Sunday February 21

Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Jesus was tempted by Satan, and the angels looked after him

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there for forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus went into Galilee. There he proclaimed the Good News from God. ‘The time has come’ he said ‘and the kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News.’

I am struck by three different dynamics or phases of formation Jesus experiences at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel.

Firstly, he experiences a powerful confirmation of his own identity with his Baptism – the experience of ‘the Spirit descending like a dove on him’. Secondly, as referred to in this Gospel, he is drawn out into the desert and experiences the Spirit with him through the angels and then without him as he is tempted. It seems like here, God gives him this desert experience to refine his listening skills and teach him how to recognise and reject the ‘bad spirit’ and thus experience the way of the ‘good Spirit’. 

After refining and practising his discernment skills, Jesus goes out into Galilee on mission proclaiming ‘Good News’. This is the third dynamic, one of action in love and freedom. No doubt this refinement of discernment was important for Jesus as we see in the healing stories that follow, he is constantly putting them into practice and needed to be sure of his own call and identity for the miracles to happen and the Good News to spread.

Jesus experience shows us how ‘Call, identity, discernment and mission’ are foundational elements of our own formation.

Mary Ward contemplated Jesus way and was also able to refine her discernment skills.

‘I will do these things in love and freedom or leave them alone.” Mary Ward (autobiographical fragments)

This mastery of discernment enabled her (and her companions) to be very effective missionaries at a time that was full of obstacles of ‘the bad spirit’.