Desert


God’s covenant with Noah reminds me of a conversation between an elderly gentleman and a 5 year old child.  He asks him, "Grandpa, were you in the ark?" He replied, "Well, no I wasn't." The child looked at him and wondered, “If you were not in the ark, then how did you survive?  Why were you not drowned?  Aren’t you supposed to be dead?”  Children—sometimes they think Grandpa is as old as Noah.

The flood during Noah’s time lasted for forty days.  The season of Lent lasts for forty days.  And Jesus remained in the desert for forty days.  This could probably be the why people say life begins at forty.  There is life after forty days--Noah saw a rainbow, the Church begins with Palm Sunday, Jesus begins his ministry.

A lot of things can happen in forty days.  But for Jesus, it meant only one thing--a spiritual preparation.  He found the desert as the place for it.  The desert for him became a backdrop of moral confrontation, the setting for the intimacy of solitude and the stomping ground of the persistence of temptation.

Jesus knew what could happen when you are alone, without family and friends to support you.  Trials may happen.  He knew what could happen when you feel the heat of the moment and there is nobody to comfort you.  Temptations may occur.  He knew what could happen when disruption, agitation and depression set in and there is no one to help you.

But just as there can be no short cuts to Calvary, Jesus had to pass through the desert as he begins his saving ministry.  In the desert, there seems to be no release from the suffering, there seems to be no deliverance from the poison of sin and there seems to be no escape from the wilderness of desolation. 

We have our own desert experiences in life.  We have seen them.  We have felt them.  Communities and homes forestalled and foreclosed. Jobs and businesses fall short and fall through.  Relationships and families break up and break down. 

The temptation to sin is stronger when we are in our own desert experience.  In the vastness of the desert, there is always the desire to fill out the emptiness inside of us.  In the need for company and comfort, there is always the deception to seek momentary pleasures and temporary delights.

Our temptations fall into three categories.  They either pertain to the flesh (lust, gluttony and sloth), the mind (pride, envy and anger), or to the idolatrous love of things (avarice and greed). 

These three kinds of temptations vary in intensity and degree from age to age.  Temptations of the flesh bother the youth.  Temptations of the mind bother the middle aged.  Temptations for love of things bother those in the autumn of their lives.

Because he was also human, Jesus was tempted in the desert.  He was tempted to disobey the will of the Father.  He was tempted to make a shortcut to the Cross.  But he held on to what he believed. 

The desert for him became a place of purification and renewal.  He had a better knowledge of His Father through his experience in the desert.  And He also wants us to discover it.  . 

Lent is always a turning moment of being better.  It reminds us of a life that is good, but is centered more on a life that is better.  Pain comes with every glory.  Suffering comes with every triumph.   Tears come in every laughter.  Just hold on.

In the desert of our lives, there is always the promise that something better is coming— a risen Christ on Easter Sunday and a rainbow in Noah’s ark.

26 February 2012

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