· Vatican City ·

First Sunday of Lent: 18 February

Trial and Triumph

 Trial and Triumph  ING-007
16 February 2024

As our Lenten journey begins, we encounter a critical moment in the life of Jesus in this week’s Gospel, a moment that captures the essence of His mission on earth. Mark tells us that Jesus is driven into the wilderness by the Spirit. Amidst the harshness of the desert, He undergoes a period of intense testing and temptation. Jesus emerges triumphant from this trial and proclaims the arrival of the Kingdom of God, calling all people to repentance and faith.

This Gospel passage reveals the profound solidarity Jesus has with humanity, as He shares in our human experiences of temptation, struggle, and weakness. Yet, unlike us, He emerges from the wilderness triumphant, demonstrating His divine power and authority over sin and evil. Through His victory, Jesus introduces a new and glorious era, a time of grace and salvation, in which the Kingdom of God is made manifest in the world.

This period of solitude and deprivation that Jesus endured mirrors the season of Lent, during which Christians are called to engage in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving as a means of spiritual preparation for Easter. Like Jesus, we are challenged to confront our own temptations and weaknesses, and to deepen our relationship with God. Lent is a time for renewing our trust in God’s love and mercy. It is a time to let go of our dependence on material possessions and worldly comforts and to place our trust entirely in God’s providence. Jesus’s experience in the wilderness teaches us that even amid trials and temptations, we can find strength and sustenance in God’s word and presence.

Pope Francis, in his most recent apostolic exhortation “C’est la Confiance,” draws our attention to the life and spirituality of St. Therese of Lisieux, known as the Little Flower. Despite her own struggles and limitations Therese embraced a spirituality of childlike trust and abandonment to the will of God. She understood that true holiness consists not in great deeds or achievements, but in loving God and others with simplicity and humility.

Therese’s “little way” of spiritual childhood is a powerful reminder of this week’s Gospel message. Like Jesus in the wilderness, Therese experienced her own moments of dryness, doubt, and darkness. Yet, she persevered in prayer and trust, knowing that God’s love was always there to sustain and uphold her.

In “C’est la Confiance,” Pope Francis reflects on Therese’s profound confidence in God’s merciful love, and how her witness is needed today more than ever. He remarks that at a “...time of great complexity, she can help us rediscover the importance of simplicity, the absolute primacy of love, trust and abandonment, and thus move beyond a legalistic or moralistic mindset that would fill the Christian life with rules and regulations, and cause the joy of the Gospel to grow cold.”

As we journey through the wilderness of our own lives during this Lenten season, let us take heart in the example of Jesus and the witness of St. Therese. Let us abandon ourselves completely to God’s mercy and love, knowing that he is always with us, guiding us on the path to holiness and eternal life, celebrating the triumph of His resurrection.

*  Executive Director
Maryland Catholic Conference

By Jenny Kraska*