Into the Wilderness
Well, some of you may have seen the very popular Netflix reality series, which is called “Tidying Up.” The show is all about a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo who comes into people’s homes to help them tidy up, to de-clutter, to get more organized. And, it truly is a spiritual process - a spiritual experience for them.
When entering a home for the first time, Marie gets down on her knees, and she bows and offers a silent prayer of gratitude to the house. Then Marie begins her “tidying up” process. She invites the homeowners to gather all their belongings into a big pile, and then – one by one – they hold each item and see if it “sparks joy” for them.
That’s Marie’s go-to line, her motto or mantra, if you will: “Does this spark joy for you?” If the item doesn’t “spark joy,” then it is donated or disposed of. And, at the end of each episode, the homeowners begin to feel so much “lighter” and so much “freer.” So much so, that it often brings them to tears.
One homeowner tells Marie that she has given their family “a new life.” I mention this to you today – on the first Sunday of Lent – for this season is about “tidying up” our spiritual lives: about letting go of the things that are no longer “sparking joy” in us, so that we can experience new life.
And, it’s interesting because most of us growing up in the church were taught that Lent was about giving up things that brought us joy. We were taught to give up things that we liked – things like chocolate and sweets and having fun – because we were told that since Jesus suffered on the cross, then we needed to suffer, too.
But, that is not what Lent is all about.
As we heard in our “Words of Integration & Guidance” today, we shouldn’t look at Lent as a foreboding or sad season. For Lent, you see, is not about giving up the things that bring us joy, but about giving up the things that are keeping us from our joy!
So, if watching Cable News is keeping you from your joy, how about a 40 day fast from Cable News? If being on Facebook is keeping you from your joy, how about a 40 day fast from Facebook? Who knows? Maybe, you’ll experience new life! Maybe you’ll feel lighter and freer!
Last year during Lent, I shared with you the words of Pope Francis, who said, “Instead of fasting from chocolate, fast from sadness… fast from worries… fast from complaints… fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy.”
That’s what the season of Lent is all about: “fasting from” or “letting go” of the things that are no longer serving us, that are keeping us from our joy. And, Lent is a process, a journey. It’s an inward journey.
In the Gospel of Luke, Chapter 9, Jesus says, “Take nothing with you for your Journey.” The spiritual journey is all about letting go of our baggage, of the things that are weighing upon us, the things that are dragging us down.
So, my question for you on this 1st Sunday of Lent, is: What are the things in your life right now that are weighing upon you? What baggage do you need to let go of in order to experience more joy?
Maybe you need to let go of your negative thinking: your thoughts of lack and limitation, of worry, fear, anxiety, and resentment. Maybe you need to let go of being in control. Maybe you need to let go of your certainty, of the need to always be right.
Maybe you need to let go of a belief system that was imposed upon you; one that you unconsciously inherited and never questioned…a belief system that has been limiting your spiritual growth.
The spiritual journey, you see, is all about release, and letting go, and surrender. And, that requires our venturing into the wilderness, just as Jesus did in today’s Gospel reading.
You know, in the Bible, there are nearly 300 references to the word “Wilderness.” The “wilderness” played a vital role in the spiritual journeys of Biblical figures from Moses to John the Baptist to Jesus. They all went into the wilderness to experience the Presence and Power of God.
If you look up the word “wilderness” in the dictionary, it means “an area essentially undisturbed by human activity.”
Symbolically and spiritually, the wilderness represents an undisturbed place where we can “lose ourselves” in order to “find ourselves.”
In today’s Gospel reading, we hear that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,” where he spends 40 days and 40 nights. Now, I’ve told you before, the number “40” in the Bible is highly symbolic. It signifies a time of SPIRITUAL PREPARATION.
For example, in the book of GENESIS, we hear that it rained for 40 days/nights in the days of NOAH. We know that Moses spent 40 days/night on top of Mount Sinai before receiving God’s commandments, and that he spent 40 years in the desert before leading the people out of exile.
That is why the Season of LENT is 40 DAYS LONG. It is a time of spiritual preparation for us, so that we can experience new growth and new life. This preparation requires our going into the wilderness, going into the silence, so that we can face our demons, just as Jesus does in today’s Gospel reading.
told you a few weeks ago, that the devil is not a red guy with horns and a pitchfork. The Hebrew word for Satan means adversary or stumbling block, something getting in the way of our joy, something keeping us from experiencing the Divine within us.
So, today, on the 1st Sunday of Lent, I would like to invite you to go into the wilderness for the next 40 days, and to do some tidying up, to do some mental and spiritual Spring Cleaning.
Let go of the things that are no longer “sparking joy” for you.
Find time each and every day this Lenten season to go within, to the darkness of the wilderness, so that you can attune yourself more fully to the voice of the Divine, which speaks in the silence.
For, as God says to us in Hosea 2, “The Wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.”
Know that I’m wishing you all a very blessed and a very meaningful Lenten Season.
Rev. Salvatore Sapienza
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