Today is the first Sunday in the season of Lent. It offers us the opportunity for a self-directed retreat. Now and then, it is important to pause for a while and do some stocktaking about our spiritual past and chart a new course. In the Old Testament reading from the book of Genesis, after the deluge, God entered into a covenant with Noah and his descendants, as well as the whole of creation, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth. He used the rainbow as a sign of that covenant (Genesis 9:8-15). By this covenant, God establishes his engagement towards his creation,
A covenant is a total sharing of life and love with God. It is to live in the image and likeness of God, in which we were created, and to obey God’s injunctions. In the covenant after the deluge, God makes a gratuitous and unconditional commitment, which does not depend on how human beings will behave in the future. It is therefore a pure gift of God’s love that will reach perfection through the new and everlasting covenant which Christ will mediate in his blood.
In our gospel reading today, we see that Jesus was not only tempted by Satan, he was with wild beasts (Mark 1:12-15). This brings to mind that ancient wild beast of Genesis 3, called the serpent, which tempted the primordial parents, Adam and Eve. While theirs is the first temptation of the Old Testament the one of Jesus, is the first temptation of the New Testament. By this temptation, Satan wanted to distort in Jesus that love of God for humanity, which he came to mediate.
That devil tempted Adam and Eve and brought them down. He tempted the kings of Israel and brought them down. And today he tempted Jesus, the epitome of holiness, but could not bring him down. In view of this, we see that the life of a Christian is not easy. Every Christian, should always be fighting to overcome temptations. Our fight is to remain in the image and likeness of God, in which we were created. As we all know, this is an unavoidable reality of life. No matter how holy we are, no matter the depth of our spirituality, no matter how intelligent, the tempter is there.
We have seen that the temptation of the primordial parents ended in fiasco, with horrendous effects on humanity. So, the fall of one couple became the fall of humanity. However, whatever humanity lost in the temptation of the primordial parents, was reversed in the temptation of Jesus, where the great beasts were humiliated. While our first parents took their marching orders from the ancient serpent, the devil, they fell prey to the evil one, thoroughly beaten and shackled; on the other hand, in the New Testament, this mistake could not be repeated, because Jesus was with wild beasts, something that recalls the presence of this great serpent in the account of the fall, this time, there is no mistake and no ‘Second Fall.’ Satan’s victory in that first encounter was here overturned. And the defeat was decisive and complete, thereby giving Christians the hope they need that Satan can be defeated. Without Jesus, the first parents could not win their battle with a powerful and very shrewd enemy. But with Jesus, victory is ours in all our temptations . So we have an advantage that they did not have. St. Peter tells us today, about the sacrifice of Jesus that sets us free (1 Peter 3:18-22). Later, he will tell us to be sober and vigilant, because our opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. We should resist him, steadfast in faith, knowing that our fellow believers throughout the world undergo the same sufferings (1 Peter 5:8-9).
So, we should be holy and avoid defilement through temptation. This is what ensures the defeat of Satan, the arch-enemy of the Christian. In our quest for material things, let us remember that “vanity of vanities; all is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Let us remember these words of Jesus to his disciples, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? Or what can one give in exchange for his life?” (Matthew 16:24-26).