The lure of the desert

by | Feb 17, 2015 | Formation, Reflections

Vincent EucharistFirst Sunday of Lent (B), February 22, 2015 – Gen 9, 8-15; 1 Pt 3, 18-22; Mk 1, 12-15

An appeal to God for a clear conscience (1 Pt 3, 21)

Driven into the desert by the same Spirit that descended on him at the Jordan, Jesus is revealed as the leader of the new exodus.

Jesus relives the experience of the participants in the first exodus. He stays, protected by Providence, among wild beasts. Like on the Holy Mountain of peace and justice, there is neither predator nor prey in that desert. Moreover, there to serve him are angels, protectors and guides of the wandering Israelites.

But just like those wanderers too, the one who has become like his brothers and sisters in every way is tempted exactly like them, yet without sin. Thus he is constituted the compassionate high priest. Overcoming the tempter, who by nature is given to obstructing God’s plans, Jesus starts to do the opposite of what was done by the unbelieving and stiff-necked people, and renders harmless the devil who, according to St. Vincent de Paul, “can bark but cannot bite” (FrIII:128).

The new people that God is beginning to shape in the desert through his Son cannot but be made up of obedient believers. We have to be converted; we need to abandon the familiar and wide road of selfishness and greed.

To be converted means to renounce the prideful display and luxurious enjoyment of accumulated wealth without caring at all about the needy. To repent implies the recognition of our susceptibility to the 15 diseases all of us weak human beings are exposed to. Conversion demands that we do not fool ourselves, saying we have no sin, but rather that we have our sins always before us and be capable of confessing, “Lord, these are my sins, they are not his or hers, they are mine.”

To be converted is to return to God, to believe in the Gospel and take the narrow road that leads to life. It is to cling to the one who leaves “his Father’s throne in order to come to take a body subject to weaknesses,” so as “to establish among us, by his word and example, love of neighbor,” which cannot but prompt us to be about “the salvation and the consolation of others” (FrXII:265).

Conversion, briefly, is to eat the body of Christ and drink his blood worthily, and be baptized with his baptism that brings life and salvation, not death and inundation. Only thus can we belong to the new covenant.

Strengthen us, Lord, so that, repentant, we may begin anew.

Ross Reyes Dizon



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