Let us pay attention for a moment on the first verse of today’s gospel, “The Spirit drove Jesus to the desert”. Let us not forget the fact that Jesus goes to the desert after His baptism at River Jordan where He was acclaimed by God the Father as His Beloved Son. Having received God’s blessing, He still had to go through this desert experience before entering into the promised land of heaven where he would be seated at the right hand of the Father. Let us also remember the fact that the people of Israel had to first go through the desert before reaching the promised land. The desert is a place of purification and formation. Although the people of Israel were led by God in the desert, they could not escape from the trials of the desert. They were tested as Jesus was tested. They became impatient when they didn’t have food to eat and water to drink. Through all these things God purified their hearts and minds prepared them to handle the prosperity of the promised land. The desert experience strengthened Jesus to handle future challenges and His future glory with a great sense of maturity. It is said in the Jewish apocalyptic literature that a certain quota of tears had first to be shed before any true joy could inhabit us. A quota of suffering must precede any worthwhile happiness.
We have seen many of the celebrities, superstars and pop idols getting into trouble. Some have committed suicide, some others in jail and a quite few have lost their families. What is the reason for that? Does their downfall mean that success, admiration, and money are bad things? No. All good things come from God, success and money included. What is bad is that, too often, these are attained before a person has been sufficiently prepared to handle them and in that context they destroy rather than build up. In biblical terms, what happens here is that someone enters the promised land before spending sufficient time in the desert. However, Jesus successfully passed the test of the desert in order to handle much bigger challenges ahead.
The desert is that place where we go to face our demons, feel our smallness, be in a special intimacy with God, and prepare ourselves for the promised land of heaven. Jesus encourages us to confront these situations without escaping from them.
Jesus spent forty days in the desert in praying and fasting. He exposed His entire self to His Heavenly Father. Every year The Holy Spirit draws us also to the season of lent which is our spiritual desert where we expose the demons of our life to God through prayer and fasting. The season of lent is a privileged time for us to expose to God the demons within our lives. Different people experience diffident types of demons. In general, we all experience the demons such as revengeful feelings, loneliness, anger, frustration due to the failures in academic, marital, professional life, shame or embarrassment, unhappiness and dissatisfaction. When we expose them to God, God will battle with them through us. However, this highly consumeristic world may offer you quick fixes to suppress the demons within your life. It provides you with defence mechanisms, support systems, and distractions so as to sedate you. We need to handle the demons within us with a superior power. If we try to treat the demons with quick fixes which have inferior power we will succumb to their pressure. So, I encourage you to find not forty days but at least forty minutes every week during this Lent to spend time personally with God who has the power to cast the demons out of your life.
May the Spirit that ‘drove Jesus to the desert’ lead us too and help us in the struggle against evil and prepare us to celebrate Easter renewed in the spirit.
Fr Chaminda Wanigasena
Chaplain, Sri Lankan Catholic Community, NSW