Summary: Making space for God.
First Sunday of Lent (B)
March 5, 2006
Entering The Wilderness
What To Do?
Each year as we start the Lenten season many of us struggle with the question of what to do. We’re asking ourselves what we should be doing this Lent to make it one that will bring some more depths into our spiritual lives. Often the question comes down to: What should I give up this Lenten season? We are so used to Lent as a time when we are to deprive ourselves of something, that there might be a chance we are missing the point of it all.
In a way, when we start trying to decide what to give up, we are placing the emphasis upon ourselves. There is a subtle temptation here that the most important thing we can do for our spiritual lives is something that we can actually do ourselves. We are putting ourselves into the centre of the circle. But shouldn’t the emphasis be upon God?
Allowing God Space
Without God we can do nothing. Perhaps that should be our starting point – realizing our complete dependence upon God for everything. In a way, Lent should be a time when we allow God to be God in our lives. Our basic Lenten task is to allow God more space in our lives so that God can work in us the way that God wants to work. Now, this might mean that, on our part, we need to give up something to create that needed space that would allow God to enter our lives in a deeper fashion.
So perhaps our question should be: What is taking up too much space in my life? In other words, what is blocking God from being God for me? We need to clear away any barriers that we have thrown up in the face of God. Maybe we will decide that we are watching too much television, being too busy, eating or drinking too much, not resting enough, caught in an inappropriate relationship, working too hard, worrying too much, too concerned with material things, too concerned with our physical appearance, not praying enough, not reading anything that would help feed my deeper spiritual needs, and so on and so forth.
A Desperate Need
I’m sure you get the idea. We may need to give up something or do something differently so that God can have more space to work in our overly crammed lives. Some of us have lives that are so filled to the brim that there is no chance of anything significantly new really taking place. We desperately need to create a quiet place in our hearts. I deliberately use the word ‘desperate’. Without a quiet place in our hearts, we are in danger of constantly living in a troubled and dangerously restless atmosphere. Our need for an inner space is a desperate need. Without that space, God will not enter.
In the Scriptures that place is described as a desert or a wilderness. “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness and he remained there forty days, and was tempted by Satan. He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.” The wilderness is not always a pleasant place to be. In fact, that’s where we are going to find the wild beasts. When we allow space and emptiness to become a part of our lives, we are heading into the wilderness.
Facing Our Temptations
If we stay there long enough, we will come face to face with the wild beasts in our own lives. Our temptations will become very clear. We will then know what we need to fight against, but we will also know that we will not be fighting our personal demons all alone. As the Scripture says, “He was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.” God will be with us and will bring power into the darkest parts of our lives. God will not leave us alone with the wild beasts.
Our opening prayer asks that we might understand the meaning of the death and resurrection of Jesus, and then to reflect that meaning in our lives. In any journey, when we move forward we leave something behind. That’s just how it is. You can’t go to a new place without leaving the old place behind. Maybe our answer to what we should give up during the Lenten season will only come during Lent or even near the end of the Lenten season.
If we create enough space for God to enter our lives, God will reveal to us what we need to put to death in our own lives. Then we will bring our newfound life to the Eucharist at Easter. The resurrection of Jesus will have become our resurrection as we rise out of our darkness into the light of Christ.