When Jesus went into the desert it was not a place like Las Vegas. The Lord was not on a pleasure trip. On the contrary, the desert was about being empty. Jesus went alone, away from distractions.
The majority of us have trouble being alone. We surround ourselves with television, music, I Pads. Noise, got have some kind of noise or some of us can’t go to sleep. Knew a mother and father who had a baby. The ceiling fan made a squeaky noise. The father fixed the fan so that it wouldn’t make the noise—as a result the baby couldn’t sleep. The father had to un-fix the fan so that it would continue to make the original noise. The reason that I know the story so well is because I was the baby. From the start to the end of the day we are usually surrounded by sounds—distractions. Given our activities, spirituality takes a back seat. Often folks share how tired they are at the end of the day and tend to fall asleep during the Rosary or night prayer—which signals that we are giving God left overs. We tend to put off intimate time with the Lord because being alone with God can get uncomfortable—just like a desert experience. In the desert we are striped down of our defenses. Personal prayer is about having to face who we are. That’s the reason that devotions are so popular—all we do is follow a text—they are someone else’s words—someone else’s thoughts. Devotions are safe—novenas—touching relics. The prayer that Jesus experience was extremely difficult. Naturally, Satan took advantage of the vulnerability of Jesus. “Get them while they are down.” That’s his tactic. Evil will always point to the weaknesses in our nature and rub our nose in the mistakes we have made. Who can only guess the thoughts that ran through the mind of Our Lord when we was alone, hungry, cold.
One of them might have been, “Why bother with the human race? What good can come from such weak creatures?” Remember that from the beginning, the Devil has been jealous of God’s love for humans. The author of lies introduces doubts into our minds about God’s love for us. Haven’t we all heard the voice, “How can God possibly forgive my many sins? Aren’t my problems the result of God’s punishment?” When we feel like there’s no tomorrow, evil is never far behind. He wants for us to forget our identity. Which is why a desert experience is challenging. So many have believed the lie—have fallen for the temptation.
If we dare to approach God without our defenses, no noise, no gadgets—the encounter can be life-changing. Like looking into a magnified mirror. All the blemishes are visible. If we dare to approach God in our nakedness—realizing that Satan will be there to rub our past sins in our face—the emptiness of the desert can become real. However, don’t forget that just like the angels ministered to Jesus, our Guardian angel is always ready to help us. Our angel is God’s personal touch from the time we are conceived to the moment that the angel presents our soul back to God when we die. Our angel is the good voice that reminds us that we are loved in spite of the stupid mistakes we have made. For some reason we are more inclined to believe the negative rather than the positive. In the comparison game there will always be someone worse and someone not as bad as we are. In a mature spirituality we will always measure our life in the light of our gifts, our capacity, our weaknesses. God loves us for who are, not the illusion of who we think we should be.
Lent gives us the opportunity to refocus—to repent—to believe in the goodness inside all of us. Regardless of the past, hope can be restored. Therein lies the essence of the Good News.