Sunday, February 22, 2015

First Sunday of Lent: From Loneliness to a Deeper Connection

“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.” – Mk 1:12-13

I was blessed with a grace-filled and peaceful annual retreat recently. I experienced deep consolation and the call to simply “be with” Jesus in whatever activity or rest I found myself. Yet, as soon as I returned to ordinary life, I was hit with an uncommon onslaught of responsibilities and stress. Moreover, a relationship that I have been struggled with became thornier. I found myself drawn away from the grace to simply “be with” God. I became more self-conscious, self-focused, helpless, and lonely.

Jesus experienced something similar in today’s Gospel. The same Spirit who descended on him in his baptism now drives him into the desert for forty days. The result is radical confrontation and temptation by Satan who attempts to frustrate the work of God. Immediately after a deep sense of being God’s beloved, with whom God is “well pleased,” Jesus he faced his suffocating loneliness and temptations to focus on himself.

Often an experience of spiritual consolation, I experience desolation, feeling lead away from God. I am tempted to blame myself, to doubt myself, to “should” on myself, to focus on my helplessness, all the while turning my gaze and trust away from God and the good God is doing in my life. It is freeing to realize once again, that in my loneliness and poverty, I can still “be with” Jesus. Among the wild beasts of my inner struggles after my retreat, Jesus accompanies me and sends wonderful “angel-like” companions to be with me. I need not fear loneliness and helplessness. Like Jesus, I am being schooled in a greater dependence on God, empowering me to trust God more stand with others in their own loneliness. It may take some time, perhaps the forty days of Lent to allow Jesus to simply “be with” me in whatever I may experience. On the way, my heart can become more tender and closer to the heart of God.

“Lord, deepen in me your invitation to “be with” you and let you “be with” me and others, especially in times of loneliness and helplessness.”

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