Into the Desert

We have began Lent. All too often in Lent we focus too quickly — and sometimes we became too fixated — on our sins and the actions of fasting, prayer and almsgiving to repent and convert. For many, Lent makes us feel bad because we are sinful. This is why Lent is that long and challenging journey to Easter; it seems painful and burdensome.

What if we try to understand that Lent is a joyful season of grace and hope, a season inviting us to make this Lenten journey to change our sinful ways so that we can renew and strengthen our faith in Jesus’ love for us — that love that suffered and died to save us for God? How different would our Lent be?

The theologian Roberto S Goizueta’s article “From Calvary to Galilee” invites us to put into right perspective what Lent is inviting us to meditate on – the love of God in Jesus for us, and where and how God in the risen Jesus continues to be with us today.

Here are lines in the article that we can ponder on more to help us live our Christian faith:

When you, God, looked at me, writes St. John of the Cross, your eyes imprinted in me your grace: for this you loved me again, and thereby my eyes were made worthy of adoring what in you they saw. Every other article of Christian faith, every theological statement, is little more than a footnote to this central belief: my entire life is a response to a lover whose gaze and call have created me, named me, and compelled a response.

The Cross is the guarantee that he, Jesus, does, in fact, remain with us, that he does, in fact, walk with us even today.

Christ’s bodily resurrection involves the realization that past injustices are never erased by future victories. Past suffering remains forever a part of the history of the resurrection; the wounds remain forever inscribed on the body. Like St. Paul, Christians will always preach a crucified and risen Christ…. The resurrection must also vindicate and restore the relationships that themselves have helped define Christ — his compassionate relationships with the poor, sinners, prostitutes and other unsavory characters. The resurrection of Christ’s body must be more than internal life for an autonomous, isolated individual; it must be the resurrection of Cristo Compañero, Christ-as-companion.

The crucified and risen Christ thus empowers us to overcome the fear of proclaiming the good news among unfriendly peoples. But Christ also empowers us to overcome the fear of discovering the good news among unfriendly and impure peoples…. If you want to see me, the raised Jesus tells us, you have to risk going to that very place where your fathers denied there could be prophets. You have to risk the possibility that the purity of your faith will be threatened. But be not afraid. In the very midst of that vulnerability, you will see me. In the midst of that fear of corruption and contamination, you will see me. On the border between belief and unbelief, you will see me.

Here are three questions for our reflection and prayer this week:

  • Can I see and believe in the love of Jesus gazing on me as I am — struggling with sin yet wanting holiness?
  • Can I believe that my Lenten efforts — how ever much I do — will be worth it at Easter time because the risen Jesus will raise me up to new life, walk with me daily and teach me to love myself as I am — that composite of all that I am doing right now and all that I didn’t do right before?
  • Will I let Jesus help me find him in my vulnerability, weakness and sinfulness this Lent, and as I do, to empower me to help others find Jesus in their lives too?

You can access the article at this link:

Words of Encouragement for this week

“To receive the grace of God you must go to a desert place and stay a while. There you can be emptied and unburdened of everything that does not pertain to God. There the house of our soul is swept clean to make room for God alone to dwell… We need this silence, this absence of every creature so that God can build His hermitage within us.”

– Bl. Charles de Foucauld