I Sunday of Lent, Year C
The desert is a dry, barren area of land … a place without vegetation and water … literally a waste … a place without life. Immediately after His baptism and being identified at the “Beloved Son” of the Father, Jesus makes His way out to this place – to fast and to pray … It is here where He encounters temptation, Satan himself. Where He goes is significant – to place where there is nothing… In the desert He cannot be distracted by people, situations, circumstances … not even by food and drink! In the desert, Jesus detaches Himself from persons, places and things – from everything. He sets Himself up for 3 things: 1. A weakened state of mind … St. Luke tells us He was hungry … when we are hungry, we become weak in mind and body. He faced harsh conditions, loneliness, discomfort … 2. In that state of being, He sets Himself up for temptation … 3. By removing the distractions, by going out into a lifeless place, He sets Himself up to be strengthened by God, to be fed by the Word of God.
There is something rather significant about the desert that teaches us about the nature of the spiritual life. The desert is a place of hunger, thirst, loneliness … In the spiritual life, the desert is the place we go within ourselves – our inner most being – to detach ourselves from outside influences of the world … We go to the desert to engage in combat against modern technology – our ipads and smart phones – to flee the noise of the media in order to enter a world of silence. The desert is also a place of temptation as well. In the spiritual life, when we attempt to enter the desert, the world of silence, by detaching ourselves of material things, events, noise, media, etc … in the desert we become keenly aware of the lure of the outside world, our own personal sins, imperfections, and vices. And yet, this is the place where God speaks. This is the place where He nourishes us with His Word and His grace … in the desert, God comes to our defense against temptation – this is what makes the spiritual life a constant battle because it takes a bit of effort on our part, we have to want to remove and detach ourselves from the noise of the world. But in this interior desert… there do we meet God.
READ: Power of Silence no. 104-105; 106
I think we forget that Lent isn’t about self-improvement. Its about self-denial, is about encountering the living God. These 40 Days of fasting, prayer and almsgiving give us the necessary tools of self-denial. And by entering more deeply into the world of silence – by removing the distractions of the world and our busy lives – and this, by the way, includes a good examination of conscience and going to confession which removes the obstacles that are hindrance to grace – there we set the stage for an encounter, there do we set ourselves up to hear God speak more directly to us … because in this place His heart is revealed to ours because our hearts are open to hearing His voice.