We tend to see Lent as an individual discipline. After all, it echoes Jesus’ going off into the wilderness alone, walking away from community in order to return into community with fresh vision, doesn’t it? Well, yes...and no. Jesus’ wilderness experience was not a solitary one, though it may well have included times of solitude.
Two of the three Gospel accounts reveal that the satan – the accuser – did not turn up after the forty days, but was a companion-of-sorts throughout that time. And so were an unspecified number of angels – a term which applies to messengers from God, and is ambivalent enough to include humans, supernatural beings, and supernatural beings who have taken on human form. Not to mention the wild animals – curious companions, approaching and withdrawing, intrigued and fearful – and a dove – incarnation of the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and remaining with him, leading him into the wilderness. Moreover, Jesus was not in the wilderness for the entirety of his fast: in the company of the accuser, he made a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, slipping unnoticed – not for the only time – through the crowds.
So the template for Lent is one in which community, in its various forms, is engaged.
In the wilderness there is room for another, who does not worship God...for another, who interprets Scripture in a different way...for another, who questions our sense of identity...for another, who seeks to exercise power over us...for another, who comes to minister to our needs, to attend to our wellbeing, to support us in our weakness...for another, who comes close and draws back, comes close and draws back again...for another, who is constant, leading us on, deeper into our Father’s love for us...for another, who doesn’t even notice that we are there as we pass by...
In the wilderness there is room to discover what we believe...about who God is and who we are, about what God is like and how we are to respond...to see ourselves within Covenant relationship...to relocate ourselves within the Kingdom of heaven...to be open to the Other and to the other...
How much room do you experience in Lent?
And who are you sharing that space with?