Commentary by Fr Donagh O’Shea OP, www.goodnews.ie
The Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him. Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Like John the Baptist, Jesus preached repentance, in other words, revolution. The Greek word translated by ‘repentance’ is ‘metanoia’, which means literally ‘a mental revolution’, a change of mind and heart. The world has seen many revolutions, practically all of them violent. All violent revolutionaries become dictators on the day after the revolution, claiming to be safeguarding the revolution. Bitter experience shows us that the revolution serves the dictatorship, not the other way around. The seizing of power becomes an end in itself, rather than a means. Jesus’ revolution was of a different order. He refused the way of power: “put down your sword,” he told Peter.
Jesus was first in the desert, where he confronted the wild beasts and the demons. It was an example to all revolutionaries. They should first go into the desert of themselves and face their demons there; otherwise they will project them onto other people and try to destroy them by destroying people. Revolutions, like charity, should begin at home. Reformers should first reform themselves. The axe is laid to the root of the tree, said John the Baptist – my tree, not someone else’s; my ego, not other people’s.
Revolutions are nearly always against something or someone. That way, they draw on the energy of hatred, which is more easily accessible than the energy of love. But we do not become good by fighting evil (we would soon find ourselves using the same means as the enemy); we become good by doing good. Jesus did not say, Repent and destroy the class of people who are bad news. He said, “Repent, and believe the good news.”
A revolution of love appears soft and ineffectual beside the other kind. But love is stronger than death. St Paul could write, “We are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered…. In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:36-39).