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Enduring the Desert
With the Father
The Season of Lent
Every Year the Church celebrates the Season of Lent. To really understand this season, we have to read the Book of Exodus. The Israelites found themselves enslaved and comfortable in Egypt. It’s a strange combination of things: to be enslaved and comfortable. The people certainly wanted to be free, however the cost seemed too much for them. They were to enter the desert in order to journey between Egypt and the Promised Land. It was the desert that caused them to prefer the comforts of Egypt. How often do we find ourselves wanting things to be better, but unwilling to do the work, spend the time, and come to terms with what we’ve lost in the process?
An indictment on the human condition is that we cannot really cross that desert on our own. Moses himself was unable to enter into the promised land, and he is one of the most righteous people in Sacred Scripture. Consider that the trip was originally supposed to be 40 days, and it turned into 40 years. Spiritual problems ended up obstructing their path to the Promised Land. They made false idols, they broke God’s commandments, they grumbled against Moses and by grumbling against Moses, they grumbled against God. The Israelites resented the desert, and preferred slavery over the freedom to worship God in the desert because the food tasted better. Their own religious liberty was less important than the flavor of the food they had to endure. In short, they so quickly forget about God’s love, and failed to love God. This is what it looks like when humanity seeks to overcome sin by its own mere will-power.
Where do we find good news? There is one man who was able to survive the desert for 40 days without worshipping false idols, or Satan. There was a man who managed to be content even without worldly bread. Jesus entered the desert after His Baptism, and was able to do what we never could. Jesus took our humanity with Him into the desert to conquer what we were never able to conquer.
How did He do it? We might say, “Well He’s God.” We may flippantly dismiss Christ as the exception, but this is too convenient, because it exempts us from crossing that same desert. We need to ask Christ how He overcame and endured the desert because it is possible for us to do the same. After all, Christ has shared with us the very same Spirit that enabled Him to overcome His temptations.
So what did the Holy Spirit accomplish in the human will of Christ that evaded our own experience of the Desert? At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove. We remember that the Holy Spirit enters into our own spirit and cries out “Abba Father.” The conclusion therefore is simply this: Christ overcame the temptations and difficulties of the Desert through a relationship with the Father.
When you love someone in the deepest way, you are willing to lay your life down for them. Jesus loved His Father in such a way that he was able to defeat every temptation by the disposition of love for His Father. When tempted with bread He taught us that His Father’s will was His bread. When he was tempted to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the tower he refused to doubt His Father by testing Him. When he was asked to replace worship of the Father for worship of Satan, he rebuked the Devil out of deference and love for His Father.
All of this reminds us that it is by the waters of baptism that we overcome all temptation in the desert. The water of our baptism gives us the relationship with the Father that quenches the thirst of a dry desert. When we call to mind our beloved childhood in the Father’s heart, we become so inspired to do anything for Him.
We must keep in mind that an essential dimension of the Devil’s temptation was to put a wedge between Christ and the Father’s identity. “If you are the Son of God” the devil begins two of these temptations. That term "if" placed in conjunction with Christ’s identity serves to tempt Christ to be cut off from the water and bread that come from the Father. When we are cut off from a love of God, our soul begins to settle for the worldly bread, and what is baser than God.
My encouragement to all of us as we enter the desert of Lent is to deepen our faith in our adoption with the Father. It is about a relationship growing, not some mere, deontological attempt at growing morally. Rather, it is about the nature of that relationship which inspires us out of love to become a beloved son or daughter of God in spirit and truth.
Let us submit our hearts and minds in prayer and meditation to the Holy Spirit who teaches us how much the Father truly loves us. Let us remove any lies or “hypothetical terms” applied to our identity in God. We are His beloved, and we know who we are. We are in love with the Father, who provides us with the deeper needs we have always craved. More importantly, He loves us with a greater love than we will ever have for Him.