First Sunday of Lent 2024 Franciscan Gospel Reflection

Sister JulieAnn Sheahan

February 14, 2024

Franciscan Friar Fr. Paul Gallagher reflects on the Gospel text for the First Sunday of Lent. Have you ever been tested in your life in order to prove or demonstrate your worth? (You might think of being on a sports team, debate or chess club, musical production, or an employer.)

The content is edited by Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Anne Marie Lom and Joe Thiel. The excerpts from the Sunday readings are prepared by Joe Thiel. To read or download the complete pdf with excerpts for your prayer, please click here Franciscan Gospel Reflections February 18 2024. Excerpts are from the Lectionary for Mass for Use in the Dioceses of the United States of America, second typical edition © 2001, 1998, 1997, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No portion of this text may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Photos: See these windows in person. God’s blessings on your Lenten season!   Fr. Alan Wierzba St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, Edgar, Wisconsin

Mark 1:12-15

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”


Mark’s account of the temptation of Jesus follows right after Jesus is baptized by John in the Jordan. His account of both the baptism and the temptation are very sparse. The natural tendency might be to fill in the details of what “actually” took place with information from other gospel accounts. But if the reader is willing to reflect on what Mark does include, they will be rewarded by a deeper understanding of the temptations of Jesus.

In the opening verse of the gospel text, Mark states that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert. Mark’s community would be aware that “the Spirit” was the expression of the great power of God throughout their religious tradition. Some examples of this are in the texts that follow.

In the first, the Spirit enabled Othniel, who helped the Jews defeat their enemies:

“Because the Israelites had offended the LORD by forgetting the LORD, their God, and serving the Baals and the Asherahs (foreign gods), the anger of the LORD flared up against them, and he allowed them to fall into the power of Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram Naharaim, whom they served for eight years. But when the Israelites cried out to the LORD, he raised up for them a savior, Othniel, son of Caleb’s younger brother Kenaz, who rescued them. The spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD delivered Cushan-rishathaim, king of Aram, into his power, so that he made him subject.” (Judges 3:7-10)

Another example is when Samuel anointed the young shepherd, David, as the next King, and the Spirit came upon him to guide him:

“Jesse sent and had the young man brought to them. He was ruddy, a youth handsome to behold and making a splendid appearance. The LORD said, ‘There–anoint him, for this is he!’ Then Samuel, with the horn of oil in hand, anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and from that day on, the spirit of the LORD rushed upon David.” (1 Samuel 16:12-13b)

It was also that same spirit who came upon ordinary people and led them to be great prophets of God. The same spirit who animated so many people throughout the Jews’ history was now acting once again to drive Jesus into the desert.

Mark states that Jesus was driven into the desert and was tempted by Satan for forty days. Both the great prophets Moses and Elijah fasted for forty days. The desert is a hostile place, inhabited by bandits and those who have rejected normal social relationships. More important, it is the place of Israel’s testing, a testing that they repeatedly failed, and becoming unfaithful and testing God’s covenant with them. Mark does not describe how Jesus was tested, but, stating that Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the reign of God, the reader knows that Jesus has come away from that testing victorious over the power of Satan.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What is your image of the desert? If you were going to ask an artist to draw a picture of the Spirit leading Jesus into the desert, what would you suggest should be included in the image?
  2. Have you ever been tested in your life in order to prove or demonstrate your worth? (You might think of being on a sports team, debate or chess club, musical production, or an employer.)
  3. How did you feel about being tested at the time? How did you feel afterward, and how do you feel about it now, looking back?
  4. Do you think there is a connection between Jesus’ experience in the desert and his ability to proclaim the reign of God?
  5. Where do you see the action of the spirit operating in your life?
  6. Does this gospel lead you to see a way that you might be challenged by the spirit of God in your life? How might this season of Lent be a time for you to embrace the Spirit, who might be testing you so that you too can more boldly proclaim the reign of God?
  7. Can you take time to talk with God honestly about whatever thoughts or feelings this gospel might have brought up within you or about your desires for your Lenten journey this year?


Article Comments:

Fr. Placid Stroik, OFM 02/15/2024 @ 11:20 pm

In a former spiritual ministry I was in a desert for weeks, perhaps 40 days. Someone was doing a spiritual activity that I thought was not truly leading people to the Kingdom of God. After conversation with 4 people of wisdom led by the Spirit I came to see that the spiritual activity done by another was leading people to proclaim the kingdom of God. I felt “perplexed” the whole time in the desert. I felt “grateful” that I came by grace to a change of heart.


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