DRIVEN – First Sunday in Lent, Year B

February 21, 2021

Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 9:8-17
Psalm 25:1-10
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:9-15

Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Genesis 9:8-15
Psalm 25:4-5, 6-7, 8-9 (see 10)
1 Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Watch out for the Holy Spirit.

In today’s Gospel reading, no sooner had the Spirit descended on Jesus as he emerged from the baptismal waters than that same Spirit “immediately drove him out into the wilderness” (Mk 1:12). No baptism party, no time to bask in the glow of being proclaimed the beloved Son.

There is a sense of urgency in Mark’s version of Jesus’ foray into the wilderness. While Matthew and Luke both recount that Jesus was “led” there (Mt 4:1, Lk 4:1), Mark tells us that he was driven—”immediately,” with no time to spare.

Mark’s account of this event is remarkably brief—just two verses. The Gospel writer recounts only that Jesus was “tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him” (1:13). Unlike the accounts in Matthew and Luke, we are given no other details—no witty dialogue about changing a stone into bread or being hurled from the pinnacle of the Temple. The account we hear today moves quickly from the baptism of Jesus to his wilderness experience to his appearance in Galilee and the announcement of his mission.

What might all this suggest to us about the Lenten journey on which we have just set out? Perhaps today’s Gospel is calling us in this moment to pay closer attention to the movement of the Spirit and to discover where the Spirit might be driving us.

Lent is not so much a time for seeking self-improvement as it is an opportunity to foster a deeper level of discipleship, to follow more authentically and faithfully in the steps of Jesus. He was driven into the wilderness for a period of testing, a time that prepared him to embrace single-mindedly the mission for which he had been sent, to announce the coming of God’s reign, and to pour out his life in service of others.

Let’s listen today to the stirrings of the Spirit to discover what obstacles might keep us from wholehearted discipleship or what new ways of living we might need to embrace to follow faithfully. The traditional Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and works of charity may provide the framework for responding to the Spirit’s promptings, but the first step is to listen in the quiet of whatever wilderness to which we may be led.

Watch out for the Holy Spirit.

A Hymn for Today: “As Your Spirit in the Desert”

This text by Susan Palo Cherwien draws on the image of the wilderness to reflect on a two-fold view of the Lenten journey. We “cross into the wilderness / so to walk where Christ has gone,” and we “cross out of the wilderness” to experience the promise of new life.

As your Spirit in the desert
led the Christ to dust and stone,
so instill our hearts with courage now
to cross where Christ has gone.
Let us cross into the wilderness
so to walk where Christ has gone.

As your fire and cloudy pillar
Israel’s’ tribes to Canaan led,
may your presence be our comfort,
may your manna be our bread.
Let us cross into the wilderness
with God’s manna as our bread.

Though wild beasts may lurk in the shadow,
and dire thirst may sear and sting,
you have promised living waters
waiting for us at the spring.
Let us cross out of the wilderness
to the waters of the spring.

Through the narrow gate now draw us,
past all empire’s pull and strife,
where beyond our fear and clinging
stands the threshold of new life.
Let us cross out of the wilderness
to the threshold of new life.

God of desert, God of promise,
you have bid us journey on
through the days of dust and darkness
to the rising of the dawn.
Let us cross out of the wilderness
to the rising of the dawn.

Text: Susan Palo Cherwien, b. 1953. © Susan Palo Cherwien, admin. Augsburg Fortress. Used by permission under OneLicense #A-729857.
Tune: ROSEVILLE, Michael D. Costello, b. 1979

Image Credit: Study for Christ in the Wilderness, Ivan Nikolaevich Kramskoĭ, 1837-1887, c. 1872

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.