First Sunday in Lent (18 February)

Today’s gospel passage for today is taken from Mark, Chapter 1

God with Us: A reflection on temptation

The Russian comedian Yakov Smirnoff visited the United States. He was not prepared for the incredible variety of instant products available in America. He says, ‘On my first shopping trip, I saw powdered milk – just add water, and you get milk. Then I saw powdered orange juice – just add water, and you get orange juice. And then I saw baby powder, and I thought to myself, “What a country!”’

Life is not like that! So, too, disciples of Jesus (Christians) are not born instantly. Even if Conversion is sudden, Christians grow and develop slowly through joys, trials, and temptations.

A story goes that when Leonardo Da Vinci painted the Last Supper, he used the innocent face of a choir boy for his portrait of Our Lord. Much later (he took many years to complete it) he looked for a model for Judas and found it in the degenerate and corrupt face of a dissolute young man recruited from the gutter. Something familiar prompted him to ask the young man about his origins. And to his surprise and horror it was the same choir boy who had fallen into a life of debauchery. Whatever else this story has to offer, it must be to do with choices. For the same face can present innocence and corruption. It highlights the responsibility of choice. Choices in exercising his ministryare what Jesus faced in the temptation in the wilderness, as we read in today’s gospel.

Given anything up for Lent? Whether you have or haven’t given anything up, you will experience temptation at some stage. But if the wilderness is a place of formation, of testing, of preparation, it is also a place of encounter with the living God. St Paul tells us, in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with the testing he will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it.”