According to Mark 1,12-15
don Alberto / Homily of I Lent during the year B
Lent – which has already begun since last Wednesday – is not a chronological time, but a particular special grace, a true gift from the Lord, which should not be reduced to a period of penance or some kind of mortification, but should be welcomed as a time full of events and experiences, and lived as an opportunity not to be wasted. Even the desert, more than a solitary and silent place, is the occasion in which, if we allow it, God can meet us and speak to our hearts.
It is a time – place – situation – happening… which allows us to find ourselves alone with ourselves and with God, and in this context, accept the invitation of Jesus: “Get converted and believe in the Gospel”, and imitate His example.
Let’s listen carefully.
One day, a dear priest, now in his nineties, who has lived in Africa for 33 years, to my curiosity about who accompanied him as he crossed the forest to go from village to village – and it took him a month to visit them all – he replied that there were three of them. And he specified: “I, the guardian angel and the devil”. Immediately adding: “Indeed, he too is always following behind”.
We have confirmation of this precisely from the Gospel passage we have just heard, which in only one line affirms at least three things: that Jesus was pushed into the desert by the Spirit, He remained there for 40 days, and that he was tempted by Satan.
Starting from this last statement, we must consider that – a man like us all the way – even Jesus has experienced temptation, and not only in those 40 days – the number is symbolic – that is the time that He remained in the desert, because the devil – precisely because tempting is his job – followed Jesus all his life, right up to his last breath on the Cross.
Conscious – even more today – that it is not God who “induces” us, and strengthened by Jesus’s prayer who makes us ask the Father “not to abandon us” in temptation, we are called to carry on our journey after Jesus – because it is a journey – with greater commitment and enthusiasm, in the renewed certainty that God will never let us lack his help.
But what is the path on which we must feel to set out? The heard gospel presents it to us in two words: conversion and faith in the gospel. We can consider them the fundamental tracks of our whole Christian life.
And if, like Jesus, in everything we do we allow ourselves to be “pushed” by the Spirit, rather than temptation, we must fear to not be faithful to his inspirations and to waste his gifts and the opportunities he offers us to give to God our love and our fidelity, made concrete in listening to the Word and in serving our brothers; in the dialogue with God and in the witnessing of the Gospel, of which we are called to become heralds with our lives.
If you let yourself be pushed by the Spirit, Lent will be an excellent training to follow Jesus more closely.