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A desert experience PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 22 February 2015 – First Sunday of Lent

He was tempted by Satan, and the angels looked after him

Many of us have faced big, life changing decisions in our life. Marrying, moving out of home or out of our country, leaving a secure job to follow our dream, retiring to devote ourselves to voluntary work are just a few of them. Such decisions often make us anxious so that we need to deal with our inner demons. Today’s Gospel shows Jesus confronted with this kind of decision. He was called from being a private citizen to a public life of preaching that God’s time had come. The Spirit of God who had called him drags him into the desert.

Desert

The desert was a lonely place without distractions, where you were left alone among snakes and scorpions, with your thoughts and fears and addictions. It was the place where demons preyed on you. You quickly got rid of any sentimental notions and asked yourself whether you really wanted to follow your dreams and what really mattered to you.

It was right for him to go into the desert - God’s Spirit led him there to test his purpose. So at the end of his time there he began to preach confidently about the need for the change of heart needed to hear the Good News. To repent is to be changed completely, to have your heart turned around so that you see things in a quite different way. That is what the time in the desert did for Jesus. He knew what mattered and its discovery filled him with joy, as he knew it would do for others.

It is the Spirit who leads us into these hard times when God seems far away...

We hear this Gospel at the beginning of Lent. It is also a time to ask ourselves what matters in our lives and to open ourselves to hear the Good News that God has joined us in Jesus, shared our troubles, and died and rose for us. It is a time to rediscover the joy of the Gospel and to renew our following of Jesus.

Like Jesus we often discover what matters through testing experiences – through loneliness away from home, through sickness, through the death of people we love, or failure in what we desperately want to do. The Gospel reminds us that it is the Spirit who leads us into these hard times when God seems far away, and that God is with us as he was with Jesus. They can also lead us to focus on what matters and to find the Good News of God’s presence.

At Jesuit Social Services the young people we meet have often entered terrifying deserts where their demons play wantonly. Abuse, addiction, homelessness, disadvantage of all kinds. If they come through it their experience can make them a great gift to others who pass through this desert. And to accompany them is a privilege, helping them to see what matters and to reconnect with the world from which they were cut off.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ

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