Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


First Sunday of Lent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
February 22nd, 2015
Year B

History tells us that St. Mark wrote his gospel around the year 70 AD. It is believed that St. Peter himself was the source of Mark’s writing. It was during this time that the Emperor Titus, having sacked Jerusalem at this time, upheld the campaign the Christians that his predecessor, Nero, had begun a few years before. Christians were burned, crucified, and fed to wild beasts. Mark tells us that moved by the Holy Spirit Jesus withdrew to the dessert where he walked among the wild beasts – in peace. You can imagine then, how many of them must have felt when the earliest copies of Mark’s gospel began to circulate. My guess is that this one line, and indeed the whole concept of Jesus being tempted and engaging in a spiritual battle, must have brought them deep comfort in their own battle.

It is truly amazing the depth of meaning a person can grasp from one line of Sacred Scripture. I had never given much thought to Jesus being among wild beasts during His 40 day fast in the dessert. Surely it brings to mind Isaiah’s prophecy: “Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat; The calf and the young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them…” In other words, Isaiah tells us that the Messiah there will bring harmony among all creation. That which we can surmise from this short verse from St. Mark is that Jesus, while engaged in His own spiritual battle, still was able to dwell peacefully among the wild beasts. He was cared for by the angels.

Christian tradition has always recognized the spiritual battle as an essential part of the life of Christ. The early Christians fought, not only against real wild beasts, but also the symbolic “wild beasts,” those who were threatened by Christianity and sought to destroy it. Indeed, all of human history is a story of combat with the powers of evil. As The Catechism of the Catholic Church, commenting on original sin notes: “This dramatic situation of ‘the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one’ makes man's life a battle.” This combat is one against our own tendencies to sin and the rejection of Satan and all his glamorous seductions.

This is precisely why the Season of Lent is such a fruitful time of penance and prayer. The opening prayer of Ash Wednesday reminds us: “as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint,” that we are engaged in a spiritual battle, that there are forces within and outside of ourselves that are fighting to weaken our faith, destroy our spirit, and draw us away from God. We must identify them, call them by name, and surrender them to the Lord with the “weapons of self-restraint.” Maybe it is a struggle with gossip, negativity, alcohol, sexual purity, drug use… perhaps it is a struggle of identifying as Catholic within our circle of friends. These are the temptations, the “wild beasts” that lurk in the darkness ready to devour our faith. In all this we must realize that this is a real spiritual battle and it is a fight for our souls.      

Following the example of Jesus and empowered by his Spirit, we are to repel the enemy through prayer and perseverance. We may sometimes feel like singularly feeble warriors. But God never leaves us without the help of the angels in this battle and through faith we can experience the victory won by Christ. Remember that Jesus, after His baptism, entered the desert willingly. He was looking for a fight – and He fought on our behalf. He faced trial and temptation and He emerged victorious. Our Lenten disciplines are a sign that we too are willing to fight for our souls, that although we, even after our baptism, face trial and temptation, have joined forces with God and long to be united to Him in this battle. As such, when we are tempted, when we find ourselves and our faith in a weakened state, when we can feel the “wild beasts” closing in, we must not fear, rather, in order to survive, we must take up arms – the weapons of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving – join forces with Christ, and engage in fight for our souls. May we have this courage during Lent and indeed for the whole of our earthly lives.


Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.

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