“Jesus was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him” (Mark 1:13).
Today’s three readings show the power of the Lectionary to reveal biblical patterns and themes important to the liturgical seasons. Genesis 9 reminds us that God established a covenant with Noah and his descendants after the flood. 1 Peter compares the flood to baptism, which purges sin and creates us anew. The Gospel tells how Jesus, after his baptism, is led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted before he formally announces that God’s redemption of the world is at hand. The old is passing away and something new is happening.
Together, the three readings recapitulate the entire story of salvation. The first creation was purified by the flood that destroyed everything except what was saved in the ark. The sign of God’s new covenant is the rainbow. The pioneer of the new creation is Jesus, whose baptism begins the new creation. His body, like the ark, holds all created nature being transformed by grace. After his baptism he enters the desert to defeat Satan, the source of evil that has reduced God’s garden to a desolate and lifeless wilderness. After 40 days and nights, like Noah Jesus emerges from the trial to announce the fulfillment of God’s ancient promise to renew the face of the earth.
Lent is our time to enter the great narrative of salvation. All the images and stories contained in the readings each Sunday, about floods, rainbows, deserts and promises, invite us to shape our conscious purpose around the pilgrimage with Jesus from death to new life. Even the “wild beasts” and “angels” who accompany Jesus during his time in the desert are meant to remind us that Lent is both a time of desolation and consolation, testing and affirmation.
The Spirit leads us away from the noise and busyness of everyday life to teach us to listen deeply to the voice of God, the One who knows us and loves us into existence, sustains us every moment so we can pass through the desert to new life.
Lent is our classroom and our place of prayer, intimate listening and renewal. We are in the story, part of the plan, agents of the Gospel to others. Week by week during Lent we are called to grow closer to God by following Jesus. Repent, believe in the Gospel. Easter belongs to those who have fully entered Lent.