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Contention in the Desert

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

On the first Sunday of Lent, the Church always proclaims the Gospel story of Jesus' sojourn in the desert. This year the story is taken from the Gospel of St. Mark. While it is a very abbreviated version of the story, we must remember that St. Mark was the first to commit the story of the Gospel to a written form. St. Matthew and St. Luke used this shorter Gospel and embellished it with details that serve the purposes of the author as well as the traditions of their separate communities.

Although St. Mark's version of the story is brief, it follows hard on the story of the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, just as it does in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke. Actually, these two incidents are a very tightly written unit. At the Jordan River, a voice was heard to declare: This is my beloved in whom I am well pleased. We must remember that the society and culture in which Jesus lived was driven by concepts of honor and shame. This statement invested Jesus with great honor in the eyes of the people; however, without it being tested, it could not be taken at face value. Consequently, the story of Jesus being tested in the desert is the way in which the evangelists test and affirm the declaration heard at the Jordan. Jesus acquits himself quite well as he contends with Satan in the desert proving that the he was worthy of the declaration.

Each of us knows that we do not measure up to the standard that Jesus sets for us in this battle against temptation. We do not possess the strength necessary to withstand the assaults of the devil. How, then, are we to survive this battle? The answer lies in our willingness to admit our weakness and, rather than relying on our own strength, to commend ourselves and our struggle to the strength and power of Jesus. As every addicted person knows, the way out of addiction is by admitting our powerlessness and by committing ourselves to a higher power. As we celebrate the victory of Jesus over the power of evil, let us commend ourselves to Him who has saved us from our sins and whose power has vanquished the chains of death.

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