The desert is an apt symbol for the season of Lent. It recalls the time that Jesus spent in the desert fasting and praying in preparation for his ministry. It reminds us of John the Baptist’s call to repentance, making straight a way in the wilderness.
The desert can be a symbol of our own dryness and our need for God’s life-giving grace. It can be a symbol of solitude and prayer, a call to create within ourself a time and space for reflection and connection with Jesus.
I had the opportunity a number of years ago to spend some time with a group in the Holy Land visiting some of the sites where Jesus and the Apostles traveled. One thing that made an impression on us was the absolute silence and the absolute barrenness of the desert. Talk about getting away from it all!
One scene was particularly striking as we were traveling one day on an excursion through the desert. Off in the distance to the right was a large patch of green in the middle of barren earth. We were told it was a farm that was irrigated. The issue with the desert is not that it is unfertile. It just lacks water—less than two inches annually. If you supply water, you get fertile growth.
For Lenten reflection: What are the desert experiences in your life? How do you invite the life-giving water of the Holy Spirit into that desert? In what ways are you called to enter a space of solitude and reflection to encounter that Spirit within? What is the growth that emerges from your desert experiences?
“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you. He will prepare your way. A voice crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.” (Mk 1:2-3)
(Full disclosure: The images in this post were taken in the Sonoran Desert in Arizona. Only the featured image is of the Negev in Israel, where Jesus and John the Baptist would have spent time. The contrast between the two deserts is stark. The Sonoran Desert gets more rain and hence has much more vegetation than the Negev.)