“Ministering Angels” – Reflection for 1st Sunday of Lent

She suddenly finds herself in a desert of loneliness and isolation. Her marriage unraveled; she now faces an uncertain future alone. Family and friends don’t know how to relate to her as she is no longer part of a couple; she’s not used to functioning socially as a single. But her sister — who’s been there — is her “ministering angel,” guiding her in fending off the “wild beasts” of fear and loneliness.

He wanders the city, a 15-year-old alone in the dark urban “desert.” He may have been thrown out of his house by angry parents — He’s not the boy we raised! We can’t handle him anymore! Or he’s running away from a nightmare of physical and emotional abuse. His young life is now lived in the streets amid all kinds of “wild beasts” he has never encountered before. But he finds help at a hostel run by CROSSCARE. Volunteer “angels” provide him with a safe place and help to find his way through this dark and dangerous desert.

It’s been happening in too many communities around the globe: The rabbi of the local synagogue receives an ugly letter or e-mail threatening the destruction of their synagogue — and worse. But people of good will and faith come to the aid of their Jewish neighbours, offering whatever help and support they can. Police respond immediately; churches and parishes reach out to their Jewish neighbours to assure them that are loved, respected and visible. The “wild beast” of anti-Semitism will not be tolerated in the hometowns of these “ministering angels.”

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all recount Jesus’ 40-day desert experience at the start of his public life. Mark, however, says little of Jesus’ encounter with Satan. The only detail Mark includes is Jesus “being among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” Today’s brief Gospel poses an important challenge to us on this First Sunday of Lent: Are we able and willing to be “ministering angels” to those wandering through “deserts” of fear, isolation and prejudice, whose lives are threatened by “wild beasts” of abuse, poverty and violence? Lent calls us each spring to walk with Christ in the desert of our hearts to find the courage and faith to imitate his example of service and compassion, dedicating ourselves to the “ministry” of “angels” to those lost and threatened in the deserts through which we all struggle to make our way.