Life-changing transformations don’t happen easily. They require interior fortitude and determination, courage, persistence and more -- an interior change of heart and mind… what the Scriptures call “Metanoia.”
And so, we again enter into the invitation and the challenge of Lent, well aware that we have been asked to commit our lives fully to the coming reign of God. “Metanoia” and “Repentance” are not to be simple cosmetic or superficial changes. Repentance isn’t just for a part of the year. It is a full-time, on-going commitment to change. Metanoia asks us to turn away from whatever distracts us from God and to turn to the embrace of the One who is infinite love.
Unlike other gospel accounts for the first Sunday in Lent, Mark is very short on the details of Jesus’ temptation in the desert; still, all the vital elements are there: the duration, the temptation, the threat of violence, and the sustaining care God provides. But the point of this gospel is not really the temptation scene. It’s what happens next that is most important.
When John was arrested and put into prison, it was Jesus who continued to preach the Good News. But there was a big difference between the two.
John's preaching began with "Repent! The Kingdom of God is at hand." His was a call to repentance - a warning - a call to change our ways because something big and wonderful was soon coming.
The message of Jesus was - and continues to be: "Rejoice! The Kingdom of God is here!" His was an invitation - a call to experience the presence of the Father in our every moment, our every breath, in the "now" of our every encounter by repentance and metanoia.
If this, then, is the goal, Mark has already indicated how we can make the changes we must. The gospel for Ash Wednesday gives us the blueprint. Here, Mark gives us the threefold method of achieving Metanoia: Prayer, Fasting and Giving Alms.
Now is the acceptable time. Now is the graced time when we will receive the help we need to respond, to make a turn in our lives towards God. That doesn’t mean big changes are easy or accomplished in a short period of time. Metanoia means we will have to dedicate our lives to transformation. In truth it will never be a completed process, but if we listen to Jesus today, we need to start, and start again and again, becoming followers of Christ. The acceptable time is now… every now!
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we try our best to avoid the desert places of our lives. During this Pademic, it is easy to feel that God has deserted us. So much sickness, so much suffering and death, so many lives turned upside-down! We have all experienced “the desert” in our lives - for some, much more so than others. The desert is where we are forced to see ourselves as we are, without filter or finery. It is there we wander and wait to encounter the holy. Like Jesus, we are sometimes driven against our will, by the Holy Spirit, to the wild places we would rather not go.
But if we are truly honest with ourselves, we know deep down inside that we need the desert. The desert is where we as individuals and as a community must go, because out of the wild comes the change of heart that leads to new life.