As the 40-day journey of Lent comes to a close and we enter more deeply into the Passion of our Lord in anticipation of His Resurrection, we still find ourselves globally in a quarantined desert of the coronavirus.
I’d like to say a word about this desert time of quarantine. It is not a timeout or a punishment, but rather, I believe, an invitation to meet the Word-made-flesh in our own flesh. Jesus waits for us at the place where we most hunger and thirst for fulfillment and meaning*, just under the surface of all those things we compulsively fill ourselves with, yet leave us unsatisfied.
When Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days*, He consumed no food or water. Having entered the desert after He’d been publicly identified as the “beloved Son”,* He consumed nothing but the all-consuming love of God.
For forty days there was no food, no water, just filial intimacy.
Often, the words “desert”, “Lent”, and “penance” have come to my mind unfavorably. But now, the Lord is showing me how the desert is a place of delight. It is the more favorable place where He led the Israelites as an act of kindness* after he freed them from bondage, so He could speak to their heart.*
It is this same Lord God who is leading us now. Each of us have things we are slaves to and have no control over that we find ourselves reaching for in this pandemic. This is an invitation from the Lord to surrender and trust in Him. The desert can become a place of transformation: from addiction, compulsion, and shame to delight, confidence, and peace. It is a place where our Heavenly Father wants to rekindle His fond love for us, His people.
Our inner life is this “desert”, but it is not a deserted place. It is a place of hidden intimacy, where we can find deep peace and let ourselves be known and loved. Yet, many things fight for our love and attention, so it is also a place of great struggle until we enter the deeper place of rest.
Trying to start the journey within can be terrifying, like opening up the junk drawer that is heaped full of items. But what happens when we start to declutter? We start to see the bottom of the drawer. When we start to get rid of all our inner clutter of bad habits, lies, and vices, we start to grow in truth and virtue. We begin to see what we’re really made of—the image of God. It is here, in the silence of our hearts, that we hear the words the Father echoes into each of our souls: beloved.
This is not a place we can enter alone! We must let the same Holy Spirit who led Jesus into the desert lead us into our inner deserts and thus to our Heavenly Abba, our heart’s only desire.
Be not afraid to enter into your own heart and mind, letting the good Spirit be with you as your guide! Ask the Holy Spirit to gently show you where to begin decluttering your inner room. He will show you the source of life that emanates from within you. It is the most Sacred Beating Heart of Jesus that beats within you and where the Father himself awaits to embrace you.*
-Marta Stangl, LAMP Missionary
Exodus 13:17-18, 21-22