Every Lent the Church calls us to spend forty days with Jesus in the desert. This is a time of recognition and quiet intimacy. It is a time to fast from food so that we can also fast from falsehood — false selves. We are not called to project ourselves into the physical world of Jesus, or to bewail our sins as if we had no remedy for them, or to try to cut apart the tangled roots of our own lives. Instead, God’s Spirit asks us to stop running from Jesus, to turn around and look with Jesus’s eyes at the empty places stretching through us and all around us where we have denied Him access, and to discover how to let Jesus enter those places.
Already we are longing to get to Easter, and to live there always, but we cannot until the Spirit helps us open our eyes to the wastes of isolation within and without. There are many kinds of deserts — empty quarters of the heart where the failure to receive and to give love has stifled life and growth; wildernesses of the world’s marketplaces where everything is exchanged except love; dark spaces like oceans of stone lying between the Lover and His Beloved.
Yet, there is something that holds us back from the clear seeing of Lent, something beyond disbelief, even beyond despair. It is fear — fear of pain, fear of abandonment, fear, finally of the cross itself.
No human words can dispel that fear. Only the living Word of God, crucified and risen, can cast it out and lead us through the desert into the promised land of Easter, an Easter that lies not only on the far bank of death, but in our hearts, and those empty spaces between us.
In this desert of Lent, in all the Lents of this life, the Spirit will open our eyes to the waste and isolation, and the Spirit will cleanse our eyes with tears. We will grow hungry and cry out. And the Son of God will minister to us, and we shall all drink of the water which flows from His eternity.