First Sunday of Lent
Last weekend I was in Sierra Madre, California at the Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center giving a married couples retreat. When I arrived at the Retreat Center Friday around noon I encounter a sign that said “Beware of Wildlife.” There were pictures of a mountain lion, some coyotes, a bear, a rattle snake and a few other animals I was sure that I didn’t want to meet. The Retreat Center is in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains and at times the wildlife from the mountains makes its way on to the property so the retreat staff makes sure everyone know what they might encounter.
As I got settled in my room I wondered just what was is store for me on this weekend. I had been looking forward to the warm weather and some time outdoors, but how was I going to take walks fearing for my life? How was I going to enjoy the retreat if I feared what might greet me around every corner? I have to admit I am not a good wilderness person.
The Gospel today tells us that Jesus was driven out into the wilderness, the desert by the Spirit. Once out there he encounters wild beasts, Satan and probably a lot of other not too kind things. Yet it was the wilderness, the desert where Jesus was able to pause and put the journey of his life into perspective. It was the wilderness, the desert where Jesus is able to prepare himself for the journey ahead of him to Calvary.
Jesus entered the wilderness, the desert and came out a stronger, more determined, more powerful proclaimer of God’s Good News. He came out of the wilderness, the desert knowing that it was now his time of fulfilment. Jesus came out of the wilderness, the desert ready to proclaim the kingdom of God. Ready to challenge anyone who would listen to repent and believe in the Gospel.
Yes, sometimes the wilderness, the desert can be a scary place. A place to be aware of wildlife, devils and many other things. It can also be a place of quiet, prayer, aloneness and God. It can be a place to gather strength, energize our life and prepare to live the Good News.
I had a wonderful weekend with 43 married couples at the edge of the wilderness. We prayed, reflected, sought God’s forgiveness, found ourselves in God’s presence and listened to the Good News. All of us are afraid of the things we often find in our own wildernesses but we also know that God is always with us, taking care of us, loving us and helping us to keep moving because each new day is our time of fulfilment.
Last Wednesday, Ash Wednesday, we enter the wilderness, the desert of Lent. Pushed into it by the Sprit. There can be a lot of wildlife to be aware of and there can be temptations by devils in the wilderness of Lent. However there are also be times of prayer, of forgiveness and God’s loving presence that help us to change our life, believe in the Gospel and make our way to the kingdom!
Have a blessed and holy Lent everyone – and may the love of Christ’s Passion be always in your heart!
- Fr. Paul R. Fagan, C.P. – The Passionists – St. Vincent Strambi Residence