First Sunday of Lent - Walking the walk of Jesus
Posted: Thu, 18 Feb 2021 12:29
Reflecting on the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent, Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB looks at what Nano Nagle, the founder of the Presentation Sisters, can teach us about making a fresh start to share the life-giving ministry of Jesus. Image by Julian Garcia Mejia via Qumran2.net
The Gospel of Mark gives us the shortest account of Jesus's time spent in the wilderness. Mark is the evangelist who is in such a hurry to preach the gospel, that he just gives us the basic facts: Jesus goes into the wilderness for forty days, where he is tempted by the devil and supported by the angels; he returns home to Galilee urging people to 'repent and believe in the gospel'—words used by the minister only a few days ago on Ash Wednesday. The site chosen to inaugurate the mission has a theological meaning. Jesus did not stay in the desert where the Baptist did his work. He did not expect the people to look for him. He let each one remain in their homes and rooms. He himself moved to meet anyone who needed his understanding and his help. What will I do today, and during this lent, to make the gospel that bit more accessible? Am I a barrier to growth?
Very often in cartoons, when the hero is faced with a moral dilemma, a stereotypical angel appears on one shoulder, while a devil, complete with horns, appears on the other. Jesus is living no cartoon existence, yet he is faced with the reality of evil as the temptations show. This past twelve months have brought us all pain and upset—we have been brought face-to-face with the reality of evil. The pandemic has seen the world in the midst of pain and the deepest hurt. However, we have also seen so many angels in our lives; angels who have been there to bring the shopping or there for us on the screen in a Zoom chat. Angels have been there for us when we had our wobbles, and they listened to our fears and concerns.
As the wilderness experience showed, no matter how deep the evil, the light of God is always much stronger. The founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, found her true faith and vocation when returning home from a night of dancing in Paris. As she was driven through the streets of Paris, with the dawn breaking after another wild night, the Irish socialite saw the poor making their way to church for early morning mass. She wanted a share in that deep faith that enabled people to get up on cold winter mornings before their working day, to meet Jesus in Eucharist. She returned to her native Ireland to begin a ministry of education for the poorest of the poor in the busy port city of Cork.
In our own experience of Lent, we can be the ones who follow Nano's example and point to the life-giving ministry of Jesus. She used a lamp to light her way through the dank and dark slums of Cork. She wanted to be a true Christian missionary and follow the example given by Jesus in the gospel today. He pointed to a radically new society, based on a vision opposed to the ones which, until then, had directed the way people treated each other. It is a relationship between people that is no longer about domination, but service; not the selfish hoarding of goods, the pursuit of self-interest and the race to the top, but the choice to share everything so that no one would be poor; not revenge and the implacable justice of people, but forgiveness and unconditional love for the enemy.
It is a very tall order, and I pray that Lent 2021, as we try to beat a pandemic that has harmed so many, brings a chance to share the mission of Jesus in a way that will deepen our own faith and help those hurting in these times.
We are invited to 'walk the walk' of Jesus, because anyone can just 'talk the talk.'