On Saturday, Fr Peter told us that Ash Wednesday and the subsequent three days were added to Lent in the fourth century. Prior to that, the First Sunday marked the beginning of Lent and so we begin what is known as the first week of Lent, and we begin it with a promise.
Not a promise that we will behave ourselves, for Mary Poppins would call that a pie-crust promise: easily made and easily broken. No, this is a solemn and divine covenant made by God to Noah and to his family. God brings forth the rainbow as a sign of his covenant between him and the earth
The Flood is a theme that comes back to us in the second reading. Here, St Peter sees the waters of the flood as prefiguring the waters of baptism. When we emerge from the water of baptism, we find ourselves under God’s rainbow, our spirit washed in the waters, an appeal to God for a clear conscience through the resurrection of Christ.
The Gospel, this week, comes from the very beginning of Mark’s Gospel. Mark doesn’t spend any time on Jesus as a child. We open the narrative in the wilderness with John baptising for the forgiveness of sins. After Jesus is baptised, we see him driven by the Spirit across the Jordan into the wilderness.
Whenever I read this text, I wonder what that must feel like, being driven by the Spirit. I have felt coaxed sometimes, urged sometimes, but never grabbed by the lapels and driven. Maybe we should pray for that more often.
It is worth noting that being out with the wild beasts, tended by angels, is a reflection of Isaiah’s image of paradise (the wolf lying down with the lamb, the lion and the ox lying together). An appropriate beginning for Jesus’ ministry, then, as he re-crossed the Jordan and began to proclaim that now is the time, the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent and believe in the Good News.