Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

In the Gospel lesson this morning, it seems to me that we come to a point where Mark is revealing to us that Jesus had come to a very decisive moment in his life. This is maybe two thirds of the way through his public life where he had gathered disciples around him, where he had begun to preach and teach, do wonderful works of mercy and love. But all the time he was evidently trying to determine exactly what God was asking of him.

Michael O’Brien: Christ’s Temptations in the Desert
Michael O’Brien: Christ’s Temptations in the Desert

Remember, Jesus is fully human so he is learning as he goes along. I have a sense that when Jesus challenges the disciples (as he does today and challenges all of us about following him), he has come to this point after much reflection. We’re all familiar with the beginning of the public life of Jesus where he goes off into the desert and fasts for 40 days and 40 nights, and then afterwards he’s tempted. Do you remember the temptation?

First, it’s to accumulate all the wealth you can get, turn stones into bread, and then to become a wonderworker and draw attention to yourself, drop yourself on the pinnacle of the temple and let God’s angels hold you up. But then finally, Satan says, “Worship me and I will give you all the kingdoms of the earth.” It’s a temptation to power, domination, and violence. Jesus says, “Be gone, Satan.” But then in the Gospel where that account is recorded we’re told, “Satan left for a time.”

So Jesus, evidently, was tempted again and again to those very things — to wealth, greed, power, violence, and domination. I have a sense that he must have done much reflecting on the Word of God, which we’re all called to do. For example, in chapter 55 of the Book of Isaiah, “Seek God while God may be found. Call to God while God is near; turn to God for God will have mercy. For our God is generous and forgiving. ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts; my ways are not your ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, my thoughts above your thoughts.’ ”

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