The scene of the temptation, which opens the public life of Jesus, declares in the Gospels in a very forceful manner the great change in our lives that He introduces into the world by His work of redemption. Where Adam fell, Christ, the new Head of humanity, triumphs over the power of Satan: at the time of His passion "the prince of this world" will be cast out. The Gospel of the temptation heralds Christ's victory.
This week's Gospel is from St. Mark 1:12-15.
The very thought of our divine Lord's suffering hunger, loneliness, and humiliation at the hands of his enemy—and that all this was for us—should make us feel ashamed at the little bits of suffering and humiliation we are willing to suffer for our own selves. He had no sin to atone for. He was making atonement for us and for our sins. He was the Son of God and his home was heaven, but he left it for a while to assume human nature, so that he could through his humiliations and sufferings bring us to share his eternal home with him. What is the thanks he gets from us? Ingratitude, forgetfulness, and even worse: insults and disobedience.
While the Church has eased the strict fastings and penances of Lent, we are still expected to do some private fasting and penance. It need not be fasting from food, but we can all do some daily penance which will help to keep our unruly minds and bodies in check while at the same time it will show that we are grateful to our loving Savior for all that he suffered for us. A few extra prayers each day, control of our temper in the home, less talk and especially less uncharitable talk among our neighbors, a little helping hand to a neighbor in need, a fervent prayer and where we can spare it (perhaps by doing without some luxury) a donation toward helping the starving millions in other lands. The sincere Christian will find a hundred such ways in which to thank and honor Christ during this holy season of Lent. We can all keep the last verse of today's reading before our minds with great profit. "Repent and believe in the gospel." This is the essence, the marrow, of Christ's teaching. Turn away from sin and come back to God. Anyone who believes in the gospel, who believes that there is an everlasting life after death prepared by God for all those who do his will while on earth, should not find it hard to give up offending that loving God who thinks so much of him. This life is only a passing shadow, every step we take, every breath we breathe is bringing us nearer to our earthly end and to the grave. But the believing Christian knows the grave is not the end. Rather, is it the beginning of the true life—provided we use this passing shadow, these few years, properly.
Now is the time to take these words of Christ to heart. He is asking each one of us today, to repent and to believe the gospel, that is, to act according to its teaching. Christ, in his mercy, will make this appeal to men again and again, but will we be here to hear it? If we answer his appeal now and start living our Christian faith in all sincerity, we need not care when death calls us. It will find us ready to pass over to the future, happy, unending life.
Grant, almighty God, through the yearly observances of holy Lent, that we may grow in understanding of the riches hidden in Christ and by worthy conduct pursue their effects.