Sunday Readings: Genesis 9.8-15; 1 Peter 3.18-22; Mark 1.12-15
“Immediately after his baptism the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. There for 40 days Satan tested him. He was with wild beasts, and angels ministered to him. After John the Baptist was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled. God’s reign has come near. Repent and believe in the good news.’” – Mark 1.12-15
When Jesus comes out of the water at his baptism, the heavens split open, and the Spirit descends upon him. A voice affirms that Jesus is “my beloved Son.” These images — the open heavens, the descending dove, the affirming voice — create a theological picture of Jesus in relationship with God, Father and Spirit.
Then the Spirit drives Jesus into solitude in the wilderness. Jesus doesn’t fast in Mark’s gospel but stays in the wilderness for the 40 days, a time echoing the Hebrew slaves 40 years in the desert becoming a people. Solitude gives us time to feel our drives and desires, the arcs of energy within us, the images that call us beyond where we are. In this testing, discerning time, Jesus keeps company with beasts and angels. God is near, within, and around him as God is near, within, and around us, with or without our attention.
Something happened in Jesus’ solitude. Shortly after, Jesus begins preaching in Galilee, announcing the good news of God. “Repent and believe in the good news.” His whole life, his death and resurrection, form the good news we believe, the faith we deepen and renew each Lent.
After his desert time Jesus lives the rest of his life as an itinerant. He carries on ministries of healing, teaching, preaching, associating with outcasts, standing in opposition to unjust structures, forming a community of equals, celebrating meals with friends, and praying alone and with others.
What solitude can you find this Lent to feel new life stirring in yourself?