Jesus comes at you fast, according to Mark, rather like the proverbial “life” in those insurance commercials. The way He is described by the Evangelist whose Gospel we follow at Mass this year, Christ is always acting immediately to confront expectations and change lives.
Reading the opening chapter of the second Gospel, from which comes our brief text for this weekend’s Mass, moves as quickly from one scene to another as those current commercials where frustration with cable TV leads through a succession of improbable causations to disaster of unbearable proportions, resulting in the prescription, Get rid of cable. Irresistible logic in fifteen seconds; wow, that was fast. Shame it doesn’t work.
We tune in this week where we left off January 9, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. If you don’t recall, don’t be too hard on yourself; it was on a Monday this year, instead of the usual Sunday. Anyway, that event ends, And a voice came from the heavens, "You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased." (Mk 1:11) Now does that sound familiar?
As Mark recounts it, bang, the very next thing is today’s: The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert. We then get a few lines about wild beasts, and Satan, but none of the details we get from the other Evangelists – the three temptations, the three responses, the scenic locations. Immediately then, this ordeal freshly behind Him, Jesus begins his public ministry, preaching repentance, and the coming of the Kingdom. It all gets three verses, total. Whew!
The next few verses have Him casting out demons and yanking Simon Peter’s sick mother-in-law out of bed so she can wait on them, at least healing her in the process, and everybody is looking for Him. The coming of the Kingdom is more like a tsunami the way Mark presents it.
So it is odd that we have Mark in this year of splendid pacing. Having Christmas and Mary the Mother of God on Sundays was an absolute delight. Now we have had until February 22 before Lent starts: leisure! No, it’s not freakish like last year, when Easter was crazy late and Ash Wednesday in March. It’s just right.
So I was ready for Ash Wednesday, ready for Lent, in a way I do not recall having been before. Ready in both senses: prepared, and in need. I was so prepared I got out the Lent volume of my breviary two days early. I’ll spare you the gory details, but I was so in need that I found the austerities of Ash Wednesday made everything better – way better.
Frustration borne of selfishness leads through a succession of improbable causations to disaster of unbearable proportions, resulting in the prescription, Get rid of self-indulgence. Irresistible logic in fifteen seconds; wow, that was fast. But this time, it works.
Life comes at you fast; so does Jesus.
Allow me to point out to you that this past Saturday evening, our parish choir gave a concert, which I attended with Fr. DeRosa, Fr. McDonell, Fr. Nick, and my friend, Fr. Knestout. It was amazing. Fr. Knestout, the Director of the Archdiocesan Office of Worship, said our choir was among the best he’d heard. Dr. Peter Latona, the director of music at the Basilica, said to me at intermission, “I hope you’re proud.” I am.