First Sunday of Lent
The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.
After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the Good News.’
This passage from Mark’s gospel puts the bad and the good together in a way which highlights hope and confidence in God. Jesus was “tempted by Satan”, “he was with the wild beasts” – that sounds bad, not something most of us would wish to endure. But “the angels looked after him” – it was ok, he was not alone, he was watched over. John the Baptist was arrested which was bad, but Jesus proclaimed the Good News, which was good for the people. We are sinners – bad – but repentance is possible which is the Good News.
Bad things happen, and our first reaction is often to seek someone to blame, an approach which is reinforced by the media. Who do you blame after earthquakes such as those which have impacted so badly on the people of Christchurch?
In the absence of anyone who could be blamed for such a bad event, the stories turned to the good – the heroism, caring and support of the people for one another. Our physical world which is normally our support system dealt a terrible blow, but what has shone through is the goodness of ordinary Kiwis. Geotechnical analysis of the causes of the earthquakes and predictions for future events are essential, but they do not bring hope. It is the human spirit which brings hope, a hope which has a divine source.
Lent is traditionally a time of making sacrifices, “giving up something for Lent”. But like the juxtaposition of bad and good in the gospel “giving up” is only part of the equation. What do we want to become during Lent?
Desiring to become a person who nurtures hope is a Lenten goal which will bring us closer to God than giving up sugar in our coffee. It requires giving up actions such as blaming, pessimistic remarks, gossip, sarcasm and put-downs, replacing them with kindness, forgiveness, encouragement, empathy and support. It requires focusing on the Good News of God’s love for us and letting that infuse through our relationships.