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Since 1732, the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests and brothers — have followed in Jesus’ footsteps, preaching the Word and serving the poor and most abandoned.
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Embraced by Lent: Slowing Down, Entering the Desert

“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.” (Mark 1:12)
(Click here for complete readings. Audio option. Courtesy, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.)
How many of us really have been to the desert, let alone spent any time there? In 2001, after the tragic events of that fateful September morning, I had the fortune and the grace to go to the desert. For three months I was privileged to live on the edge of the Saguaro National Desert in Tucson, AZ. Simplicity and silence at its best in the midst of a desert beauty that has to be lived, not just seen, to be appreciated.
Of course, it would have been the lap of luxury in Jesus’ time. Comfortable individual hermitages, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the wild of the desert, all in air-conditioned comfort! Simple yet nourishing food (grasshoppers and other such delicacies NOT on the menu).
In the desert one is confronted with SILENCE. Perhaps “confronted” is too strong a word. A better choice would be invited! Yes, one is invited into the SILENCE.
We live in a world in which we are bombarded by NOISE. We wake up in the morning, if not to an old-fashioned alarm clock, then to our iPhones, iPods or iPads gently singing us awake with our latest selection of favorite wake-up music. We listen to music, or even watch television, in our bathrooms.
We run to the kitchen where the automatic coffee maker has already brewed our beverage of choice. Our ears are assaulted on the way to work, riding the elevator, entering the classroom and even in our places of worship. NOISE, NOISE, NOISE! How do we hear God speaking to us through all the cacophony?
Is the NOISE of our lives our own choosing? Does the NOISE dull us to the realities around us, to the pain or disappointment we may be feeling? To the anger, mistrust, frustration that often invades our spaces? Are we hiding behind the NOISE so that we can keep God and others out?
Jesus was led out into the desert by the Holy Spirit. For what? To be tempted by Satan. Have no doubt, Jesus knew evil. He witnessed, and witnesses still, the evil that we often impose on one another. He had firsthand knowledge of humans’ inhumanity toward one another. Call it evil. Call it original sin. Call it the devil or Satan. Jesus saw what not loving could achieve.
He overcame these temptations and he gives us the grace we need to overcome them also — with his help. When we falsely believe that we are walking through the desert alone — fear not, he is walking right beside us. Courage!
Father James McDonald professed vows as a Redemptorist in 1984 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He is currently stationed at San Alfonso Retreat House in Long Branch, NJ.

More reflections:
Getting Back to Basics: What Lent IS and IS NOT