1st Sunday of Lent (Gn 9:8-15; 1 Pet 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15) “Alongside the Wild Beasts and the Angels” PDF Version
Homily for the 1st Sunday of Lent, Year B (2018): Gn 9:8-15; 1 Pet 3:18-22; Mk 1:12-15
The incarnation of Jesus Christ, Perfect God and Perfect Man, and the summation of His work of salvation was a reliving and restoration of all that had been lost since the fall in the Garden of Eden. Each and every word and deed that Jesus performed was meant to be an unbinding of the sin of Adam and the ability for humanity to know the fullness of redemption that comes from being redeemed and transformed into the children of God.
The readings for the First Sunday of Lent, as we find them in Cycle B of the Sunday Lectionary, presents Jesus in the desert, surrounded by the wild beasts and ministered to by the angels. What Jesus is undertaking in the wilderness of Judea is a return to the Garden of Eden, where man lived in perfect harmony with the created world, most notably at peace with the beasts of the earth and where he knew communion with angels, walking in their presence and joining them in a continual canticle of praise to the Holy Trinity.
When Adam fell from grace, harmony left the created realms, and man no longer lived at peace with the animals of the world and angels turned from being fellow Sons of Men into the fiery guardians who blocked the way to Eden, exiling humanity to experience the toil and consequences of a world fallen into sin.
Yet in the desert, a sign of a ruined Eden, still marked by the Sin of Adam, the New Adam, Jesus Christ, is depicted as being at peace with creation, accompanied by the wild beasts whom He did not fear and who knew communion with their Creator once again. Jesus also knew the help of angels, who served Him and silently worshipped Him in continuation of what they had been doing since He created them at the beginning of all things.
In the desert, in the Eden that was lost, the New Adam is beginning to undue the fall of the First Adam, first giving peace to the created world and charging the angels to serve the Children of God who would be won at the price of His own Precious Blood.
We also see Our Lord’s time in the desert as what would bring about a fulfillment of the promise His Father made to Noah, that God would never again flood the earth but be united to creation through an everlasting covenant. Once again we consider Christ at peace with the wild beasts and angels, akin to that peace the animals knew on the Ark as they were cared for by Noah and awaited their return to dry land.
Once the waters resided and life returned to a once watery grave, the world witnessed as God sheltered them with the rainbow as a sign of His promise to care for a renewed earth and with a new hope that humanity would keep this new covenant with God intact. Tragically, the covenant God forged with Noah was broken again and again by the sins of men, yet God held back His Mighty arm from flooding the earth again.
But a flood would needed once again to drown out the filth of sin, though this time not by the powers of the celestial waters, but by the blood and water that would flow from the wounded side of the One who created the waters so very long ago. It was in this water and blood, those precious means to flood the earth with the unfathomable depths of God’s love and mercy, that would forever established that covenant that could not be broken; for in the Sacrifice of Christ, which we now share in the Communion of His Body and Blood, a new and everlasting covenant remains to assure that the promise made to Noah would endure, evermore and evermore.
And so among the wild beasts and the angels, our Lord prepared Himself for the wood of the Cross, knowing the depth of the bitter chalice he would drink, but trusting that God would send His angels to console and strengthen Him as He prepared to flood the world with the waters of salvation.
Finally, Our Lord’s sojourn in the desert invites us to begin pondering the great mysteries that are to come during Holy Week. As He dwelt with the wild beasts and angels, St. Mark tells us that the Devil was also near. It makes sense that those 40 days in a ruined but soon to be restored Eden would also find Satan present, as he was in the Garden along ago, seeking to bring chaos and disharmony to God’s paradise. Yet the New Adam will succeed where the Old Adam failed, being able to resist the temptations of the Evil One to no longer trust in God’s love and to seek to grasp for worldly power and dominion.
In the desert, Our Lord was preparing himself for a 3-year battle with Satan, though in reality this war had been ongoing since Lucifer’s fall from heaven. This renewed battle would culminate with our Lord’s perceived defeat on the Cross that in fact was the moment Satan was defeated once and for all; for no longer would humanity be confined to the depth of the underworld but could now reign in the Heavenly Eden.
St. Peter proclaimed today that though “He was put to death in the flesh, [he was] made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison.” Here St. Peter is recalling for the First Christians that day of days when Our Lord descended into hell to harrow it and released from prison those who awaited His victory over sin and death.
Among those who awaited the Lord was Adam. We can wonder if Jesus spent much of His time in the desert, alongside the wild beasts and the angels and Satan, making ready His Sacred Heart for that meeting with Adam, when He would take him by the hand once again, and how Adam must have marveled as he grasped that Pierced Hand that had once created him, fashioned Eve from his side and now welcomed Him to return to Eden.
May each of us be willing to enter into the desert with our Lord during this Lent Fast, knowing the Devil is there and prowling and so must be fought, but that wild beasts and angels also reside, and can be our companions on the way to Jesus Christ.