First Reading: Gn 9:8-15; Psalm: 25. R. v. 10; Second Reading: 1 Pt 3:18-22; Gospel: Mk 1:12-15



To Beat the Devil - The Southern Cross

Every first Sunday of Lent, the Church presents us with the narrative of the temptation of Jesus Christ by the Tempter, the devil. This narrative is from the accounts of the three synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke which is read in the liturgical years A, B, and C, respectively. Mark’s account of the temptation of Jesus Christ which happens to be the gospel of today is the shortest narrative among the three synoptic gospels. Unlike Matthew’s and Luke’s account that narrows down the temptation of Jesus to the three wild human appetites for pleasure, power and wealth; Mark’s account avoids this limitation and recounts in a general term that Jesus was tempted by Satan. Mark’s account therefore implies that Jesus was tempted in every way but prevailed notwithstanding.

The temptation of Jesus happened while he prayed in the desert. Our gospel reading of today recounts that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert immediately after his baptism. A desert is an uninhabited area. It is a place of divine encounter, solitude, introspection and meditation. Moses encountered God in the desert after fasting and praying for forty days and forty nights (Ex 34:28). The Israelites spent forty years in the desert getting to know God before their entrance into the Land of Promise. John the Baptist also prepared himself in the desert prior to his public ministry. When Jesus entered the desert, it was the beginning of an end to sin and death. And knowing that Jesus has come to war against evil, Satan came to tempt him to distract his mission.  

In the temptation of Jesus, two opposing voices spoke to him: The voice of the Tempter, and the voice of the Angel that ministered to Him. This brings to reality the two conflicting voices of the flesh and the Spirit which we hear in our moments of temptation. But there is a third voice – the voice of the wild beasts. While Jesus was tempted by Satan, the wild beasts were with him. What are these wild beasts? This could be wild animals like leopards, jackals, wild boars and bears that inhabited the Judean desert. But if we look at it in another way, we would see that a beast is not just an animal but anything fierce and difficult to control. So the wild beasts in today’s gospel could also be the fierce passion of human desire; that sensual passion in us that heightens in our moments of temptation.

Jesus was like us in everything but sin. While he was tempted by Satan, he felt that wild desire in every one of us. But he did not allow it to shroud the voice of God that ministered to him through an angel. Through prayer and fasting, Jesus was able to discern the voice of God, subdue the passion of the flesh, and overcame the wiles of Satan. The Tempter tempted Jesus in every way but Jesus completely defeated him in every attempt.

As we follow Jesus in our forty day’s journey of prayer and abstinence this Lenten season, the gospel of today reminds us that Satan will sneak in to tempt and distract us. Although biblical examples reveal that a desert is a place of divine encounter; but we must not necessarily go to a desert to have a fruitful Lenten season. Our own desert could be creating more time for prayer, curtailing our excesses, and abstaining from sinful attitudes. As we enter this desert, Satan will prowl in to try to convince us that what we set out to do is unnecessary and impossible. He will tempt us from every side.

Now, Satan’s power to convince us of the impossibility of the spiritual exercises we set out to do lies in the voice of the wild beasts. Remember that the wild beast implied here is that fierce passion of human desire. So beware that this Lenten season is a time that our passion and desire for the things we resolved not to do will heighten.

If we resolved to cut down on excessive drinking, eating, or travelling, the desire to do these things would intensify. If we resolved to abstain from the sinful attitudes of lie, theft, gossip, slander, hatred, and unforgiveness; the lure and appetite to indulge in them would heighten. Even the little good we struggle to do prior to this season of lent would become much harder to do now. If we were weak and too busy to pray; we will appear weaker and busier to pray this Lenten season. We may begin to see numerous reasons why we shouldn’t be generous, kind, loving, and forgiving towards others. Beware that when these things begin to happen, Satan could be heightening that wild desire for self-centeredness in us.

Matthew’s and Luke’s account of the temptation of Jesus recounts that after forty days and forty nights of fasting, Jesus was hungry (Mt 4:2; Lk 4:2). And this was exactly when Satan immediately crept in to tempt Jesus to turn stone into bread. Satan would dangle before our eyes the things that the human appetite desperately hungers for. Our gospel reading of today tells us that this hunger could be fierce. But Jesus assures us that it can tamed. From the victory of Jesus over Satan, we see that fasting weakens the strength of sensual passion. And prayer opens our ears to the voice of God who ministers to us always through our guardian angels. We can overcome our own temptations following the example of Jesus.

With the triumph of Jesus over Satan, Jesus immediately launched into his public ministry preaching; “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” Jesus did not remain in the face of temptation. He got himself busy. We must shun idleness to reduce every doorway through which Satan can waltz into our lives to tempt us. Idleness is an occasion of sin. It awakens our sinful passions and predisposes us to sin. We cannot remain fixated before an occasion of sin and hope not to fall.

A little boy was sternly warned by his mother not to swim in their village river for he could be swept by the current. But time and again the boy disobeyed his mother for he loved swimming. The mother thought of what to do to help his son overcome this temptation. So she came up with an idea and said to his son; “When next you are tempted to swim in the river, say, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ And you would see how Satan will flee from you.” The following day, the mother returned from the market and found his son dripping wet. And she angrily yelled at him; “Did you say what I asked you?” And the little boy replied; “I was by the river and was tempted to swim with my friends. Hence I said, ‘Get behind me Satan!’ And Satan went behind me and pushed me into the river.”

Do not stand before occasions of sin and keep yelling; “Get behind me Satan!” You may not be able to withstand his push.


Lord Jesus, thank you for teaching us how to overcome Satan in our moments of temptation. We ask for the grace to follow in your footsteps as we journey with you in this season of Lent. Amen.

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