1 Peter 3:18-22
Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior. Psalm 25
This psalm for the First Sunday of Lent describes so very well the journey we are each encouraged to engage during these forty days. It’s about listening and learning. It’s about coming to a deeper understanding of who we are called to be as baptized Christians.
So why do we resist? Why are we afraid of going to the desert, as Jesus did? Is it because it’s dry and arid? A lonely place? An unknown place?
The desert is where Jesus goes immediately after his baptism in the Jordan, and it is in the desert where he listens and learns the meaning of his Father’s words "You are my beloved Son." And when Jesus comes back from the desert he immediately begins his preaching ministry. After he emerges from the desert there is clarity in understanding what he needs to do.
I don’t spend a lot of time in deserts, though a recent visit to Joshua Tree National Park in California helps me appreciate the desert image in today’s reading from St. Mark. While there aren’t many deserts in Illinois, Jesus urges me to find that quiet place where I can listen and learn…and, yes, face my temptations. Learning is about discovering who we are at our core, what gets in the way, and how to live a Gospel life of love and service.
Lent hands us the opportunity to find the time and space to understand better what Jesus means when he tells us "You are my beloved." Where that "desert" is will vary for each of us. We can find it in the commute to work, the walk around the block, the Beethoven symphony, or the special chair and a cup of coffee. It is that time and space when we allow the Lord to guide us and teach us. Learning begins with showing up and admitting that there is more to discover about God’s love.
Now, go find that desert of yours! You’ll be glad you did.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.