The Desert Experience

Peace and grace to you all!

As you know, the themes that run through Lent are prayer, fasting, almsgiving, forgiveness, conversion from hardness of heart to love of enemies and openness to God’s Word.  As we see in the readings this weekend, it is the openness to God’s Word and the struggle to follow it that drove Jesus into the desert.  We too are either dragged or driven by the Spirit each year to face temptation and struggle against the great idol of selfishness.  Why?  Because of our identity.  We are God’s special people!

Jesus had to wrestle against the temptations that all people experience through human nature so that human nature could be restored to harmony, peace and love with God’s will.  The desert experience of Jesus began immediately after his baptism, in which the heavens opened and the Father’s voice declared that he is the beloved Son of God.  In the face of temptation, Jesus affirms his divine Son-ship as servant of God by obeying God’s will rather than following inclinations that are basically selfish.  Jesus did not do this just for his own sake but for all of us.

In like manner, we are led by the Spirit to wrestle against our faults.  When we are tempted, we are asked to affirm our divine Son-ship as children of God.  Our hearts become afflicted and punctured when we realize that following Jesus perfectly is quite beyond our ability, no matter how hard we try.  These failures serve to help us depend more upon God and it is precisely through them that we experience God’s greatest attribute: loving mercy!  As we descend into the failure of our own pride, we paradoxically rise to a new and more abundant trust and love in Jesus who is our Healer, Life Giver and Merciful Savior.  The Paschal Mystery of Jesus (life, death and resurrection) is the pattern we live in our own life and each year we change.  We grow in greater freedom and readiness to follow God.  We discover that throughout our entire lives, we have been preparing in deeper ways for the joy of the resurrection!

May God accompany you on your journey in this holy season! +++ Fr. Peter

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