Sunday, February 18, 2018

Into the Solitude and Barrenness of the Desert

FEBRUARY 18, 2018

Jesus, I trust in you.

The 40 days of Lent imitate the 40 days spent by Jesus in the desert. Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where he was tempted by the devil. The barrenness of the desert is a true contrast to the abundance of the garden where Adam and Eve were also tempted by the devil. In the garden where Adam and Eve had everything, they fell to the seduction of the devil. However, in the desert where Jesus had nothing, he triumphed over the devil’s temptation. Is it not ironic that when the body is pampered, the soul is weak in the presence of temptations while when the body is weakened by suffering, the soul is strong enough to withstand temptations?
Lent calls us to the solitude and the barrenness of the desert. The Spirit leads us to the desert as He did to Jesus. Lent is a call to solitude. It is like a 40 day spiritual retreat where through fasting and mortification, we experience the barrenness of the desert. It is when we are alone and when we have nothing that we begin to be sensitive to the interior voices that we usually do not hear when we are busy and preoccupied with so many concerns. The external silence of the desert becomes conducive to interior listening. The sounds of the urban jungle oftentimes drown interior voices. This is why during Lent, it would do us good to tone down external sounds and slow down our usual pace so that we can engage in spiritual introspection.

In the desert lived wild beasts and the Lord Jesus was among them. But it really looks strange that the wild beasts seemed tame as they surrounded Jesus. It was like paradise before the fall where Adam and Eve lived in harmony with the beasts.  Unlike the fallen angels who refused to serve God the Son in his humanity, the angels ministered to Jesus whose divinity remained unchanged in his incarnation. The original harmony between man and the natural and supernatural world was seen no longer in the garden but in the desert. This is because being true man while remaining to be true God, the Lord Jesus has restored to humanity what the devil stole through his seduction and temptation. Inasmuch as temptation always appeals to the “animal” in man, Lent becomes for us the occasion to tame the beasts within. It is the time for us to control inordinate passions that liken us to the beasts and draws us away from our likeness to God. We control our animal instincts (sinusupil natin ang ating kahayupan) through fasting, mortification, and prayer. Lent is the time to regain the humanity that sin has compromised in us. When we control ourselves (nilalabanan ang sarili), we become less beasts and more human which was created in the image and likeness of God.

Thus, Lent is a time of real spiritual renewal. It is the time to recover our lost humanity, our likeness unto the Lord. It is a time of silence and solitude. It is a time of taming the beasts within. It is a time to be like Christ who was “put to death in the flesh and brought to life in the Spirit.” Let us allow the Holy Spirit to lead us to the desert. With his help, let us confront our demons. Let us take care to resist the temptation of the devil. Instead, like the angels, let us minister to the Lord. Let us listen to the voice of God who draws us through the desert unto himself.    

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee!

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