Mark presents the scene of Jesus in the desert as a summary of his life. I’ll just point out a few key points. According to the Evangelist, «The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert». This isn’t his own initiative. It’s God’s Spirit who pushes him until he ends up in the desert: Jesus’ life won’t be an easy path to success; rather he faces tests, insecurity, threats.
But the «desert» is at the same time the best place for him to hear God’s voice in silence and solitude. This is the place he needs to return to in times of crisis, in order to open up paths to God in the heart of the people. That was common thinking in Jesus’ time.
In the desert, Jesus «is tempted by Satan». Nothing is said about the content of these temptations. Only that they come from «Satan», the Enemy who seeks humanity’s ruin, undoing God’s plan. He won’t appear again in the rest of Mark’s Gospel. But Jesus sees him acting through those who want to mess up his mission, even Peter at one point.
This short account ends with two strongly contrasting images: Jesus «was with the wild animals», but «the angels looked after him». These «wild animals», very violent creatures, call to mind the dangers that will constantly threaten Jesus and his project. The «angels», the best creatures, call to mind God’s closeness that blesses, takes care of, defends Jesus and his mission.
Christianity is going through hard times. According to sociological studies, we can speak of crisis, secularization, rejection on the part of the modern world… But perhaps, from the reading of faith, we need to say something more: Could it not be God who is pushing us into this «desert»? Don’t we need something like this to free us from so much vainglory, worldly power, vanity, and false successes unconsciously accumulated over the centuries? We never would have chosen these paths on our own.
This experience of desert that has grown in these last years, is an unexpected time of grace and purification for which we should give thanks to God. God will take care of God’s project. God only asks us to clearly reject the temptations that can lead us astray once again from our conversion to Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf