In February I wrote a brief reflection on the significance of the approaching liturgical season of Lent. In that note I challenged both myself and readers to embrace the opportunity that Lent affords us to go deeper in our journey with our Lord Jesus. Now that we find ourselves in the middle of this contemplative season, I would like to share an additional reflection.
The season of Lent is designed to emulate the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-14). Thus, it is quite appropriate to use this story as a launching point and guide for our Lenten journey. In doing this I have discovered that Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness is a rich resource for reflection.
All too often I forget that Jesus lived his life in the most radical way: he was utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit. The opening line of this account emphasizes this point by asserting that Jesus was led by the Spirit to wander in the wilderness. To follow the leading of the Holy Spirit is not exactly clearly defined, but one thing is for sure: it may lead you to the wilderness. That is, following the Holy Spirit may lead us away from what is popular, mainstream, or conventional. Jesus affirms the unpredictability of the Holy Spirit in John 3:8 when he informs Nicodemus that the Spirit moves wherever it pleases. The Holy Spirit is not a tame companion, but we may trust that where the Spirit leads we may find life. This Lent I am trying to discern what it means to depend on the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, we may find ourselves led by the Spirit to a solitary place. As I read the Gospels I am constantly amazed to find how often Jesus was escaping to a lonely place to pray (Matt 14:23, 26:36, 26:44; Mark 6:46; Luke 5:16, 6:12, among others). The fact of Jesus’ dependence on the Spirit and his example of spending time alone in prayer has offered me an explicit model for discerning the direction of the Holy Spirit.
As we journey toward Jerusalem and the events of Christ’s Passion, I encourage you to wander in the wilderness and find time to be alone in prayer alongside Jesus. Then and only then will we discover the wild unpredictability of the Holy Spirit and allow God to take us through the wilderness to the Promised Land.