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Spiritual armor for the desert

Dear Friends and Parishioners of Saint Patrick,

We begin this First Sunday of Lent invited to reflect on the image of desert. The desert often symbolizes the lack of life or extremes of heat and cold. It may even represent isolation and abandonment. Biblically, the desert appears to be the exact opposite of the Garden of Eden which was filled with life, order, unity, and peace.

Interestingly, Jesus doesn’t enter a plush and fruitful garden as he prepares for his public ministry. No, shortly after his baptism in the Jordan, he is led into the desert arming himself only with prayer and fasting. While there he undergoes three temptations, each representing the temptations of Adam and Eve: eating forbidden fruit, false worship, and testing God.

But why did Jesus have to go into the desert and be tempted? Because unlike Adam, Jesus triumphs and this makes him Mediator in overcoming temptations and becomes for us a living example. Furthermore, Jesus shows the Evil One that He alone is true lord of the world. If Jesus is going to ultimately invite others to follow Him, the people need to be convinced that the New Adam brings hope, healing, and redemption to the lifelessness found in a disordered world.

How about each of us? Are we willing to follow Jesus into a desert armed only with prayer and fasting, taking the risk of opening ourselves up? Are we prepared to examine the temptations personally afflicting us: forbidden fruit (illegal or immoral acts or choices), false worship (exulting other people or things as idols), or testing God (doubting or lacking trust in Him)?

There may be two reasons why we would avoid the desert. The first would be pride, refusing to accept that I am a sinner and in need of Christ’s grace, love and mercy. The second would be fear, refusing to believe that Christ’s grace, love and mercy is His sole desire for me and is abundantly available when I open myself up to receive these gifts.

By the way, if you find yourself fearful of a journey into the desert, remember one thing: like Jesus, you will be led by the Spirit who guides you and you will be accompanied by angels who will minister to you. Do not be afraid!

In Christ Our Divine Companion,

Fr Gurnick Signature