Mark is a very dramatic writer. When he was researching material for describing the very beginning of the mission of Jesus he was struck by the amazing similarity between the life of Jesus and the alarming experiences of his ancestors in their escape from slavery in Egypt. Faith in God gets people into a struggle between good and evil. Disturbing things will happen because the enemies of the gospel never let up. Even today they insinuate themselves everywhere, right into the midst of the Church as we know so well. We must always be ready to struggle against the slavery of sin and anger. Recently one of the Welsh commentators attributed the failure of Irish rugby to its tendency to play on the edge and break the rules by violent behaviour. You could say it was a case of the kettle calling the pot black but Ireland suffered the consequences, was punished and lost. We can apply that insight to our daily living. Learn the rules properly and keep to the spirit of God’s kingdom, or else you will lose your soul.
The Spirit of God next pushed Jesus to go out into the wilderness to taste for himself what it was really like to rely on God alone. He was tempted by the devil who was bold enough to go for the jugular and try and destroy his mission before it got started. The wild beasts symbolise the forces of evil like Covid that kick you when you’re down. Mark records how the angels guided and enlightened him. Let us pray for the angels to guide Catholic politicians so that they do not obstruct Catholicism on issues of public welfare like the reintroduction of public Mass and protection for defenceless children and the elderly. Let leaders listen to the good news that small congregations of prayerful parishioners in the right environment is one vital way forward towards a healthy society. Let us support palliative care for the elderly and sick and not euthanasia.
Jesus goes out on mission to invite people to see the kingdom of God present in their midst, and they do indeed see God in action wherever he goes, wherever he speaks and wherever he heals the sinner. Mark points back to the Genesis story of Noah and the ark. It’s as if the rainbow coming down from the sky is pointing directly to Jesus and then lifting eyes up to the heavens to see the kingdom and then leading us gently back down into the world where unhappy moods will change and the people of God will be revitalised and believe the Good News.
So what’s the good news today? Where is the rainbow in your life? How have you been able to pray better? Let’s go on the Stations of the Cross. As you follow Jesus along the way to Calvary you are also following him on his way back to God his Father; the two journeys are inter-connected. You see the powers of this world apparently in the ascendancy and yet Jesus keeps going, occasionally ignoring them and constantly consoling those on his way. You see Simon, a strange African foreigner, helping as best he can and Jesus is grateful and asks us to follow his example as he once asked us to follow the Good Samaritan. You see a scene where mothers are in distress, women and children together, and Jesus is beside them talking to them and pointing them forward asking them to trust his way to new life and new beginning. You see callous cruelty from the soldiers using their expertise to make his life unbearable and yet he bears their faults and asks for forgiveness for them. You see him die on the Cross and yet he looks upward to his heavenly Father and commits his life into God’s hands. He is taken down from the cross and put into a tomb where new shoots of life and love will spring. He brings hope for the future as he will rise again. That’s the good news he wants us to believe in, to reject evil and its sad consequences and to embrace the good and its blessings. We have the rest of Lent to explore what our choices might mean.