Entering the Desert Within

This reflection was written in Haiti during Holy Week in 2010.

This Lent, for me, will be filtered through the reality of Haiti. With so much suffering and hardship on my mind, Lent seems different this year. It seems as if the last month has been a penitential season of sorts, a time of purging old ways, and refocusing on what is truly essential.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness. Is the Spirit driving me into the desert? Seems like lots of things are driving me, but I rarely feel the Spirit driving me. Lent is a time the Church sets aside for making space for the Spirit, a time to move away from the normal distractions of life and be renewed by the Spirit of Life. Lent is a time to look at what drives me, what excites me and see if those things actually drive me away from the reality of God. Lent is about empty spaces, desert places, which give me the opportunity to feel the Spirit drive me into the desert of my heart and mind in order to purge them of all those desires that are not healthy.

In the wilderness for forty days, Jesus was tempted by Satan. The desert, with its lack of clutter and people, has endless stretches of time to look closely at the wasteland of my life. The desert challenges me to come back to my true self, the self made in the image of God, an image I have tarnished by my self-destructive behavior, my yielding to the drives and desires that do not reveal the beauty of God.

The desert reveals my essential neediness and vulnerability. But the desert, with its vast horizon of empty space, is a place where I learn that I am not alone. In the desert, you find the Spirit who shows you how to be your true self.

Lent is a time to experience the peace of prayer. Thomas Merton wrote, “Only in silence and solitude, in the quiet of worship, the reverent peace of prayer, the adoration in which the entire ego-self silences and abases itself in the presence of the Invisible God to receive His one Word of Love; only in these ‘activities’ which are ‘non-actions’ does the spirit truly wake from the dream of multifarious, confused, and agitated existence.”

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