To listen to today’s homily please play the audio selection below:
Mark’s gospel gives a short, straightforward account of Jesus facing temptation after his baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist. In just four lines he says that
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him.” (Mark 1, 12-13)
Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 4,1-11) gives a more extensive account of the temptations Jesus faced, as does Luke who follows Matthew rather closely. (Luke 4,1-13)
In John’s gospel we have no account of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, but in chapter 1, 10-11 he says “He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him.” A strong indication of the opposition that Jesus, the Word of God, received when he came into this world.
He was opposed. He did not come among us as a kind of superman, immune from human hurt or human frailty. He was tempted, the gospels say, opposed by “Satan” by “the world” and even by “his own.” So strong was the opposition that it eventually put him to death.
It’s so important to see the human Jesus, his vulnerability, how like us he was. Yes, he was God’s Son, but the Word became flesh, St. John says. Equal to God, he emptied himself, St. Paul says, and took the form of a slave, and became obedient even to death on the cross.
When we look at Jesus in his humanity, we wonder, first of all, at God’s love coming to a world of weakness and frailty, our world. We can also see ourselves in his humanity, in the temptations and opposition he faces as a human being in his lifetime, and particularly as he enters his Passion.
Of all the gospels, Mark’s gospel gives us the most realistic picture of the human Jesus. Mark doesn’t describe the temptations Jesus faces in the desert at the beginning of his gospel because he will describe them as Jesus makes his way through the towns of Galilee where he gathers disciples and meets opposition from the scribes and Pharisees. The growing opposition he meets there leads to Jerusalem, where he’s put to death.
Mark’s account of the Passion of Jesus shows us Jesus fearful in the garden and crying out on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!”
When we see Jesus we see ourselves. We live in a world where we face temptation. When we look to him, however, we see where our wisdom and strength and courageous patience can come from. Following Jesus, we will live.