Sometimes it feels like we’ve already been in the season of Lent for a year. Throughout the pandemic, there’s no doubt that we’ve all been experiencing our own forms of the desert; so there’s something very familiar and relatable when we read that, “The Spirit drove Jesus into the desert.” I imagine that Jesus experienced the temptations with a longing similar to those that many of us have been engaged in for months, now.
Longing for the dying to stop.
Longing to be with our friends and loved ones again.
Longing for racial justice.
Longing for connection and understanding.
Longing for the restoration of creation.
These longings aren’t bad or sinful, they’re human. And apparently they’re divine, too. Wasn’t it longing for a deep relationship with us that moved God to create the covenant after the flood, as we hear in today’s reading from Genesis? After living with these longings over the past year, I have a renewed appreciation for God’s love and longing. As we long to see our friends and family, we sometimes forget the opportunity to rest in the One that longs and has always longed for us.
Note also that today’s gospel does not end in the desert. From there, Jesus goes to Galilee to begin his public ministry, proclaiming that “this is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” The time in the desert was not some endurance test for its own sake – it was a period of preparation in which Jesus connected deeply with his core identity as God’s beloved Son. In Matthew’s version of this gospel reading, Jesus rebukes the devil by quoting scripture, saying: “One does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes forth from the mouth of God.” In the midst of his physical hunger, Jesus connected with an even deeper longing for communion with God. His mission became crystal clear, propelling him to proclaim the Good News.
As we enter into this season of Lent (and continue the sojourn through the COVID desert), how can this become a time of preparation? How will our longing for transformation, justice, and deeper communion guide us to a more authentic expression of discipleship? How might we live out the Lenten practices of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving with the understanding that we are loved and longed for by God?
-Carla and Ryan Lents, former staff member and current Farm donors