By FR. SAJU PINAKATTU
On the first Sunday of Lent, the gospel speaks of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after His baptism. Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the desert to spend forty days. ‘Forty’ is a number often associated with intense spiritual experiences.
We read in Genesis that God caused it to rain for forty days and forty nights to cleanse the earth (Gen. 7:12). The Exodus story reveals that Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years making their journey towards the promised land.
According to Exodus, Moses spent forty days and forty nights on Mount Sinai (Ex.34:28) to engage with God. Elijah journeyed forty days and forty nights to Mount Horeb (1Kgs 19:8). John the Baptist lived in the desert and began his ministry there. The desert is the university where God forms and purifies His people. The desert was the sacred space where Jesus came to distinguish between the voice of God which He should follow and the voice of the sin which is temptation.
Similarly, in Lent we can create a desert space to be alone daily with God, a time to distance ourselves from the many noises and voices that bombard our lives every day – a time to hear/read God’s word, a time rediscover who we are before God.
During this week of Lenten journey, we need to create a sacred space to renew our relation with God and others by reviewing our lives before the Lord. It is said of Saint Jerome, one time he prayed to Jesus: “You have suffered much to save me; how can I make some returns?”
“What can you give me, Jerome?” a voice was heard.
“I will spend my entire life in prayer, and I will offer all my talents into your hands,” Jerome replied.
“You do that to glorify me, but what more can you give to me?” the voice asked again.
“I will give all my money to the poor,” Jerome exclaimed.
The voice said: “Give your money to the poor; it would be just as if you were giving it to me. But what else can you give to me?”
Saint Jerome became annoyed and said: “Lord, I have given you everything! What is there left to give?”
“Jerome, you have not still given to me your sins,” the Lord replied. “Give it to me so I can erase them.”
With these words, Jerome burst into tears. “Dear Jesus, take all that is mine and give me all that is yours.”
Mark in the Gospel uses the word Kairos, which means a favourable time. It is the favourable time to encounter Jesus and embrace the Gospel.