Forty Days in the Wilderness

Forty Days in the Wilderness

First Sunday of Lent [B]

February 21, 2021

 Mark 1:12-15

Why did Jesus have to stay in the wilderness for 40 days? The answer is not difficult. He was reperforming what the Israelites did when they were liberated from Egypt. The Israelites stayed for 40 years in the wilderness before they entered the promised land. Yet, there is one more thing! Mark gives us a small, however important detail: in the wilderness, Jesus was staying with the beasts. Why so? If there is one man closely connected to the beasts in the scriptures, he is no other than Adam. Jesus is the new Israel who endured the harsh conditions of the desert and the new Adam who faced the onslaught of the devil.

Jesus entered the wilderness for forty days, and He was tested there by the harsh conditions of the Judean desert. Not only facing the barrenness of the desert, but Jesus was also confronting the devil himself. From here alone, we can draw a strong connection between the Israelites in the wilderness and Jesus, as well as Adam and Jesus. Like the old Israel who struggled with their own ego, Jesus was also enduring human weakness. Like Adam was facing the tempter, the devil tempted Jesus. However, there are significant differences.

 While the Israelites murmured and complained, Jesus faithfully fasted and prayed. While the Israelites were grumbling for the food and Adam ate the forbidden fruit, Jesus rejected Satan’s temptation to change stone to bread. While the Israelites were losing faith and worshipping the demon in the form of the golden calf, and Adam wanted to be like God, Jesus refused to bow down to the devil despite all the worldly glory it offered. While the Israelites losing hope in the promised land and Adam blamed the woman, Jesus remained steadfast and refused to test God. Jesus is the new Israel and the new Adam. While the old Israel faltered and Adam succumbed to the trials and temptations, Jesus emerged victorious. Jesus corrected and perfected ancient Israel and old Adam.

We are the body of Christ, and we are part of the new Israel. As Jesus enters the wilderness, so we are going to our spiritual battle. However, we can only become triumphant when we are holding on to God and participating in Christ. The devil is much stronger than us, and without God, we march for sure defeat.

How are we going to win against this spiritual battle? Jesus gives us the answer: fasting-abstinence, almsgiving, and prayer. Fasting makes us hungry, yet it makes us realize that not all our bodily desires need to be fulfilled immediately. Almsgiving may hurt our pockets, but it opens us to the truth that we live meaningfully by giving, not hoarding things. Prayer may be a waste of time, but it offers us the most fundamental reality that we are nothing without God. We are part of the new Adam and the new Israel, and only in Him, we achieve our real victory.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

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