Lent opens with Jesus, in the Gospel, withdrawing to the desert for 40 days. Perhaps, it’s a sign that we should also consider making a little trip to the desert. But how can we have desert experience in the midst of our busy lives, in bustling cities? Happily, Lenten season is there to guide us.
Bible readings Genesis 9: 8-15 Psalm 25: 4-9 1 Peter 3:18-22 Marl 1: 12-15
But what’s so special about the desert?
The desert occupies an important place both in the Bible and also in the history of the church. What then is the meaning of the desert? Let’s take some examples to help us appreciate the desert experience in our life as Christians.
Desert, place for maturing
After leaving Egypt, the people of Israel will remain long time in the desert, as nomads, before they can reach the Promised Land. During this time the people will have to reflect and make solid decisions about their lives, realising that the freedom is not just the question of leaving Egypt and crossing the red sea. When the euphoria subsides they have to face what’s ahead of them before they can settle in the Promised Land. With harsh conditions of the desert the Israelites begin to think even with nostalgia of their days in Egypt, especially when they remember tender meat and onions. In order to advance, they will need to mature their choice and their determination to move from the land of slavery to the land of freedom.
Perhaps Lent is a favourable time to revisit my experiences and the choices of I have made; how can I make the best out of them in order to advance in my life?
Going back where you began
Another interesting reference to the desert is that of Hosea and his unfaithful wife, Gomer; a couple which is an analogical expression of the relationship between God and Israel. Here’s what Hosea intends to do to his wife: “Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her to the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her” (Hs 2:14). It’s like saying: let’s go back to where it all began and, in the silence of our heart, we can listen to those initial aspirations that gave birth to our relationship.
It means we can profit of this Lenten season to descend to what we consider as foundation, or centre, of our life. There we can find new energy and new inspirations that can give us a new push in life.
Desert, a place of retreat
The desert was a place of preference for persons who desired to live their Christian faith in a profound way. When Christians were no longer persecuted and Christianity became the state religion; being Christian risked becoming a simple popular culture. That’s how we have persons like Anthony the Great, Macarius, Pachomius, to mention but just some, who withdrew to the desert moved by the thirst of giving depth to their faith. Monasticism or contemplative life has inspiration from such desert fathers.
For us today, it may not be necessary that we go to the desert, besides, we may not even have the possibility; yet, having an inner chamber where we can withdraw and live a little profoundly is absolutely necessary. Lenten season is exactly such desert experience that is proposed to us. So, let’s not hesitate to dive into it and give depth to our life.
Temptations, a way of facing oneself
In the silence of our hearts we can discover our temptations, that is, those enticements that may be alluring to our eyes but which, in reality, have little to nourish our lives. They are temptations all those things which, by false incentives, dissuade and block us from remaining steadfast to the journey we have embarked. When we talk of temptations we want to think in terms of a devil, that is, some external force that comes to hijack us and induces us into what we don’t want to do. Yet, if we pay attention we realise that those temptations have a lot to do with our own inclinations. The desert gives us the time and the serenity necessary to face ourselves and thus define priorities around which we can organise our life.
But Lent, for what?
Why all such Lenten effort? It’s a question that may arise –and it’s legitimate. The response is simple: It’s about opening to a new beginning –it’s giving chance to life both to oneself and to others. That’s what we find in the First reading.
After the floods, that is, death and destruction; God makes an alliance with Noah and his sons. It’s about: never again to death, never again to destruction. In this alliance God is offering a possibility of a new beginning in which every effort should be made for life.
Well, then, through Lent God is giving us this grace period –giving chance for life to every person. A new beginning is possible. It’s up to us, each one according to his situation, to see how to give a chance for new beginning in his personal life, in his work or in his family life.
May this Lent be a time of renewal in your life!
If you are interested in receiving new posts, subscribe by giving your email address!