February 19, 2103
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Mark 1:12-13.
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
The period of forty days would have reminded the Jews of the forty days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai with God transcribing God’s covenant with His people codified in the ten commandments. Moses, too, did not eat or drink for that time. It also would have brought to mind the experience of the prophet Elijah who went a day’s journey into the desert in Judah and lay down beneath a broom tree ready to die. An angel awakened him twice each time providing a hearth cake and jug of water, preparing him to walk forty days and forty nights to the mountain of God, Horeb.
God had great tasks in mind for both Moses and Elijah just as He had planned for Jesus. They were each tested in different ways according to the responsibilities they were given. They were also given explicit instructions about what to do next and the resources to accomplish them. He didn’t send them out alone and unprepared. They were girded for their trials by the Holy Spirit. They were equipped for lifetimes of service to God and to God’s people, many of whom viciously opposed their efforts.
I have been in the desert both literally and figuratively during my life, though not literally fasting. Being alone in either can be liberating or imprisoning, from or in fear, from or in self-doubt, from or in hopelessness. These have been opportunities, tests, to be alone with myself, to take the measure of the man I am. The question of whether I was up to the task of living, let alone serving, plagued me. Each time, in turning to God, I was confirmed as God’s child, anointed by Him, and sent forth to be of service in the world. Had I not turned to HIm, I likely would have succumbed to the machinations of the devil, been imprisoned in darkness, and given up my spirit either literally or figuratively.
Jesus had to undergo this trial of forty days to share our humanity with us. He had to face the tests of temptation, of doubt, of questioning just as we are in our lives and on our faith journeys. The experience better equipped him to minister to our needs, to be an angel of God, a sign of God’s love and succor. That’s what our trials do for us. They allow us to be ministered to and to be better equipped to accomplish the tasks that God has in mind for us.
that’s what my Lenten journey is all about. To rest in the ministering of the Holy Spirit, to hear God’s whisper in my ear that I am His beloved son, to overcome the trials of the desert and the temptations of the devil, and to prepare for the tasks that God has in mind for me. Forty days seem hardly enough time!
P.S. I will be away from my computer for a couple of weeks beginning tomorrow.