“The Spirit drove Jesus 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.” (Mark 1:12-13
On the evening of Ash Wednesday when I finally retired for the evening and went home, I found myself surrounded by a blessed silence. Usually one of the first things that I do when I walk through my front door at night is turn on the TV to whatever sporting event is on and fill my small house with noise. Yet on Ash Wednesday, after a fruitful day of ministry, after encountering so many new people that had come to church for the first time in a while, and being aware that we were beginning this holy season of Lent, I just wanted to sit there in silence. Now there are moments of silence that I carve out for myself throughout the day. They are brief as I’m constantly anxious to proceed to the “next thing,” but on that evening I must have spent an hour or so just sitting in silence. I said my prayers. Did some writing. Thought about what God had in store for me and for us during Lent, and it wasn’t until I went to bed that I noticed that I hadn’t turned on my television all evening. It turns out that I missed a magnificent college basketball game, but I didn’t care because though I was tired from a long day of ministry, I went to bed with great peace. No doubt the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is driven by that Spirit into the desert for forty days. What is the Spirit driving you to do this Lent? There’s still time to adopt a Lenten promise, to find what God wants you to do, and sometimes it is in the silence of the desert that God speaks to us so clearly. The problem is, where is your desert? As we walk into Church this morning, we are confronted with the altar surrounded by images of the desert. In the desert there is nothing. There is silence. There is sand. There are a few trees and some wild beasts as the gospel tells us, but essentially there is nothing. Father Salvador was sharing with us last night the imagery that he was going to use in his homily today that I will now “borrow”: “surrounded by all this desert imagery of barrenness and drought, our altar stands as an oasis in this desert that feeds us and nourishes us.” It is where the angels congregate and minister to us just as they ministered to Jesus. From the altar flows sacramental grace that renews, refreshes, and re-creates us, much as the waters of the flood re-created the world in the time of Noah. What needs to be renewed, refreshed, and re-created in us? We will only find those answers in the silence of our hearts. On Easter morning when we wake up, we cannot be the same person that we were when we woke up this morning. We must allow Christ to transform us into someone new. May we embrace this blessed season of Lent and be driven by the Spirit into the desert with Jesus so that we may find what God wants from each of us in the silence of the desert.