“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts,and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God:”This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”--Mark 1:12-15
The Gospel question: “How do we support the needs of others?”
As we turn to the First week of Lent, Sunday’s Gospel reminds us of the need for balance in both our active and contemplative life. We see in the Gospel of Mark that “the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert” and that the “angels ministered to him.” These two phrases reminds us of the purpose of Lent–to drive us “out into the desert” for the purpose of contemplation and purification, but also to know what it means to be ministered to. Think about it, Jesus was drove into the desert to be tempted by Satan and in the midst of this he was ministered to. What if the season of Lent is about creating a space in ourselves (a desert) to be open an vulnerable to another person?
The imagery of the desert is an image of an extreme, an image that when one is driven (or thrown) into the desert cannot help but try to find a way through it. Belden Lane reminds us in tell of the story of our ancestors journey in the desert that “God’s people are deliberately forced into the desert–taking the harder, more onerous and hazardous route–as an exacting exercise in radical faith. They are shoved down the difficult path so there will be no thought of ever turning back. They cover grueling miles of terrain so tortuous they will never be tempted to recross it in the quest of the leeks and onions they remembered in Egypt. Perhaps others can go around the desert on the simpler route toward home, but the way of God’s people is always through it.”
As we hear the Gospel story for today, we are reminded that in the desert, there is temptation and a death, but there is also comfort and peace. Ultimately, this is also a place where one finds their own mission “Proclaiming the Gospel of God.” We are reminded that we need both moments that we are thrown into the extremes of contemplation and action–however these extremes are to be held in creative tension. So how do we support the needs of others who need time for their desert experience? Or time for their commissioned experience?
Generally speaking, the image of Mary and Martha are used to talk about the active and contemplative life.
Meister Eckhart in sermon 21, explores the needs of both Mary and Martha in relationship to their response to the presence of our Lord in their midst.
“Now there are three things which caused Mary to sit at the feet of our Lord. The first was that the goodness of God had seized her soul. The second was an inexpressible desire: she was filled with longing, but did not know what for. She was filled with desire, but did not know why. The third thing was the sweet consolation and the bliss which came to her from the eternal words which flowed from the mouth of Christ.
There were three things too which caused Martha to move about and to serve her beloved Christ. The first was her maturity and the ground of her being which she had trained to the greatest extent and which, she believed, qualified her best of all to undertake these tasks. The second was wise understanding which knew how to perform those works perfectly that love commands. And the third was the particular honour of her precious guest.”
Eckhart says in sermon 6
“I accept God into me in knowing; I go into God in loving. There are some who say that blessedness consists not in knowing but in willing. They are wrong; for if it consisted only in the will, it would not be one. Working and becoming are one. If a carpenter does not work, nothing becomes of the house. In this working God and I are one; he is working and I am becoming. The fire changes anything into itself that is put into it and this takes on fire’s own nature. The wood does not change the fire into itself, but the fire changes the wood into itself. So are we changed into God, that we shall know him as he is (1 Jn. 3:2).
When we think about our desert experience this Lent and in supporting the needs of others and ourselves, combined with Eckhart’s reflection on Martha and Mary–how is our experience of Lent moving us into a deeper maturity with Christ and a greater connection to the needs of our community?
 selected and translated by Oliver Davies, Selected Writings (London: Penguin Books, 1995), 193-202.
 Ibid., 193.
 translation, introduction by Edmund Colledge, and Bernard McGinn, Meister Eckhart, the Essential Sermons, Commentaries, Treatises, and Defense (New York: Paulist Press, 1981), 188-189.
- First Sunday of Lent (seedsofcommunion.wordpress.com)
- Deluges and Deserts, Sin and Salvation (insightscoop.typepad.com)