Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Love Blooms in the Desert

"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil." (Luke 4:1&2)

Jesus went into the desert at a time when He was full of the Holy Spirit; in fact, it was the Spirit who led Him there. God didn't send Him there unprepared; it was immediately following His baptism. The Spirit had descended upon Him like a dove as He rose from the waters and God had proclaimed Him His Son.

Preparation for His ministry had begun.

There was a divine purpose for His going to the desert; God does not allow our suffering to be meaningless. (One version says he was driven by the Holy Spirit.) It was necessary. Why? Perhaps to test His will? Or to confirm the power of God that resided within? To refine Him? To empower Him by defeating the devil? To pave the way for us? Perhaps all of these things. There was something He had to face before His ministry could flourish.

In the same way, we are sent into the desert. I have resisted that process, but have come to realize that following Christ's example is a privilege; God honors me with that kind of suffering. The heat and testing of the desert refine me and purge me of impurities so my faith can flourish (which is worth more than gold, as St. Peter says). It is purgation on earth. The more I am purged, the more I am united with Him, the more I know Him, the more I love, and the more I serve Him effectively.

Many trials have come since I entered the Church five years ago; I have often wondered why, even (almost) to the point of questioning whether it was the correct decision. (In reality, I could never leave the Eucharist, whatever trials come.) But I finally got it yesterday. God's gentle voice, the Holy Spirit, came to me in the form of internal words spoken directly to my heart. He is trusting me with the trials I go through. He is using them to accomplish His purposes (for myself and others), and I am His chosen vehicle. WOW.

Immediately after hearing the Holy Spirit's gentle, reassuring voice about this, I went to a day of reflection devoted to Him (the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity), part of which was examining Jesus' journey into the desert, and through that He spoke again. The desert is preparation for my ministry. (By "ministry" I mean allowing God to use me in a deeper way in my daily life.) The desert is my boot camp. WOW again.

His love flourishes in the desert, and I am convinced His love is present and flourishing to those who go through a trial because of me. The sparrow that fell in front of me Monday (see that day's post) reminds me that I am in His care; I should never doubt that God's concern for those I have harmed is greater than mine.

God communicates in love and somehow I am always amazed. I should know better by now.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

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