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Lenten Reflection - Feb. 18, 2018
First Sunday in Lent – February 18, 2018
DRIVEN INTO OUR LENTEN DESERT
Each liturgical season breaks open a different theme.
Our soul’s journey is cyclical, like the seasons. In Lent we are called to some special sacred work.
We read in today’s gospel that the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, a place people did not generally choose to go. The desert is a harsh unforgiving landscape. We know Jesus dealt with temptation there because the Scripture is clear on that. And in Lent we are driven into the desert as well to deal with the things we do not want to face until forced to do so – those things that hamper our relationship with God, self and others - in other words our own demons. They may be our ego that makes us need to always be self referential in conversations, or our envy that robs us of our ability to appreciate another person or their accomplishments, or our anger issues, or our tendency to be critical or our dislike of someone. These are patterns in our life and they crop up when we are least aware of them. We need to get underneath those and it is personal for each of us. (If we don’t know what our own demons are, we need only ask our neighbors. They see them more clearly than we do.) It is the Spirit who pushes us to deal with those things. This is the desert place where we would not choose to go. We have to be driven there. It is unpleasant; it is bleak; it is lonely; it is painfully honest - and humanly we try to avoid that terrain. Yet the Spirit pursues us that we may grow into who God created us to be – in other words, to grow fully into God into whose image we were created.
What else did Jesus do during those days in the desert? Jesus is the perfect model for us. How did he face his Father? Let’s listen to what Scripture says.
“In the morning, long before dawn, he got up and went off to a lonely place and there he prayed.” Mk 1:35
“He would always go off to some place where he could be alone and pray”
“He went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” Mt 14:23
He went out into the hills to pray, and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.” Lk 6:12
Like the apostles, we have to learn how to pray. Jesus alone can teach us. His heart is ever open. We will only pray well there. Gospel in hand, respectfully we need to try to catch the accents of that prayer rising from the wilds: they should be ours.
Jesus contemplates the infinite perfections of his Father such as the immensity of God, the infinite holiness of God, the silence of God, the being of God, the beauty of God, and abandons his heart to the fires of love. This is “the eternal life” which his human nature had already begun to live here. Listen to what he says from the Gospel of John that we may repeat after him.
“Father, I have glorified you on earth.” Jn 17:4
“I have known you.” Jn 17:25
“I have made your name known to them and shall continue to make it known.” Jn 17:26
May this become true for us, too.
Jesus “emptied himself” as St. Paul was to put it. He abandoned himself entirely to the divine will, however exacting that would prove.
“My will is to do the will of the One who has sent me.” Jn 4:34
The one who prays with Jesus, sharing his prayer, expands his own heart to the breadth of the Savior’s. We cannot desire a better prayer-master. We need to put ourselves, as Jesus did, in the presence of the transcendent God This contemplation will immerse us in the truth and make us aware of our nothingness and God’s grandeur.
In imitation of Jesus may we sing God’s praise, abandon ourselves to his every wish, let him reign over our mind by faith and over our heart by love, over our desires by hope. We need to do this through him and in him, sharing his prayer – and in the wonderful temple of his heart we may hear:
“Holy, Holy, Holy
Lord, Almighty Father,
Heaven and earth are filled with your majestic glory.
Jesus, lead us into our Lenten desert - and speak to our heart.
~Sister Nancy Gunderson