Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

conversion, faith, Gospel, health, peace, Prayer, Silence, Uncategorized

An Icon for Lent: Into the Desert

An Icon for Lent: Into the Desert
cropped image of Jesus in robe, sandals and red sash walking on sand in desert

An icon for Lent

Atop one height sits a solitary figure. His head is bowed, His hair tossed by the fitful gusts of wind. His dusty clothes, sunburnt face, and gaunt frame suggest that He has been here for some time. His eyes are closed and His brow furrowed as His mouth silently forms the words of David: O God, You are my God, for You my soul is thirsting … like a dry, weary land without water.

Suddenly, His eyes open and He looks quickly to His right. There is a scrawny brown jackal, which shies away at the abrupt movement. A smile breaks over the Man’s face, and He gently beckons the creature nearer. Though its only human contacts up to now have been accompanied by sticks and shouting, somehow it seems to know that this Man is to be trusted.

A strong, calloused hand reaches out and strokes the jackal’s rough mane. The Man, still smiling, closes His eyes again and begins to mouth another prayer. All you beasts, wild and tame, bless the LORD; praise and exalt Him above all forever.

As the fierce sun begins to wane, the Man is still sitting there, with the beast sitting beside Him. They gaze together at the burst of color that heralds the dying day. As the first stars begin to shine, the Man looks to His left, where a light of unearthly brightness has appeared. He smiles once again, beckoning the angel nearer…

Into the desert

Into the desert

Last Sunday’s Gospel passage was from Mark. It’s a passage so laconic as to be terse, acerbic:

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert,
and he remained in the desert for forty days,
tempted by Satan.
He was among wild beasts,
and the angels ministered to him…Entire Gospel Reading

Saint Mark’s first sentence jolts: He was driven into the desert by The Spirit. This passage shouts,


“Pay attention!”

Jesus’ humanity had to be driven: Just like yours and mine.

Although we understand–kind of–Jesus’ emptying himself of divinity to be born in the likeness of man, we shy away. It’s uncomfortable to ponder the reality of His Humanity. However, passages like this one bring to the forefront just how monumental was the condescension of the Lord of the Universe: the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.

This brief Gospel passage skips right to the death of John the Baptist and Jesus’ public ministry. Strangely, Saint Mark’s omission of the desert details highlights these Lenten days in the beautiful and forbidding Judean desert.

The silence calls out: “Come!”

“He was among wild beasts and the angels ministered to him.”

Why is Jesus in the desert?

He’s there to redeem creation. to eclipse the distrust of God by our first parents. With their decision to listen to the father of lies, satan, the harmony and unity of creation disintegrated. The perfectly blended unity of humanity’s body and soul ruptured. Establishing a war within each one of us: our bodies pulling downward while our souls are pulled up…up.

Sometimes, with the glory of a sunrise or in the presence of a soaring symphony, we can hear, even feel that lost unity. We can recall something lost–something indescribably precious. We hear the echoes of Eden.

“So there they sit, beneath the stars – the angel, the Man, and the beast. Not since Eden has such a harmony been seen. Has Eden, then, been renewed in the midst of this forbidding desert? No, something greater than Eden is here — for the Man seated on the rocky bluff is not only Son of Adam, but Son of God, come to search out His straying brethren.

For now, though, He remains apart. The time will come when He will be surrounded by a sea of humanity, day and night — but for these forty sacred days, He will be seen only in the company of the higher and the lower creation, the angels and the beasts. Will man receive Him as readily as they?”

The dislocation of body and soul

Are your soul and body at war, Bishop Barron asks in last Sunday’s homily? Like the Passionist consecrated blogger I’ve liberally quoted, Bishop Barron recommends we focus on the Man, the angels and the wild animals, as an icon for Lent.

Driven by the Spirit, Jesus walks and climbs the “vast canvas of rock and dust” that David trod. But Jesus isn’t there to escape a king. The Lord of the Universe is there to battle our enemy. Only after forty days without food or water will Jesus face satan. Only when his flesh is starved and his thirst supernatural, will Jesus face the tempter. The being that deceived Eve, the mother of the living, is Lucifer-literally the “angel of light.” We have no conception of the malevolence Satan holds for humanity. Nor can we grasp how vast is his intelligence and his knowledge of all things.

But Jesus did—does.

In his remarkable book, Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel, Father John Riccardo explains the weakened, starving, crucified Christ as the “ambushed predator.”

“God became a man to fight, to rescue us, to get his creation—you—back. He landed on earth in order to vanquish the enemy, but here’s the challenge: the enemy won’t fight God. Satan isn’t stupid. Satan knew he couldn’t beat God and wouldn’t try, so God designed a plan: a plan he knew would involve piercing, nails, and a cross. Then he hid himself as a man. And he waited…

Jesus on the cross is not the poor, helpless victim, and he is not the hunted. Jesus on the cross is the aggressor and the hunter…in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man. Death could not devour our Lord unless he possessed a body, neither could hell swallow him up unless he bore our flesh; and so he came in search of a chariot in which to ride to the underworld. This chariot was the body which he received from the Virgin; in it he invaded death’s fortress, broke open its strongroom and scattered all its treasure.”

Rescued: The Unexpected and Extraordinary News of the Gospel

A PS on Fasting

My online poet friend Maura Harrison, sent me a link to Franciscan Friar Brother Elijah’s riveting talk on fasting a few years ago. Recently, I’ve questioned my fasting regimen and so I gratefully watched it once again.

Here are just a few examples of the wisdom Brother Elijah shares in this grace-filled talk:

“There was just one commandment in Eden: a fast….and we broke the fast…”

“Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

While in prayer, Brother Elijah asked God why we’re to fast and heard,

“I desire to feed you.”

“Will you let me feed you?”

Post Tags :
body and soul, desert, eden, first parents, Lent

2 thoughts on “An Icon for Lent: Into the Desert”

  1. “Jesus on the cross is not the poor, helpless victim, and he is not the hunted. Jesus on the cross is the aggressor and the hunter…in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain.”

    Such a new perspective . Always grateful for your generosity in sharing such beautiful insights ?❤️

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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