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Along the Way
first sunday of lent 2003
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Listen to the Father!

A young executive had been trying to invite his boss home for dinner for months. Finally, the boss agreed. They would dine the following Saturday. The morning of the big day the young man was excited. He got up early and went outside to trim the plants and cut the grass, He then washed the windows and painted the trim. He wanted the house to look perfect. Somewhere in the middle of the morning his young son came out and called to his father.

"Daddy!"

However, before the boy could get out another word his father explained that he was very busy. He would take the boy to the park on Sunday but today he didnt have time to do anything but get ready for the special guest. The boy looked a but frustrated but went away silently.

The young man then went back to cleaning the house and checking on the meal his wife was fixing. He wanted everything to be perfect.

That evening dinner time came and there was no boss. The young executive sat lost in his thoughts at the dining room table with the gourmet meal cooling in front of him.

"Daddy, can I talk with you now?" His young son asked.

"Sure, junior. Go ahead and tell me whats on your mind." Mumbled the young father.

"Daddy," the boy explained. "I tried to tell you earlier but your boss called this morning and told me to let you know that something urgent came up and he would have to reschedule dinner."

We Americans are "doers". We don't feel comfortable sitting still. Even our vacations, which are supposed to be times of rest and relaxation, are filled with so much activity that often we are more tired when we come back from vacation then when we went. It is hard for us to slow down.

Thus, it seems rather strange that St. Mark describes the Holy Spirit driving Jesus into the desert for forty days. This is the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. This brief three year ministry is the turning point in all history and forty days are being wasted wandering in the desert. As Americans we are tempted to say, "Think how many more people could have been taught or healed or purged of evil spirits, if Jesus had used that time more productively!"

Why did the Holy Spirit drive Jesus into the desert? There isn't much to do in the desert but meet your basic physical needs and think and pray. Jesus was about to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus was about to proclaim the profound love of the Father for all of humanity. Jesus was about to undertake the great work of salvation on our behalf. He needed time to listen to the Spirit and to prepare for the great work ahead. That time in the desert was the foundation for the rest of Jesus ministry.

If we take our faith seriously, it is not just a matter of going to Church on Sunday and obeying laws. There are questions with which we struggle... Why did God give me the particular talents that are mine? Why did God create me in this time? Why did God lead me to this particular place? What is my purpose here? What does God want of me? What destiny is God leading me toward?

Much of the time we keep these questions far in the background, drowned out by the noise of our busy-ness. We stay so busy doing what seems important at the time, that we fail to stop and listen to what God is really asking of us. We are like the young man in the opening story. We exhaust ourselves playing out our plans and fail to listen to the real message that God is trying to get through to us. St. Ignatius Loyola was a busy soldier until he ended up as a prisoner of war and had enough time sitting quietly in jail to listen to God and realize that God wanted him to found a religious order--the Jesuits. Mother Theresa was a successful teacher to upper class Indian girls in a well-to-do Catholic boarding school. Then she sat quietly in a train for the better part of a day traveling from one city to another, when she realized that God wanted her to care for the poorest of the poor, the dying street people of Calcutta India.

This is the first Sunday of Lent. Today's gospel is given to us on purpose. It is an invitation to make the most of this lent. It is an invitation to take time and seriously listen to God speaking in our hearts. It is a time to discern the destiny to which God is calling each of us. How can I best respond to God's saving love for me? This can be dangerous. Some among us may be called to a destiny very different from what we imagine at present. But real faith challenges us to be more than we are at present. It draws each of us toward a glorious destiny.

Let's take this Lenten invitation seriously to listen to God's voice in our heart and to follow that voice. When Jesus made his Lenten journey in the desert, the fruit of his listening was the transformation of the world.

Also read A Course in Christian Spirituality by Deacon Shewman that is available through this link.

(c) 1997-2008. Richard Shewman. All stories, articles, reflections and other written material contained in this website are the creative fruit and property of Richard Shewman. All rights are reserved. The written material contained in this website may not be reproduced or published in any form, except for the individual and personal use of the reader, without the express consent of the author.