Into the Wilderness
This weekend the Gospel tells us that after Jesus was baptized, “the Spirit immediately drove him 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” (Mark 1:12-13).
Where else but the desert could you have such meaningful encounters with the Holy Spirit, Satan, the wild beasts and the holy angels? The desert was the school where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which he should follow and the voice of Satan which is temptation. Jesus was wrestling with his vocation as God’s “beloved Son”.
The season of Lent is a privileged time for the discernment of our own vocation, listening for God’s call which, when we answer, brings us meaning and purpose. How many voices do we hear from the moment we get up in the morning till the moment we go to sleep at night? The countless voices on social media, the daily paper, the voices on the radio and the television and the voices of those who live and work with us. Of course, we can’t forget our own unceasing inner voices. In the desert we leave most of these voices behind to focus on distinguishing between the guiding voice of God and the tempting voice of Satan.
In the desert we come to know ourselves: our strengths and weaknesses, and our divine calling. Lent is the time for the desert experience.
On the first Sunday of Lent, 1813, in the church of Madeleine in Aix-en-Provence, Eugene de Mazenod preached in his sermon: Come now, and learn from us what you are in the eyes of faith. You, the poor of Jesus Christ, the afflicted and the wretched, the sick and suffering, all of you whom misery overwhelms, my brethren, my dear brethren, listen to me. You are the children of God, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ, the co-heirs of his eternal Kingdom, the cherished portion of his inheritance; you are, in the words of Saint Peter, a holy nation, you are kings, you are priests. You are, yes, in a certain way, gods.
Lent is the time to discover who we are “in the eyes of faith”, to discover our true identity.
We might not be able to literally travel to the desert as Jesus did, but we can all create a desert space in our overcrowded lives. We can set aside a place and time to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every day, a time to hear God’s word, a time to rediscover who we are before God, a time to say, “yes” to God and, “no” to Satan as Jesus did. Welcome to Lent! Welcome to the desert!
By Jarek Pachocki, OMI