(using the Gospel Reading for Lent 1, Year B)
There are many folk in whatever walk of life – who start off promisingly; then peter out.
My late wife had a close friend at secondary school. She was bright, vivacious, intelligent – destined to go far. Not only did she gain a good degree in sociology, but then went on to study genetics, graduating with a second degree.
Then things went wrong. She got in with a bad crowd, married an abusive husband, took drugs, worked at odd jobs, and lived in a bed-sit with hardly any furniture.
And this lasted many years, until, through the help and support of her brother who has his own business, she got a kind of low grade job, but she worked at it, and advanced through his organisation, going on to be a successful businesswoman with real responsibilities
She grabbed the opportunity with both hands, and made a wonderful success of it – changing her miserable existence into fulfilling life and living.
While some sink; others, through pain or difficulty, learn
And those who are able to learn from it generally are able to go on and make something of their life, for after the pain, the work begins.
Let’s now listen for God’s Word, as contained in Scripture:
READING: Mark 1 verses 9 to 15
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved “with you I am well pleased.”
12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.
13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near” repent, and believe in the good news.”
Jesus had a very special and exciting time when he was baptised by John in the river Jordan.
But immediately that same Spirit of God, who had descended upon him at his baptism, drove him out into the wilderness.
Rubens: “Temptation of Christ”
The wilderness can bring a real clarity of thought. Things which were confused and muddled before tend to suddenly drop into place, for in the wilderness priorities change. Things are seen for what they really are, and their degree of importance shifts accordingly. And this tends to happen whether we are thrust into the wilderness by horrifying events in life, or whether we deliberately seek out the wilderness for ourselves.
When he emerged from the wilderness, Jesus knew what his life’s work was to be. He knew that he would spend his life in ministry, working in a very specific way for the Father.
Clouds so very often follow sunshine, and when this happens in real life, it seems such a harsh experience. Something wonderful happens and we feel excited and thrilled and happy, but this is so very often followed by a plunge into the depths of despair for some reason or another.
But perhaps the experience of Jesus shows that for Christians everything, all of life both good and bad, is in God’s hands.
Perhaps the pattern should be that the thrills, followed by the depths, are a prelude to the real work we are invited to undertake for God.