Monday of the First Week of Lent
Though Heaven is best symbolized by the most luscious and fruitful garden or a glorious city with streets paved in gold, the barrenness of the desert is the pathway to the abundance of God’s Kingdom.
In Israel’s desert, near Jericho, are the caves believed to be the places Jesus dwelt for those forty days. At first, a cave might be interesting to explore. But neither a cave nor the desert provides the comforts this world has to offer. A cave offers no soft and comfortable places to sit or sleep, and there is very little natural light. In the desert, shade and food are scarce, or even nonexistent.
Jesus entered into this barren and desolate place, in part, to teach us that the riches and comforts of this world do not come close to comparing with the riches and blessings of a life of grace. Could you be happy living in a cave in the desert? Or perhaps the better question is this: Was Jesus happy while He lived in the barrenness of the desert, deprived of all the material blessings and comforts of the world? Most certainly He was, because His happiness was dependent upon His communion with the Father, fulfilling the Father’s will. Nothing delighted Him more than this. Therefore, by freely entering the most barren place on earth, Jesus teaches us that nothing on earth compares to deep communion with God.
When you look at your own life, could you describe it as “barren?” Or would it better be described as comfortable, indulgent, extravagant, or worldly? Perhaps it’s somewhere in-between. Though there is nothing wrong with having some of the comforts of this world, you must always understand that every delight you possess in this world will act as a temptation to believe that obtaining more is the pathway to happiness.
Ponder the simple fact that God wants your soul not to be barren, but to be abundantly filled. For that to happen, you need to keep in check and purify the competing earthly luxuries that tempt you to long for more of the passing delights of this world. Learn a lesson from Jesus’ choice to enter into the barren state of the desert. As you do, identify ways that you can follow Him into that barrenness. Where there is excess in your life, work to purge it. Where there are worldly desires and wishes for comfort, work to tame them so that these things do not compete within your soul with the only thing that truly satisfies: God Himself.
My Lord of earthly barrenness, You came into this world poor and freely embraced that total poverty when You entered the desert for forty days. Please set me free from the temptation to turn the comforts and luxuries of this world into my goals in life. May I learn from You Who chose the poverty of the desert and follow the example You set. Jesus, I trust in You.