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February 14, 1997     The Message
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February 14, 1997

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana "Oommentary -_ ration for victory: The temptation of Jesus 1997: First Sunday of B: Mark 1:12.15 Word derived from the prmg, is a gathering strength to That is why with the victory of days of tempta- story of the is noted for brief in relation to : of Luke and Matthew. with the them as a By FATHER DON DILGER COLUMNIST of using a written work gospel known as "Q" from the Ger- meaning "source." It is from Luke adopted the better triple temptation of Jesus in Version is brief. Immediately after his s "expelled" or "forced" into the Spirit that had just come upon translation of this sen- Spirit "drove" Jesus into the any form of the verb "to drive" sense of riding in a vehicle of some translate as expelled" or "forced" That is exactly what he uses the same Greek expulsion as he uses later to express forcing demons from the pos- out." Matthew and Luke :. of Mark's statement and change their version to read that the Spirit "led" Jesus into the wilderness. Why does Mark use such a bru- tal expression? Here he begins the overriding theme of his ospel, the rejection and even abandonment of Jesus by all. It begins with his expulsion by the Spirit and ends on the cross with the cry of total aban- donment: "My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?" Next we must ask ourselves why Mark chose such a theme for a book which he begins by referring to it as "Good News?" What was the background of such a choice? The Gospel of Mark arises out of a violent persecution against Christians at Rome dur- ing the sixties of the first century A.D. The Christ- ian community was devastated by the cruel torture and death of many of its members. Even worse was the betrayal experienced within the community. Christians would falter under the stress of a trial and/or torture, curse Jesus, and reveal the names of other Christians, thus leading to their capture and eventual martyrdom. This background appears throughout the gospel. Perhaps the most notable example is that of Peter's denial of Jesus, where the Greek is correctly translated that Peter cursed Jesus, Mark 14:71, just as some of the Christians did in their trial forty years later. Thus Jesus is portrayed by Mark as rejected, abandoned, denied, and betrayed, the very things that happened to the martyrs in the Roman persecution. Mark, like all the gospel authors, is capable of highly symbolic writing. The forty days of Jesus' temptation are intended to recall the forty years of the people of Israel being tried: tempted, in the wilderness. Note that in Mark Jesus does not fast during the forty days. Luke and Matthew will add that note to recall not only the hunger of the Israelites in the wilderness but the fasting of Moses, then Elijah, before their contact with Yahweh on the holy mountain. The presence of the wild beasts, a Marcan note ignored by Matthew and Luke, is another expression of the abandonment theme and recalls Psalm 22. This Psalm begins with the words: "My God, my God! Why have you abandoned me?", then speaks of being surrounded and threatened by wild beasts. The ministry of the angels at the end of Mark's account is a note of comfort. It recalls for his readers the comforting words of Psalm 90: "He will put his angels in charge of you.., to guard you. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone." In the temptation scene Mark has therefore told his persecuted and surviving readers that the pe];secution was a time of trial under the direction of God's Spirit to prepare and cleanse them for ordeals yet to come. The persecutors are represented by Satan and the wild beasts. In the rejection, aban- donment, denial, and betrayal they experienced, Mark tells them that God was always present: "The angels came and ministered to him." Can we identi- fy with those first Christian hearers of this Good News? Who of us has not experienced rejection, abandonment, denial, betrayal by supposed friends, colleagues, employers, Church officials? But there is always hope. Jesus was victorious, a theme taken up in next Sunday's gospel, the transfiguration. Readings: Genesis 9:8-15: I Peter 3:18-22. /i(e You had difficulty qual(fying for standard life insurance? 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