First Sunday in Lent | Year B

Posted on February 16, 2024 View all Gospel Reflection

He was among wild beasts (Mark 1:3).

This is no Garden of Eden.

Jackals, “wild dogs, cheetahs, spotted hyenas and lions all of which are often “starvation driven” must exploit every opportunity to obtain a meal, which includes humans.1 The wild beasts “likely refers to hostile demonic opposition to Jesus; and the service of angels, to their assistance in battle.”2 Many see Psalm 91 as a background text, which promises salvation from wild beasts by angels to God’s chosen.

The devil’s jackals are like the roaring lion spoken of in 1 Peter 5:8: temptation is never far away.

Teresa of Ávila, in her classic, The Interior Castle, exhorts, “Let us endeavor to do our best: beware of the poisonous reptiles which are the bad thoughts and aridities which are often permitted by God to assail and torment us so that we cannot repel them. Indeed, sometimes we feel their sting! He allows this to teach us to be more on our guard in the future and to see whether we grieve much at offending Him.”

Verse 12 from our Gospel says, “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert,” into isolation, and exposure and discomfort to the heat and cold at night. It is the abode of evil spirits in the Old Testament and in later Jewish and Christian traditions (Lev. 16:10, 1 Enoch 10:4-5; Matthew 12:43; Luke 11:24).

The true desert is within us, in our soul, but it’s buried under interior turmoil or everyday annoyances, business, and legitimate pursues in sports and entertainment. The purpose is to possess ourselves, as Dom Guillerand said, “What men possess in themselves, they find nowhere else.”3 

In Joseph Noel Paton’s famous painting called, “Satan Watching the Sleep of Christ,” Jesus sleeps. The devil plots, sporting a perfect halo of interspersed shoots of fire at just the right height, but unlike a saintly halo, this one is generated within the head of a disguised, but damned fiery body.

Similarly, in a song by Terri Gibbs entitled “Someone’s Knockin,” it turns out that the devil is knocking at her door and she says, “I never dreamed he’d have blue eyes and blue jeans.”

The problem, per se, is not a person with blue eyes and blue jeans; it’s the temptations to objectify that and to be unfaithful.

Unmistakable paw prints.

Once again, it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the desert, which is the good news. The bad news is that Matthew 4:11 qualifies that the angels attended to Jesus AFTER the devil had finished his temptations.

You are on your own in the meantime. 

Who you gonna call?

Start from within.

The Legion of Mary instructs its members that “the Legion’s battle [to save] souls must begin in the heart of the individual legionary. Each one must wage the battle with himself, determinedly conquering in his heart the spirit of pride and self. This terrible struggle with the root of evil within one, this constant striving after purity of intention, how exhausting it is. It is the battle of a lifetime. Reliance upon one’s own efforts will make it the failure of a lifetime…

In turning towards Mary, must necessarily turn away from self…the supernatural dying to self…  The humble Virgin’s heel crushes the serpent of self, with its many heads.4 

Today we hear about the Rainbow from Genesis 9:13. It’s said that “Life is like a rainbow: “you need both the sun and the rain to make its colors appear.”

In fact, many cultures have divided their history after a nation-destroying flood, like the Book of Genesis does. After humanity was wiped out, it gets a second chance.

40 Days of temptations among wild beasts but with angels too. Thank you, Holy Spirit.

1.    l.C. Packer, et all; Fear of Darkness, the Full Moon and the Nocturnal Ecology of African Lions, Published in PLoS ONE, 07/20/ 2011

2.    Gregory M. Barnhill, Jesus as Spirit-Filled Warrior, The Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 82, 2020 

3.    Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise, 03/23/2017 pg. 23

4.    Legion of Mary handbook, 29-31