We live in a world of extremes. One day the hot weather is barely tolerable, the very next day it is bitingly cold. Physically we feel great in the morning and by the evening we feel miserable. Our emotions are up and down, we feel hopeful then discouraged, confident then unsure, happy then sad, all in the same day. The world is full of people who do wonderful things and others who commit terrible atrocities. Wealth and prosperity live right alongside poverty and hunger. Some days we are confident in our efforts to live good, moral lives. At other times we wonder we will survive in a world that pulls us in so many directions contrary to what we value.
In the Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent (Mark 1:12-15), Jesus reminds us of the extremes of life, the gaps between good and bad, right and wrong, wonderful and terrible. He is led by the spirit into the wilderness. The wilderness is both beautiful and dangerous. It is a place with a stunning, stark landscape, sometimes bedecked with gorgeous flowers. It is also a dangerous place of extreme weather and poisonous creatures. The beautiful landscape of the desert was the place where Jesus came face to face with Satan. In this place of extremes Jesus made a choice. The choice was not to give in to the evil taunting of Satan and to hold fast to the Good News that evil can be conquered by the power of God’s grace.
Lent reminds us that in this world of extremes we have choices to make. The choice to give in to the demons that say the struggle is not worth it, or to make choices that promote goodness, reconciliation and peace. We can choose to do the right thing even though there might be little support for doing it. We can choose to be present to God through prayer, even though our busyness and concerns may try to keep us from those prayerful moments. We can choose to face the ugly realities of our world such as poverty, hunger and violence so that we can make choices that will lead to their elimination.
There is no way out of the world of extremes in which we live. Through the choices we make we have something to say about a wilderness that eventually blossoms with goodness and life.