Every Sunday morning in Lent you will receive, as you are receiving here, a Meditation to activate your prayerful interest in the Gospel text chosen in the Catholic Lectionary. What is offered you each Sunday follows the pattern that you see below: Text, Points, Quotation, and Habit to Practice. A “point” for Prayer is a “location” in the biblical text to perceive more attentively, or a single thought to consider arising from that text. A “point” is meant to slow you down, to pique your interest in an effort of attention to the scripture which the Spirit desires for you to be “living and effective.”
Mark 1:12-13 – Jesus Tempted in the Wilderness – 12 At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, 13 and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
First Point – C.S. Lewis wrote in “Christianity and Culture” in his Christian Reflections : “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan.” Yet notice how very little text Mark allots to Satan here in Mark 1:12-13, concerning this famous “moment” of encounter with the Christ. Mark does not grant to Satan even the courtesy of recording how cleverly he worked to tempt Jesus (see the fuller accounts in Matthew and in Luke). As profound within the human journey as are the works of darkness – “no neutral ground”, Mark’s instinct is right. Pay little attention to the Satan, who wants our attention and curiosity. Let us instead seek to know Jesus, seeking familiarity with Him through the Gospels, and letting St. Paul explain to us what those Gospels mean. If we love the Lord alone, keeping our attention on Him and His way, then whatever of the darkness we must understand will be given us by Him who alone has the ability to destroy it, “even Death itself.” Ursula Le Guin wrote: “I have given my love to what is worthy of love. Is that not the kingdom and the unperishing spring?”
Second Point – Notice Mark’s insight about the connection between a person experiencing loneliness and his or her vulnerability, by that loneliness, to temptations that outside of loneliness would have no capacity to persuade him or her. In Matthew’s account (esp. 4:11), Jesus is completely alone until after the temptations had concluded – “and behold, angels came and ministered to him”; in Luke’s account, Jesus is alone throughout and remains so until he returns from the wilderness. But in Mark’s account, Jesus was among wild beasts (the strength and belonging we are meant to feel in the natural world), and Mark writes that the angels stood with Him during the entire time of the temptations. We might in this regard re-consider, as the Rev. Billy Graham did when he wrote concerning what our tradition calls guardian angels – “But the Bible does tell us that for the believer nothing happens outside God’s control. And yes, if we know Christ, His angels continually watch over us. The Bible says that God ‘will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways’ (Psalm 91:11). It also teaches that the angels–although they are largely unseen–watch over us and work for our good. The Bible says, ‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ (Hebrews 1:14).”
Third Point – It is not at all unexpected that immediately after a person – Jesus in this case – experiences a profound gift of the Light, an “amazing grace”, a permanently affecting experience of God (such as Moses at that burning bush in Exodus 3), that same person will experience a challenge intended to destroy his or her remembrance of, or his or her desire to cherish, that grace. As C.S. Lewis wrote (quoted above at the First Point), “no neutral ground in the universe.” Spiritual consolations typically are challenged by spiritual desolations. St. Ignatius of Loyola, that adept at the art of spiritual discernment of spirits, writes in his Spiritual Exercises  that “One who is in consolation should consider how he or she will act [not effectively!] in future desolation and store up new strength while in consolation.” In other words, when one is experiencing a time of obvious grace-full-ness, he or she acts boldly, and shrewdly, in praying: “O God, thank you for this time of grace. But it is not enough. Please give this grace more powerfully, make it more and stronger into the deepest parts of me. I well know how easily I will forget your mercies to me.”
Quotation: The Wilderness Setting. Chrysostom: You see how the Spirit led him, not into a city or public arena, but into a wilderness. In this desolate place, the Spirit extended the devil an occasion to test him, not only by hunger, but also by loneliness, for it is there most especially that the devil assails us, when he sees us left alone and by ourselves. In this same way did he also confront Eve in the beginning, having caught her alone and apart from her husband. The Gospel of St. Matthew, Homily 13.1.1
Habit to practice during the First Week of Lent: As a way of countering what St. John Chrysostom, in the quotation above, perceived about loneliness as something that sets up a person for temptation – “a near occasion of sin” as the traditional language called it – call during this first week of Lent on the phone a friend of yours, or meet up for coffee with a friend this week. Enjoy friendship this week as a holy habit of the Light – a deliberate consolation. The habit here is to learn how to reach out and be a friend to your friends when loneliness would seek to persuade you not to reach out to them.
 “A lectionary is a collection of readings or selections from the Scriptures, arranged and intended for proclamation during the worship of the people of God. Lectionaries were known and used in the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the church’s year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and festival has continued through the history of the Christian Church.”
 Hebrews 4:12 – “Indeed, the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” (NABRE)
 See: http://www.cslewis.com/us/books/ebook/the-c-s-lewis-collection-essays-and-speeches/9780062660435/.
 Ursula Le Guin (1929-2018), in The Farthest Shore (Atheneum 1972; Bantam 1975), being the third of the Earthsea books.
 The Reverend Billy Graham born 7 November 1918, and at this writing still alive at 99-years old! https://billygraham.org/answer/does-each-person-have-a-guardian-angel/. See, concerning his life and mission in Christianity Today: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/people/evangelistsandapologists/billy-graham.html.
 The Baptism of Jesus. Mark 1: 9 eIt happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. 10 On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.* 11 fAnd a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” 
 Such “consolations” and “desolations” do not mean here “mood swings” that we all experience. Rather, they refer to a person’s ability to register in his or her awareness when, on the one hand, the Spirit of God has initiated an action within us, such that we feel its affect in us (consolation), and, on the other hand, when the evil spirit – St. Ignatius refers to it as “the enemy of our human nature” – has invaded the soul, such that we feel its malign affects in us (desolation).
 The Spiritual Exercises is a manual St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) wrote for spiritual directors to use in their guidance of those they are directing into a deeper relationship with Christ. Towards the end of this manual he placed his famous “Rules for the Discernment of Spirits” [313-336]. While these Rules can be considered on their own, their spiritual significance is best understood by a retreatant being guided through a Retreat called “making the Spiritual Exercises.”
 John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.
*1 TLG 2062.152, 57.209.28–36; NPNF 1 10:80*. The theme of temptation alone in the wilderness appears similarly in Matthew, Mark and Luke.
 Thomas C. Oden and Christopher A. Hall, eds., Mark (Revised), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 16.
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