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For Your Weekend: The Desert of My Heart

Caitlin Bean
February 17, 2024

Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Mark 1:1215

Lately, prayer has been something I’m struggling with. In this season of spiritual unassuredness, I’ve found myself shying away from prayer and settling for the bare minimum. 

Being a mother to an 18-month-old and 5-month-old has changed everything. Gone are the days when I could immerse myself in theological texts, listen to a podcast on Catholic ethics, pray a rosary, attend daily Mass or adoration, go to weekly confession, and thoroughly examine Scripture all in one glorious 24-hour window. 

As a result, I have felt like I am in a desert, aimlessly searching for water to quench my thirst, for a shady place to rest so I can hear the voice of God. In this desert, temptations arise to listen to the lies of the enemy—that to pray, I must do a litany of spiritual exercises, that I need lots of quiet time to hear His voice—or to return to strongholds “places we go to find our security and safety when we feel threatened. We go to those places instead of God. In that moment, we choose to rely on ourselves rather than on Him.”[1]

Achieving or Receiving?
At the beginning of the year, Laura Phelps posed a question to our ministry, one that has proven to be pivotal in my prayer life: “In prayer, are you achieving or are you receiving?” Laura continued, “Because holiness? Holiness is not achieved; it is received. And for all of us doers on this call…this is a challenge.”

Why do I share this with you? 

Because it’s Lent, and if you’re anything like me, it’s so incredibly tempting to try and do all. the. things. As if, by doing enough spiritual tasks, we can prove to God that we love Him, that we were worth dying for, and that His sacrifice was not in vain. 

But what if this Lent, Jesus wants to minister to you in the desert of your heart as the angels ministered to Him? 

Will you open yourself to His quiet presence?

Will you allow Him to pour out His grace upon you, freely and abundantly? 

Temptation in the Desert
In Sunday’s gospel, we read Mark's account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Just as Adam and Eve were driven out of the garden into the wilderness, so too is Jesus, for He is the new Adam. Having been baptized and anointed by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:9–11), Jesus is intentionally driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit to experience the temptations of the enemy. Though He is without sin, by undergoing temptation, we see how Jesus is one with us in His humanity. However, unlike Adam, who gave into temptation and succumbed to sin, Jesus resists the snares of the enemy. This victory foreshadows His triumph over sin and death that will occur through His sacrifice on the cross. After returning from the desert, Jesus begins His public ministry, calling people to repentance and belief in the gospel. 

Spiritual Battle
Lent is a unique spiritual battle against the enemy, which prepares us for the glory of the Easter season. A couple of weeks ago, in a homily given by Fr. John Riccardo—the director of Acts XXIX—I was encouraged to really do something meaningful this Lent and to prayerfully discern how God was calling us into spiritual battle. Fr. John suggested we pray with the following questions:

  • What is my wound?
  • What is my idol?
  • What is hell’s strategy against me? 

By praying with these questions, I realized that my wound remains in my identity. Perfectionism is a lie—it cannot save me from failure, and it will not enable me to be perfect. The antidote to perfectionism is not achieving but receiving. I am called to show up to Jesus as I am. In this season of my new role as a wife and mother, that means I do not have any spiritual accolades to hide behind. I’m showing up to Him empty-handed, exactly as I am, in all my tiredness, with all my doubts. And guess what? That’s exactly what He wants. 

“But,” I countered in prayer, as I changed my daughter’s diaper outside the Adoration chapel, “I can’t come to You if I don’t have quiet. I can’t figure out what my idol is if I don’t have quiet.”

With that, Ciara squealed and tried to wriggle away from me. 

“SHHH,” I whispered, a little too firmly. 

“There it is,” said Jesus. 

“There what is?” I asked. 

“Your idol: quiet. I’m here, even in the midst of the noise. I gave you the precious gift of your child. You didn’t think I would call you to this vocation, entrust you with this gift if it would lead you away from Me, did you? Stop using your need for quiet as an excuse not to come to Me.” 

“Ok,” I responded. And suddenly, hell’s strategy against me became clear (though it’s not unique, for the enemy, while clever, is not original). It was as if I could hear the screwtape letter being crafted for my life: “Dear Mr. Wormwood, I am delighted to inform you that your patient is once again struggling with perfectionism. This is excellent, for she will not surrender herself fully to our enemy. She longs for quiet, but she has two busy babies. Let her regard them as stumbling stones to her prayer life rather than seeing them for what they truly are: the pathway to her holiness, the means of her sanctification...” 

As I held sweet, squirmy, babbling Ciara, I suddenly knew that this Lent would not be about giving up chocolate. It will be about relentlessly showing up to Jesus, especially amidst the noise and the chaos. This Lent, I will be asking Him to come into the desert of my heart and minister to me with His legion of angels, to save me from the temptations and snares of the devil, to quench my thirst, to be my shady place to rest. 

Food for thought or journaling... 

What is your wound? What is your idol? What is hell’s strategy against you? How can the answers to those questions help you discern your plan for Lent? 

Jesus, be with me in the desert. Long before I existed, long before I could attempt to prove my love for You, You sacrificed Your life for me. I only love because You love me first. Help me to receive You and to come to You as I am—empty-handed, with my brokenness and sinfulness. Open my heart to what You are calling me to do this Lent. 

[1] Lisa Brenninkmeyer, “Fearless and Free Bible Study Video #4: Mature,” Walking with Purpose: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GrlLzCHCFGk.

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