Each liturgical season has its own sacred landscape traversed by prayer, ritual and tradition. The Church stands at the threshold of a new season with challenging terrain, the desert of Lent.
Although there can be attractions in the desert, it is not a place that most people relish visiting. In the Old Testament, God's people, the Israelites wandered for a generation in the desert. John the Baptist spent the greater part of his life preaching in the desert, and the apostle Paul spent three years in the desert after his conversion.
The Gospel for the first Sunday of Lent tells of Jesus going into the desert before he began his public ministry and how he faced the spirit of darkness. As a human being, Jesus faced Satan and ultimately overcame temptation. Jesus' temptations were real, and they were grueling. Undoubtedly, he struggled as he prepared to do the will of the Father.
During Lent, the Gospel invites us to journey into the desert landscape of our own souls and to walk more closely with Christ. What does it really mean for us to go to the desert today? It is much more than attending a talk or a workshop at Church, reading the Bible or being more faithful to our daily prayer routines. Moving into the desert means that we move away from distractions and demands and enter in to solitude, deep quiet where God can speak to our hearts.
To connect with God, we may have to disconnect from other things such as phones, social media or even some other people. When we disconnect even for a short time, we can enter sacred space, examine our lives, and see how we can change for the better.
Jesus and other major biblical figures show us that there is much to learn in the desert if we make the journey. The desert teaches us about hidden, unknown life. We may be astonished at the surprises we discover in the desert. On the surface, it appears that the desert is devoid of life. However, hidden beneath the surface in not so obvious places, creatures of all kinds adapt to the harsh environment and thrive. In the Lenten Journey, God wants to unearth hidden and life-giving gifts for us and to expand our spiritual awareness.
The desert also teaches us about extremes. While most people usually think of it as hot and dry, the desert becomes very cold at night. Individuals who stay in the desert for a long time need protective clothing for the extremes. The desert invites us to see our personal extremes for better or worse. On one hand, abundant goodness flows from our lives, but as we go deeper into the desert, we will come face to face with our demons. Like Jesus, and with grace we will overcome them.
This Lent we are invited to journey into the desert. Let's walk with Jesus and absorb the desert landscape. During desert time with Christ, God will water the parched land and his promise of desert blossoms will be fulfilled.