THEME: The Spiritual Life as Battle Against the Evil One.

BY: Fr. Celestine Muonwe

Gen. 9:8-15; Peter 3:1822; Mk.1:12-15

In the first reading, God made a covenant with Noah and all other creatures after the deluge and the destruction of all creation by water. The symbol of this covenant is the rainbow: “I set my bow in clouds and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” God’s covenant is that “nothing of the flesh shall be swept away again by the waters of the flood.” According to St. Paul, in the second reading, the water of the flood in the time of Noah that saved just a small number of people is symbolic of the water of baptism, “which saves you now, and which is not the washing off of physical dirt but a pledge made to God from a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has entered heaven and is at God’s right hand, now that he has made the angels and Dominations and Powers his subjects.”


In the Gospel, St. Mark gives information on the temptation of our Lord, which is an abridged version of the full account in Mathew. He tells us that just after His Baptism in the river Jordan, Jesus was led by the Spirit to the desert. Jesus therefore underwent a sudden change of fortune, from the joyful acclamation of the Father’s voice and communion of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove, to hunger, misery, pain and encounter with the powers of hell. Like Jesus our lives involve changes of fortune, from good times to bad times. Whenever, we encounter darkness, difficulties in our lives, we should not give up, we should remain steadfast like our Lord, and fight the devil as Jesus did with the word of God and prayer.

God, through His Spirit, leads us to these tests, and not the devil as such. It is God that purifies us through suffering and pain, in order to make us stronger instruments in His vineyard. He tested our fathers in the faith, Abraham, Moses, Joseph, these suffered immensely for the Lord’s cause and were proven through the tests they underwent, worthy of the Lord. No pains can come our way, unless allowed by the Lord; we only need to embrace His words, and remain faithful to Him just like our fathers in the faith.

It is also a thing of concern that the devil comes to test Jesus at the weakest moment in his humanity, and also, at the strongest moment in His spiritual life. The devil comes to us at the weak moments of difficulty in life, when we lose our jobs, when we are abandoned by family, friends and relations. He comes with various suggestions of the best things we must do, that are contrary to the word of God in order to escape our economic hardships, mental stresses and the pains of life. Furthermore, the devil also comes along when he notices that we are making good progress in the spiritual life. He is never happy seeing us coming closer to God in order to win the eternal blessedness, which he has lost with his co-evil spirits. He comes to attack us through our friends, our minds, emotions and thoughts. We only need to discover his antics and be ever aware that we are perpetually in battle against the devil and his human agents as Christians.

Jesus fasted forty days and nights in order to teach us the importance of prayer and fasting in the battle against the evil one. This is why the three major themes of the Lenten season are, prayer, fasting and alms-giving. If we must succeed in the spiritual life, we must not abandon prayer, which is the very light and food of the soul, we must not abandon reading of the word of God in the scriptures, it was through the knowledge of the scriptures that our Lord fought the devil. More still, the fact that the Lord chose to go to the wilderness is significant. Wilderness is a place of utter dryness, desolation and deprivation, where one enjoys neither the comfort of trees, nor the pleasures of food, sleep or necessities of life. Just like our Lord, Lent is a time we go away from the crowd, a time of retreat, when we ponder on the type of life we have lived so far since after the last Lenten season, our journeys so far as a parish community, individuals, clergy and the laity alike. It is the time we deprive ourselves of the pleasures of sin and come back to the Lord, for the best form of fasting is that in which we abstain from sin.

While Eve and Adam failed in their test by the devil, Jesus, the New Adam, overcame the temptations of the enemy with the word of God. The enemy came to Jesus after he had fasted in the Judean desert for forty days and nights, and after which he was hungry. The devil tempted Jesus, based on these three major categories: pleasure (lust), power, and money. St. Mark tells us that after Jesus had overcome the tempter, He was with wild beasts, they did Him no harm and the angels waited on Him. In other words, Jesus endured His own moment of darkness till the end, trusting in the word of God and abiding faith in His Father. How many of us remain steadfast for long in temptation? Many when confronted with sickness, poverty and death, lose faith in God and start looking for soothsayers to find out who is behind their progress. Often, they get quick answers that have so far torn many families apart, and put many in mutual suspicions and hatred of one another. Many take to neo-paganism, thinking that it is on account of their failure to worship one deity or the other that provoked their sufferings.

Further, going into Galilee after the arrest of John the Baptist, Jesus begins His preaching ministry: “The time has come, and the kingdom of God is close at hand. ‘Repent and believe the Good News.’” The time spoken of by Jesus here, is not the chronological time as indicated by the clock, but kairos, the time for decision taking, the time of salvation, the time for men to decide to accept the good news, to accept Christ, in fact, the time for judgement. The message of the Gospel divides the good from the bad, while the good choose life, the bad refuse Christ. The kingdom of God signifies the place where God’s will is done, in the lives of the faithful or in towns and countries. The Lord also species the nature of admittance into this kingdom: repentance of heart and the ascent of the mind to the Good News. It is not just mere mental affirmation of belief in Christ, but a strong response in the manner of conduct to the ideals of the life of Christ, total surrender of oneself to the authority of Christ and becoming Christlike as such.


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