We hear today that the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness.
The Spirit drove is a very Lenten idea.
Lent is a time of being driven to remember that human life is short and we have much to prepare for.
It is a time to be driven by the Spirit to a new openness, true repentance and to ongoing conversion.
It is a time that the Holy Spirt drives us forward often into unchartered territory, sometimes even into the wilderness. We are driven, but never abandoned.
After Jesus's baptism and anointing with the Spirit, he was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness to fast, and to pray and to be deeply tested by 40 days of confrontation with physical hardship, and bodily and spiritual temptations, and even with evil itself.
That time for Jesus was preparation for the wilderness of the human experience, its fears and anxieties, its fragile and flawed nature, it's hardness and unfairness.
We know the story! Jesus came through his own wilderness experience, battered and torn, hungry and tired, but not broken and he proclaimed, and I like to think staring straight into the eyes of Satan
"The time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe the good news"
Believe the Good News - that even in the heart of the devil's own wasteland, God is near to those who are willing to be saved.
Saved by turning away from what is sinful and towards an encounter with the Lord.
Placing yourself at the service of God's kingdom, by doing his will for the good of others.
Jesus' victory over the world was a sign that the Kingdom of God had broken into the world, the very world Satan thought he had under his thumb.
But, we must remember the Kingdom of God is not a shiny place or a thing - it is truth and life.
It is the sharing of devine life in the Holy Spirit, as the Body of Christ, and it continues, most visibly as the Church, which in the face of sin and evil, still proclaims the Good News and calls for repentance and conversion and reaches out in charity and service.
The Church is for you and I and countless others, the great vehicle, the life raft, the new ark of our salvation.
The first ark, Noah's ark, was built to save those who took refuge in it.
St Peter says in the second reading that eight human lives were saved.
Not so many.
But, to Noah and those precious few God gave a promise, he made a covenant with them, that never again would his wrath destroy the world.
In the light of God's covenant and blessing the flood revealed a new potential for the world,
a world that would be sustained by God’s creative love.
And Noah, in gratitude, gave glory to God.
Noah's Ark saved what would become the seeds of renewed creation, but our fallen humanity, like some parasite, was hidden within those few, somehow evil hitched a ride.
And we know our story, how quickly humanity fell back into its evil ways.
A new ark was needed. A metaphorical ark of; Abraham, Moses, the Prophets, the Incarnation, the Risen Christ and now, in the time of the Holy Spirit, the ark of the Church.
As the devine vehicle of the Spirit, the Church is perfect in its goodness, truth and holiness.
As the human vehicle of the People of God, not so perfect, not always so good, not always so truthful.
You and I, our brothers and sisters in faith, are imperfect passengers, fragile and broken, self-serving and self-loathing. To various degrees, we are all beaten and torn by the wilderness, whatever shape that wilderness takes.
We cling together, as Church, not because we are just, or pure, or better than those outside, but because we are not, we are far from it.
We take refuge within the ark of the Church bringing our goodness that is the human heart and human spirit, but we also bring our self-righteousness, fear, pride, greed, all manner of corruption and sinfulness.
We cling to Mother Church as human beings; all of us, saints and sinners, repentant or not.
And we need to hold on tight, never letting one of us (not even the least worthy of us) slip overboard for the crossing can be rough. Love one another.
When Jesus, came out of the wilderness, after facing down evil he proclaimed
"repent and proclaim the Good News", it is an invitation and a promise to all sinners to climb on board, take refuge in him as Christ the savior, and in his Spirit, who will be with us even to the end of time and in his Church, the body of Christ, the People of God -
together; shoring up the sides, caulking up the cracks, and manning the deck of our beloved ark..
Indeed, Lent is a reminder that the Spirit drives us forth and we have much work to do:
We are driven by the Spirit to sacrifice the self through; fasting, prayer and alms giving, and loving one another but, we are also driven to renewal, transformation, thanksgiving and joy.
Let’s never forget that Lent is the promise of Easter.
Let us remember, in the Spirit, that even in the wilderness we can proclaim the good news and give glory to God, as Noah did on the deck of his ark.
Because, we too have taken refuge in God and
his promise, made visible in the rainbow
"this is a sign I am giving all ages to come, of the covenant between you and me and every living creature"