Did you know that 70% of the Australian mainland is classified as semi-arid, arid or desert? The heart of our nation is a dry and barren place. Yet, for our spiritual lives, there’s more to the desert than just heat and sand.
In the scriptures, the desert holds a significant place in the life of the salvific story. The desert is a place of purification. Purified by the heat as gold is refined by fire. The desert is a place of preparation. The endurance necessary for the desert prepares us for the road ahead.
The first prime example of the value of the desert comes from the book of Exodus. God the Father delivered Israel from the slavery of Egypt, and the People of God didn’t immediately go straight into the Promised Land but they went through the desert. They went through this purification and this preparation. In the midst of it all, they were taught to rely on the providence of God. They were given the presence of the Lord in the Ark of the Covenant and they were reminded of the importance of their worship and commitment to God throughout the whole journey. Our Gospel this weekend parallels the lessons of the People of Israel and shows us that Jesus stands as the new model of fidelity.
When the People of God were hungry, the Lord provided manna from heaven, but Jesus said, “one does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”
When the People of God were complaining about being abandoned by God, the Lord continuously came to their aid, but Jesus said “You must not put the Lord your God to the test.”
When the People of God made their own idols and gods, the Lord made his power known to them, but Jesus says “You must worship the Lord your God and serve God alone.”
Jesus’ mastery over the temptations of the body and the world show us that all things are possible. It certainly won’t be an easy stroll through the park, but struggling through the challenges of the body and the world have a purifying and preparatory effect on our lives to come. We begin our Lenten experience in the desert with Jesus but we also cling to his example that, by his Word, we might find true life and strength to battle the temptations we will face in the coming days.
May we walk through this desert time knowing that Jesus walks beside us.