“Nothing, how little so ever it be,
if it is suffered for God’s sake,
can pass without merit in the sight of God.”
Thomas a Kempis
There are resolutions made fresh and anew at the beginning of each new year…
those things we decide to give up or take on in hope of becoming better at simply being us.
Some are kept, most are not.
Then comes Lent…a time when there are also things to be given up and or taken on
all in order to recall one man’s journey in a desert for a period of 40 days, in hopes
of bettering our souls.
Some are kept, others are not.
Yet it is during Lent that the keeping and or the letting go seems to be more important,
sharper and keener…
The burden is better understood, the giving in and letting go pricks more sharply.
It matters not whether your church, your avenue of faith, carries you along the road
of participating in Lent or not.
It matters little whether or not you “practice” Lent.
All Christians can, however, come together in the reflection of this time of Jesus’
earthly journey while on His spiritual path.
The entire idea is simply to be present with Christ on this journey.
How you decide to do that, is well, how you decide to do that.
Simply being present to Him…as in just you and Him…on a journey, together,
in a barren wasteland with everything and anything that is a distraction
being stripped away…while there is one who does his darndest to thwart your efforts
of being focused and present with and for your companion.
If it’s giving up chocolate because you always give up chocolate,
and later finding yourself fudging here and there, then that’s not
really taking a part of the journey now, is it…
Thinking that chocolate or the lack thereof helps you to focus
more keenly on the journey and on your companion…well, I don’t know.
This journey is bigger than chocolate…just saying.
For this journey is not a surface sort of trek…
but rather it is a time of real darkness and trial.
It is an arduous journey taken not by the faint of heart.
For it is a journey to the recesses of your being.
And it is a journey we are afforded, or better yet offered, to take yearly…
As each year we are reminded and allowed to recall that first foray of determined boldness
into the desert so long ago.
Deserts are formidable places.
Desolate, dry, lonely, empty, hot places.
Places we don’t much wish to find ourselves.
As our shadowed nemesis delights in tempting us out and away from this
place of deep introspection.
And yet Jesus goes…willingly.
It is here where we first see the earthly glimpse of His willingness to go…
just as we will shortly see, His willingness to descend into hell
for three days in order to do battle for our souls.
Yet each year, we make the conscious decision to choose to go along.
We decide to accompany Jesus into this desert…both His and our own.
Some of us will try to muster on while others of us turn relatively quickly for a fast
And yet year after year, we make a choice as to whether or not we want to take this
journey alongside Jesus, knowing we may or may not make it…
But the real fact of the matter is that Jesus always makes the same choice…
the choice to always go…
As Jesus becomes our lynchpin.
He is our support in and out of the desert.
Our friend over on the blog Thoughts from the Side of the House
reminds us of this notion…he explains that our choice boils down alone to the single
matter of desire…as well as our being open to that desire…receptive to that choice.
Receptive to the choice of wanting to actually go hand in hand with Jesus on his arduous
journey into the desert.
As his friend Monsignor Heintz reminds us that whatever we attach our attention to,
If our desires are worldly, then the desert is not to be our foray.
Therefore as we now stand in the shadow of Lent, standing before the Desert…
we each much ask, are we will willing to travel with Jesus with the focus and intent
such a journey requires.
It is not for the faint of heart.
When I was in grad school a couple of my professors introduced me to the concept
of “active receptivity,” an influential concept in the thought of a
Polish philosopher named Karol Wojtyla.
Roughly, it means willingly desiring to receive certain gifts and,
if necessary, actively doing things to make such reception possible.
For instance, when I was a student, if I truly wanted to learn, I had to desire to
learn, to actively listen, engage and study concepts to truly understand them.
This idea is key for me in my spiritual life.
“In the early Christian tradition of mystical theology,
there was an aphorism of anonymous origin and goes like this:
“you become the object of your contemplation.”
That is, whatever we fix our attention upon,
whatever becomes the focus of our energies and our imagination,
whatever it is that consumes our thoughts and desires,
has an imperceptible but genuine impact upon us, shaping our sensibilities,
molding our personality, and making us – far more than we often realize – who we are.
The standard objects of fallen human desire: power, pleasure, wealth, can subtly take
hold of us, and our desire for them changes who we are;
we stray farther and farther from God and find ourselves in a land of unlikeness.
Monsignor Mike Heintz