Today is the first Sunday of Lent. And the first in a new blog series, The Desert Shall Rejoice. Each Sunday, I will share six reflections, provide a Scripture passage to read and meditate on, and offer journal questions for further reflection. (So, having a Bible and journal close by will be helpful.) My prayer is that each of you encounters Jesus in a very personal way, this Lent. May you realize, in a deeper way, just how much He loves you. And may His invitation to the desert produce new blossoms of hope in your life.
Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus … was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days … (Luke 4:1)
Lent is a special, set-aside time to be with Jesus. He invites us to remain close to Him, through His suffering, death, and resurrection. By remaining close to Him, He shows us how much He loves us. And He asks us, in return, “How much do you love me?”
Lent gives us time to ponder love and what draws us into a deeper love for the Lord and our neighbor. It invites us to consider what distracts us from love, too.
And we do this deeper pondering in the desert.
As proclaimed in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the desert for 40 days. He spent that time praying and fasting, in preparation for His public ministry. In the Old Testament, the Israelites wandered the desert for 40 years. It was a time of purification for them. It was hard, but it was necessary.
Likewise, God invites us into the desert, from time to time. Lent is one of these times.
By the solemn forty days of Lent, the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 540)
Why the Desert?
The desert is a place of silence. It is free from distraction. It is barren and still.
We can feel hesitant to take the first step into it, because the desert strips us of our creature comforts, the things that keep us away from what is truly important in life.
In the desert, we may experience dryness; we may feel parched. (Hence the hesitation!) But in our dry, parched experience, we learn to lean more heavily on the Lord and not on temporary satisfactions. The desert transforms us and helps us focus on what matters most, so it is an opportunity to reset and refocus our priorities. It is a place that renews our spirit, and in the desert, we truly experience how the Lord wants to strengthen us, for whatever plans He has for us.
God only brings us to the desert for a season. It is not our final destination but a place we pass through in order to bring forth change. And while we want to remain present to the desert moment we are in, we hope that once through the desert, we will arrive at a place of restoration, replenishment, and resurrection. Yes, the Lord promises that the desert shall, indeed, rejoice! (Isaiah 35:1)
Take a few moments to quiet your heart. Breathe in and out.
Read today’s Scripture verse: Luke 4:1-13
After reading the verse once, read it one or two more times.
What stands out to you? A word, feeling, thought …
As you read how Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit, how do you think God is inviting you into the desert? How do you respond? How does the Lord meet you in this desert place? In what ways does He want to replenish or transform you?
After your prayer time, spend a few minutes in silence or rest. Simply be still and be present to God.
Dear Lord, thank You for inviting me into the desert this Lent. Although I am a little hesitant to say yes to what I know might be hard or uncomfortable, I trust You to be my guide and source of strength. I know that You bring Your people to the desert out of love for them, and that is why You invite me into the desert … because You love me! You desire what is best for me, and I pray for an openness to those things that are best for me, too. Through this Lenten desert experience, please cleanse, transform, and replenish me, Lord. Renew my spirit, so that I may arrive at a place of restoration, replenishment, and rejoicing on Easter Sunday. Amen.