After Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River the Spirit descended upon him and led him to begin his mission. The first step Jesus takes in this mission is to go out into the wilderness, the desert. There he faced the temptations that stood in front of this mission (Matt.4:1-11).
Lent for us, is always a step into the desert. A desert is a place of different environment, a place where we must wrestle with those things that threaten the fullness of our lives. The desert is the place where we can be lost, where we see the temptations and the possibilities that can draw us off track in our life journey. The desert can be a place of challenge. But it can also be a place of discovery. Often it is the place where we discover who we are and what our mission and direction is in life, even for a brief time.
For God’s People in the Old Testament, the desert of Sinai was the place of discovery. Leaving Egypt and escaping their slavery, they trekked through the wasteland toward the land promised them by God. After much struggle, they came to the place of God’s promise and recognized that they were the beloved ones of God. Through their desert journey, Israel was more and more formed into the people they were called to be.
Lent presents us with a desert journey. It is an opportunity to develop the spirituality that we long for, providing direction and focus for our lives. We can make it a time of reflection and of prayer, an opportunity to be formed into the people of God’s dream. In moments of reflection we may discover our faults and flaws. But we can also discover that they do not matter, for in God’s eyes we are the beloved, the loved.
Through the desert of prayer and reflection, we can begin to set aside those things that reduce and diminish our lives. We begin to see that God calls us to action, to mission. It is not an impossible mission but one which we share with a whole community – to reveal to the whole world, and to ourselves - that God loves us unconditionally.
Here are some suggestions for our desert journey during Lent 2023:
Take advantage of opportunities for quiet reflection and prayer
Examine how we use resources, talents and gifts for all, especially others in need
Gather with your community and acknowledge how much they mean to you
Look at your relationships and how they might be enriched and improved
Franciscan priest and spiritual writer, Richard Rohr in his daily online reflection a few years ago had this to say about how we might live our lives with a spirituality of both contemplation and action. “In order to become truly prophetic people,… we have to teach and learn ways to integrate needed activism with a truly contemplative mind and heart….Once you see things contemplatively, you’ll begin to seek the bias toward the bottom [i.e. the most in need and forgotten in society and the world].” He goes on to assert: “You’ll be free to embrace your shadow, and you can live at peace with those who are different. From a contemplative stance, you’ll know what action is yours to do almost naturally. And what you do not need to do at all!”