“Jesus left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit through the wilderness, being tempted there by the devil.” (Luke 4:1)
We sometimes speak about “going into the desert” as if it were some sort of “time out” or form of escapism in order to enjoy our spiritual life in a different way… and hopefully it becomes just that. But we need to remember that the desert is where Jesus encountered the “devil!”
In the fourth century, the Desert Fathers and Mothers spoke of going to the desert “to confront the demons.” The “demons” were understood to be “the passions” – those drives within us which take us away from, or in the opposite direction of the way of God – habits or inclinations that distance us from God.
The traditional list of the passions include pride, gluttony, anger, lust, envy, laziness and greed. Later theologians referred to them as the Seven Deadly Sins – wounds in the depths of the soul.
We are encouraged to recognise the “passions” that affect us most – that keep us away from the ways of God.
Our passions indicate not so much that we are doing something wrong, but that we are not in control (coming from the Greek word pathos indicating we are passive rather than active).
We discover that we are in their grip and that we cannot seem to find a way to be freed of them.
The early Church Fathers recognised that these inner wounds require mercy rather than judgement and condemnation – they are wounds that will heal from the inside out – there is no “quick-fix.”
What is important is that we recognise them and choose to be more identified with the Living Christ who dwells within us.
So perhaps during this Lenten season, we can allow ourselves to stop, be silent, and begin to watch and wait – so that we can notice these discordant and distressing aspects of our own behaviour and repent.
Have a Good Lent.