Father Tim’s Message of the Week
February 18, 2018
Why do we always go to the desert? We see this example in Scripture time and time again. The Israelites wandered in the desert. King David and prophets were driven into the wilderness. And now Jesus is in the same place. Lent after Lent, we too are invited into a barren, desolate place. Why do we always go to the desert?
Throughout Scripture, the desert is a place of testing. It’s also a place of hiding and withdrawal. In the Old Testament, David fled into the wilderness to hide from Saul, Elijah from Jezebel, and Jonah from God! In other words, the desert is a place of "retreat." In Christian circles, we use the word to describe a spiritual weekend away. But its meaning comes from warfare, as we well know. To retreat means to draw back, to separate oneself from the fighting. Of course, a military retreat brings its own kind of "battle" – the internal assessment of why the fighting went so poorly.
As we enter into this Lenten season, we are invited to retreat into the desert with Jesus. Attending a day or weekend of reflection is a wonderful spiritual practice. This "desert spirituality," however, can fill all forty days. We can fulfill our Lenten resolutions with a purpose – writing daily notes to family and friends can inspire new gratitude, every time we pass up that specific food item can be cause for intercession for deeper sufferings and privations of others.
The Gospel tells us that "the Spirit drove him out into the desert." In other words, God wants us to be here. What feels uncomfortable is actually part of our spiritual journey. To be stretched, to be challenged, to confront our own areas of weakness – these things are essential in our walk with God. This Lent, will you go to the desert?
February 11, 2018
We may not like it, but generosity and risk often go hand-in-hand. At least, that’s what Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel as a leper approaches him for healing. Until the nineteenth century, lepers were shunned to the margins of society for fear of spreading the disease. To touch a leper was to risk becoming unclean yourself. In today’s Gospel, Jesus defies convention. "Moved with pity, he reached out his hand, [and] touched him." The leper is healed! But this is not the only risk Jesus takes.
Before Jesus heals the man, he knows full well the desperate nature of his situation. Jesus knows that this man will be overjoyed upon being healed and that he just might tell everyone he knows. For a Messiah looking to temporarily fly under the radar, healing this particular leper might not be the best idea. Jesus heals anyway.
It can be easy to become calculated in our giving. If I go out of my way to help this person, how will it affect my reputation? How will this charitable donation affect my budget? How could I possibly make time to volunteer regularly? In today’s Gospel, Jesus casts these concerns aside. He touches the untouchable. He reaches the unreachable. For his efforts, he receives a betrayal of his request for silence. "The man went away and began to publicize the whole matter." Before long "it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly." Jesus is forced to remain "outside in the deserted places." It would appear, perhaps, that he is unable to accomplish his mission.
When we take a risk to be generous, things might not follow the prescribed path. We might be disappointed. We also might be surprised! Our witness to radical generosity is attractive to a world in desperate need. Indeed, when Jesus took risks for love, "People kept coming to him from everywhere."