Lent, a pilgrimage to God

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40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Recipe for the Soul, Lent I-B, 18 February 2024
Genesis 9:8-15 + + 1 Peter 3:18-22 + + Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Walid Ahmad on Pexels.com

Pope Benedict XVI eloquently described Lent in his first papal Lenten message in 2006 when he wrote, “Lent is a privileged time of interior pilgrimage towards Him Who is the fount of mercy. It is a pilgrimage in which He Himself accompanies us through the desert of our poverty, sustaining us on our way towards the intense joy of Easter.”

What a beautiful picture too of the short gospel from Mark we heard this first Sunday in Lent that briefly describes the temptation of Jesus so unlike the detailed versions by Matthew and Luke. Nonetheless, Mark’s terse account is loaded heavily in rich symbols and meanings.

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of god is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15

This scene comes right after the baptism of Jesus by John at the Jordan. It is sad that our liturgical texts have not yet adopted the new revised editions of major Catholic bibles wherein Mark noted how “immediately” or “at once” after his baptism, Jesus was tempted in the desert.


(At once) The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert tempted by Satan. 
“Temptation in the Wilderness” painting by Briton Riviere (1840-1920) from commons.wikimedia.org.

Do we not experience the same thing daily in life when even right in the moment we are trying to pray, trying to become better when temptations come our way like when we decided to pray or go celebrate the Mass, something else would distract or prevent us from fulfilling it?

See how difficult it is to go on diet when suddenly mother cooks your favorite meal or somebody comes for a visit with burgers and sodas and cakes! Just when you have decided to quit a vice, at once the temptation comes to pick it up again, as we plea to make it our “last” cigarette or joint, last shot of alcohol, last look at pornography, last gamble and so many other lasts that never really ended! Recall those times we decided to finally embark on any religious or spiritual endeavor when at once we are intensely challenged by carnal and material desires.

It is a reality of life that Jesus faced too like us, being tempted immediately by Satan after his baptism when God identified him as his beloved Son with whom he is well pleased. Mark warns us today how Satan is bent on tempting us to abandon God, be lost and just be ordinary without meaning and fulfillment in life and existence. The five Sundays in Lent depict to us our internal pilgrimage and journey into God’s inner room to be with him in Christ Jesus. It is a pilgrimage as we return to our very root and grounding who is God. Let us not waste the grace of this blessed season to become like God again, truly his image and likeness marred by sin and evil.

Oh what a joy to be one with God again, to regain our true selves – contented and fulfilled in our very selves minus all the trappings of this world’s artificialities of fake selves with fake faces and skin, of fake lives glamorized in social media. It is a pilgrimage in the desert where we are invited to leave everything behind, to be bare and nothing for we solely need only God to truly see again our selves as true, good, and beautiful. Not with cosmetics nor food nor even modern thoughts and ideas pretending to be just and fair that deceive us and leave us more empty and lost.


He was among the wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

“Jesus Ministered to by Angels” painting by James Tissot (1836-1902) from commons.wikipedia.org.

Lent is an interior pilgrimage to God lived in the wilderness too, an invitation for us to go back to Paradise even in the midst of the chaos around us. This we do every Sunday in the Mass when we go back to God, to his Church and the sacraments.

This is why Lent is the time for more prayers, fasting and alms-giving as they all strengthen our spiritual resolve to become better persons, to become who we really are – beloved children of God with dignity, meaning and purpose found in him.

Despite the fall of Adam and Eve, God never abandoned us because he loves us so much that he sent us Jesus Christ his Son to accompany and show us how among the wild beasts around us, there are angels attending to our needs at all times. Everyone has a struggle, a problem dealing with. Nobody is without any crisis nor lives perfectly. That’s the imagery of the desert, a wilderness with the wildest beasts that are most ferocious and most poisonous.

Yet, God has assured us even right after the Fall that we are his most precious creation that he takes the initiative always to save us from every danger of sickness and death. Most of all, of sin like when Cain was so jealous of his brother Abel, the Lord said to him, “Why are you angry? Why are you dejected? If you act rightly, you will be accepted; but if not, sin lies in wait at the door; its urge is for you, yet you can rule over it” (Gen. 4:6-7).

In the first reading we heard how God acted like human, so fed up with our sinfulness that he sent a great flood to wipe the earth clean again. However, do not forget that before sending the great flood, God sent first Noah and his family. Again, that is exactly how our life is!

Unknown to us, long before any problem and sufferings come to us, there is always God preparing already a remedy, a solution, an exit plan for us in the first place like when he sent Noah and his family to ensure there would still be good people left after the flood. This reached its highest point in Jesus whom the Father sent to become the new rainbow of the sky when Christ stretched out his arms on the Cross to save us. Peter beautifully explained this truth in our second reading today, reminding us how the great flood at Noah’s time was a prefiguring of our baptism in Jesus Christ when we become the Father’s beloved and forgiven children.

Never lose hope when things seem to be so bad and miserable in life. Remember how the silver linings appear always after the heavy rains or how the leaves are greenest after the storm. Yes, life is like a desert, a wilderness with so many wild beasts that may times we could not escape temptations and fall into sins. But God is greater than our hearts, sending us more than enough angels even his only begotten Son so we may overcome temptations and sins, downfalls and defeats in life. Go back to God, go back to paradise in prayers and the Mass. Handle life with prayer, always PUSH, that is, Pray Until Something Happens.


After John had been arrested, 
Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 
"This is the time of fulfillment. 
The kingdom of God is at hand. 
Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Photo by shy sol on Pexels.com

This is the most unique feature in Mark’s brief account of the temptation of Jesus by Satan. Mark began his gospel just like the three other evangelists linking the life and mission of Jesus with John the Baptist; however, he abruptly removed John from this scene by simply saying “after John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.”

“Ganun lang yon?” we might ask in Filipino. It would take five more chapters before Mark explains to us the fate of John the Baptist.

And yes, that’s the way it is with us too! We never stop with our mission like Jesus amid all the storms and darkness hovering above us. There will always be sufferings and trials coming and these in itself are the reasons for us to continue with our mission like Jesus.

Inasmuch as the lives and fate of Jesus and John are intertwined, so are our lives and fate as disciples of Christ with him! It is during trials and difficulties when our proclamation of God’s kingdom are loudest and most credible. Most of all, it is in our sufferings when we go back to our internal desert when we truly experience the time of fulfillment if we remain faithful to God like Jesus Christ.

Let us pray:

Dearest Jesus:
accompany us 
on this first week of Lent
into the Father's house; 
make us stop all whining
and complaining on the many
desert experiences we are going 
through for that is how life is -
like a wilderness with many wild beasts!
Let us never lose sight of your
loving presence among us, Lord,
of your angels ministering to us,
assuring us of the colorful rainbow
of life in the horizon if we remain
faithful and true.
Amen.
Photo by Ms. Annalyn Dela Torre, Bgy. Caypombo, Santa Maria, Bulacan, 14 February 2024.

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