March 6th marked the start of the Lenten season. Psalm 42:2 resonates with me for my soul is thirsting for the living God, and my mind keeps asking what and how I can go and really meet with God. I am hoping in the depths of my heart that this lent will be really special; that I will have that deep experience of intimacy with God that I have been longing for in every Lent. How sure am I that this time round it will happen? Well, this invite to intimacy is from the Lord Himself. That means He has a plan of intimacy already outlined for me.
Commit to the Course
All I have to do is to sincerely stay the course with Him. And yes, I do know that in this season, the call to intimacy is a desert-oriented call. What? You see, the Lord already made a trip into the desert on my behalf; and He came out victorious. Every day, He invites me (and you) to go along with Him and promises to be with me (us) to the very end (cf. Matthew 28:20). It is just that in the past, I have not heard Him in the manner in which I now hear Him. This is why this time round it has to be (and it will be) different; I am aware of it, responsive to it, enthusiastic for it, looking forward to it, and many more positive thoughts about it. Somehow, I am motivated for it and I am actively responding to it.
His command is that we be strong and courageous; not frightened or dismayed, for the Lord God is with me (us) wherever we go (cf. Joshua 1:9). Therefore, when we go with Him, He will help us and uphold us with His righteous right hand (cf. Isaiah 41:10). It is the Lord God, who goes with us. We must believe that He will not leave or forsake us (cf. Deuteronomy 31:6). Throughout this lent, the Lord God is in our midst; a mighty one who will save from our very situations. And as Lent draws to a close, He will surely rejoice over us with gladness.
Embrace the Quiet Time
He will quiet our agitations, calm our bustles, and crawl our speeds by His love, and exult over us with loud singing (cf. Zephaniah 3:17). So, I am looking forward (and hope you are, too!) to making this journey into the desert, in search of a deep intimacy with God. His being with us, means that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (cf. Romans 8:38-39). As always, ego is the enemy to watch for, but I am hoping we will humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand, so that He may lift us up in due time (cf. 1 Peter 5:6).
Let Him Take the Lead
This 50-day desert experience of Lent will be a grace-filled moment when the Lord God leads and guides all His people— the blessed who hear His word and keep it (cf. Luke 11:28). I know myself, that I will surely fall; but I am also hopeful that with every fall. However, I will keep trying— again and again. It will be a time of testing, but also of strengthening. There will be moments of inner darkness, with no clear directions. I do not expect anything systematic or a concrete proposal on how to proceed. I do not have any exciting blueprints, neither do I foresee a promising opportunity. The one thing I am assured of is the promise not to be afraid. I wish for it to be absolute surrender; sheer docility, no matter the cost; divine companionship, notwithstanding the consequences.
Thus we will be deprived of comforts, and yet be much more aware of our dependence upon God. We will experience His intimate presence, as God’s unfixed dwelling travels daily with us; this dwelling will be for us, a Temple! We will enjoy true worship, with no distractions. So as we journey through, we expect “miracles” to occur—my innermost desert and dry ground will be glad that I came, and flowers will blossom there. I look forward to spiritual blessings set forth under the emblems of fruitfulness and plenty; for the Spirit will be poured out upon us from on high. So it is, that our hearts will be filled with the glorious beauty of the great excellence of God’s perfection in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The former wilderness of my heart shall be as much enriched with spiritual blessings, and be as fruitful in all the graces and virtues which belong to true and genuine religion, as it will ever so abundantly be filled with the glory and beauty of our God.
Then I can go on with my desert experience in everyday life, strengthening as much as I can, the hands of those who are weak and helping those whose knees give way. Then I can encourage those whose hearts are afraid, reminding them that God will come to pay back their enemies and save them. I hope to be healed of spiritual blindness, that my eyes be truly opened. I pray that the Lord replaces the shattered eyes of my often unrepentant heart with the eyes of faith that are capable of receiving the vision of His glory. This lent, I hope to truly see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (cf. Corinthians 4:4). This Lent, I want to genuinely seek to know God because I believe He will move heaven and earth to keep me from Satan’s darkness.
Going forth, I will be able to desist from being only institutionally related to the Church to being fully engaged in her Life. I will go to Confession frequently that my sins may be forgiven and I no longer walk like the blind (cf. Zephaniah 1:17). No longer will I hate my neighbor (cf. John 2:10) nor cause them to fall into the pit (cf. Matthew 15:14); for the Lord will be my guide. I will actively participate in Holy Mass, that my strengthening bears much fruit.
An Abundance of Spiritual Blessings
My spiritual deafness will be unplugged as I plunge daily into the silence of attentiveness in order to listen to the voice of the Lord in the Lenten readings. And every time I hear his voice, I make a conscious effort not to harden my heart as in the rebellion (cf. Hebrews 3:12) so that I put my faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those moments of spiritual paralysis that sometimes plague me, will be overcome. Like when I want to do the right thing but I don’t take the time, make excuses, or become distracted with interruptions and other priorities. Or when I try to do the right thing but just mess it up—like that consistently coming late to Holy Mass, or that selfish praying for the things that I merely want and not necessarily need, or that hurting instead of helping of others, or when I have difficulty controlling my thoughts or modulating my feelings. This paralysis will certainly come to an end, and I will make leaps like a deer.
Down The Way of Holiness
It is true that I have high expectations— to shout for joy as the streams of water continue to pour out in my dry places and wet my desert heart. I can just imagine that burning sand becoming a pool of water, and the thirsty ground becoming bubbling springs. In these days, my life will be down the Way of Holiness. In these days, the lions and the hungry wild animals that so often hound and harass me will no longer be there.
I will walk on the Way like others who have been set free to do exactly that—walk on it! For the Lord will save me and once again return me to the path to Paradise. I will join with the victorious in song, as they make their way into the city of Zion. Here they will have found the joy that lasts forever, which will be like beautiful crowns on their heads.
Thus this desert wanderer will discover the oasis where searching is no longer necessary. In the desert will I find rest, be refreshed and renewed. There, alone with my Creator, I will discover that He is enough to satisfy my every need; and my only need will be to need Him more and more; and I will find that intimacy that I so desire….Him!