waiting to tempt him. Is that the reward for baptism? Is that what it means to be the Beloved Son of God? That may have been your experience. Right after you gave your life to Christ, Hell was let loose. Right after your baptism, confirmation, church wedding, ordination, or religious profession, life became unkind to you. At such points, you may ask, what is going on here? My answer is, look at Jesus!

Yes, it was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the desert. The Holy Spirit certainly knew the harsh weather, the wild beasts, Satan, and the temptation that awaited Jesus in the desert. However, unlike a good GPS, the Holy Spirit did not redirect Jesus. Sometimes, as Christians, when we find ourselves in a new place, school, job, or position, and things become hard for us, we easily wonder if God wants us there. Before we draw our conclusion, I encourage you to look at Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit that led Jesus into the desert. The smoothness of the journey may not indicate the presence of God, just as the presence of difficulties may not indicate the absence of God. The forty days Jesus spent in the desert were tough, but they laid the foundation for the rest of his public ministry. Spoiler alert: the desert was not the last place of temptation for Jesus. He met more temptations from his apostles, his family, religious leaders, and even his prayer at Gethsemane and on the cross.

Another spoiler alert: Jesus was victorious in all the temptations. Mark tells us that angels ministered to him. God did not stop Jesus from going to the desert, but he did not let him go alone. He sent him help through the angels. The temptations and difficulties we face as Christians are like the tests and examinations students face in school. The goal is not to harm the students but to prepare them for a higher class and a greater future. When God permits hardships to come our way, he already has his angels assigned to minister to us. He only needs our cooperation. My dearly beloved in Christ, as we join Jesus in the desert in this season of Lent, I do not pray for you to be free from hardships and temptations. Instead, I pray that the temptations and difficulties that come your way as stumbling blocks may become stepping stones, leading you from one form of victory to another until we come to our heavenly inheritance through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Rev. Fr. Emmanuel Ochigbo

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  • Hello from Escondido Father, we miss your Homilyin real time. So fortunate we get your good energy and great messages through the net.Thank you kindly Father!

    Regards, Daniel Family