Well it seems like we just took down the Christmas tree in the church and now, of course, we are in the season of Lent. The gospel story for this weekend takes us into the desert with Jesus. He is alone there for forty days. The forty days echo the forty years that the Israelites spent in the desert after they left Egypt. Those forty years in the wilderness, for the people of Israel, were a time in which they came to understand their own need for God in their lives. I have always been struck, in my time in pastoral ministry, by people who have undergone their own desert experience in life – whether that’s an addiction, or an illness, a long time of unemployment, or any kind of time in anyone’s life in which it seems that God is simply not there and there is not much hope. “The desert” can show up in anyone’s life, and it can be a hard thing to get through. And I’ve learned a lot from people who have gone through things like that, and emerged on the other side with a sense that God was, in some way, with them all along.
There is something as well about being in an actual desert. In 2000, I was on a 30-day retreat, just before taking my solemn vows as a friar, in northern New Mexico, and the landscape there was shades of brown and red, with vast skies, and distant mesas, and barbed wire fence. It’s not for everyone, and one of my classmates couldn’t wait to get out of there. But I remember, amid all the dryness and the brown/red landscape, signs of life – a flower, or the sun reflecting red off the side of a mesa, or a patch of green off the main road somewhere. Signs of life were there all along.
I think a good way to begin Lent is to acknowledge that, amid the busyness and drive of life, we are people who are dependent on God, that all we have and all we are comes from God, and to find a way to clear a path in the midst of our lives to recognize that. Maybe it’s taking just a few minutes during the day to read and reflect on a word from the bible, and to read it in a way so that we place ourselves, our thoughts, into the story itself, and ask ourselves, what might God be speaking to me through these words? There are good resources available – Fr. Bill’s Word on the Inspired Word which can be emailed to you directly or a monthly book of prayers such as “Give Us This Day” which provides the daily readings along with prayers and reflections. Lent is a good time to ground ourselves in a regular way of prayer, in whatever form that might be.
Many thanks to all who have contributed to the BAA so far, and to seminarian James Magee who spoke here last week. If you have not already made your BAA pledge, I encourage you to please do that.
Blessings to all on your week!