A Desert of Few Words

02 March 2023
Sr. Cheryl Rose

I’m always taken by the spiritual landscape of DESERT, not just during Lent.

But Lent is certainly the time when desert is placed before us right at the start, as we hear of Jesus spending 40 days in the rigors of the desert. Recently Daniel Horan, in the National Catholic Reporter, pointed out that two Gospel accounts say Jesus was LED by the Spirit into the desert, but Mark says Jesus was DRIVEN by the Spirit to the desert. Sounds like God was insistent that Jesus make the rugged, perilous sojourn in the desert. And for us as well…we too, must do our desert time. It’s a classroom like no other.

There are so many lessons one needs to learn on this spiritual journey of life, and certain lessons can be best learned—or only learned—in the desert. Pull up pictures of the Sahara—or the Gobi—or Death Valley—or any other lonely rugged wilderness. It doesn’t take much to imagine what dangers and hardships we would physically face in a desert—what monsters real or imagined could confront us in the wilderness. The harsh climate, the unforgiving elements of the desert would bring challenges and struggles in themselves. But in the solitude, and silence, of the desert we would most likely face even deeper challenges. Alone in the desert, we would have to face ourselves. In the glaring light of the desert we would have to finally see things we had been able to avoid in the shadowy clutter of our busy, distracted lives. Alone, with no other voices, we would eventually be left to listen to our own thoughts, our own feelings, our own life’s issues and dilemmas. And hopefully, with time, we would begin to hear the whispers of another Voice, familiar yet often lost in the rushing pace of our living. The desert is a place of theophany—a place where the Face of God can be seen…and the Voice we most need to hear can be starkly perceived.

If you are like me, you have been inundated with Lenten articles and booklets, and sermons and blogs---everyone suggesting to you how you could or should “do” Lent. I have only a few words---just LISTEN. Go to the desert of FEW words, no books. Just enter the desert and sit somewhere not far from Jesus, and listen in the deep silence. Where the Spirit will lead your learning.