On the first Sunday of Lent, we heard the gospel account of Jesus being led in to the desert by the Spirit and the temptations he experienced there. I’m sure that a majority of the homilies were about the temptations of Jesus from the devil and our own preparation for Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
But as we move into the middle of Lent, pause with me to take some time to dwell in that desert. The desert to this day is a spiritual and sometimes a physical place for the followers of Jesus.
Desert spirituality is a way of seeking God. As early as the 3rd Century, early Christian hermits, also known as the Desert Fathers and Mothers, went into the desert to follow the example of Jesus’ life of poverty, service, and self-denial.
Living in a desert is very difficult. It demands a journey that people must undertake to achieve what they want. One must accept and respond to its beauty, its emptiness and desolation. One might discover unexpected inner resources, transformation, renewed insight on how to live life. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. The desert becomes an image of personal struggle for the better self, a personal journey into a deeper Christian life.
The Israelites 40-year desert journey was difficult. But God's plan was to open the hearts of the Israelites to understanding that they were God's people. In the desert, they experienced an intimacy with God which was remembered and longed for during many difficult years. In the stillness, silence and emptiness of the desert a meeting with the divine becomes possible. In the desert, we stand alone before God. We empty ourselves of obstacles to God. We reflect on relationship to God and examine our values.
In the emptiness of the desert. God's power and goodness becomes overwhelming. We become strengthened and ready to serve God and each other as Jesus did after his desert time.
Led to the desert by the Spirit, I invite us to take a desert day, a desert morning or afternoon, a desert hour at this midpoint in Lent to review with an open heart and an open mind, God’s call to us in this moment of our lives.
Answer the call to “come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” (Mark 6:31)