Gospel Meditation

1st Sunday of Lent

Why do we always go to the desert? We see this example in Scripture time and time again. The Israelites wandered in the desert. King David and prophets were driven into the wilderness.  And now Jesus is in the same place. Lent after Lent, we too are invited into a barren, desolate place. Why do we always go to the desert?

Throughout Scripture, the desert is a place of testing. It’s also a place of hiding and withdrawal. In the Old Testament, David fled into the wilderness to hide from Saul, Elijah from Jezebel, and Jonah from God! In other words, the desert is a place of “retreat.” In Christian circles, we use the word to describe a spiritual weekend away. But its meaning comes from warfare, as we well know. To retreat means to draw back, to separate oneself from the fighting. Of course, a military retreat brings its own kind of “battle” – the internal assessment of why the fighting went so poorly.

As we enter into this Lenten season, we are invited to retreat into the desert with Jesus. Attending a day or weekend of reflection is a wonderful spiritual practice. This “desert spirituality,” however, can fill all forty days. We can fulfill our Lenten resolutions with a purpose – writing daily notes to family and friends can inspire new gratitude, every time we pass up that specific food item can be cause for intercession for deeper sufferings and privations of others.

The Gospel tells us that “the Spirit drove him out into the desert.” In other words, God wants us to be here. What feels uncomfortable is actually part of our spiritual journey. To be stretched, to be challenged, to confront our own areas of weakness – these things are essential in our walk with God. This Lent, will you go to the desert?

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