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Go to the desert to tame your fears and doubts

Readings for Feb. 17-18, First Sunday of Lent

By Lyn Zahorik | For On Mission

Contributors who write articles for “On Mission” need to adhere to a particular word count. One quickly learns to make every word count. 

The Gospel for this Sunday is just 64 carefully chosen words. As I read it, I wondered, “Why bother mentioning that in his 40-day wilderness venture Jesus was among wild beasts?” That is an insignificant detail — we know deserts can be dangerous places, especially if you are there for an extended amount of time.

It could be possible that the wild beasts with Jesus were not just ones of a physical nature, but, rather, the mental and emotional ones that every human endures. 

During his 40 days alone in desert wilderness, Jesus probably grappled with the wild beasts of hunger and thirst, cold nights and blistering hot days, and restless sleep, taunted by unfamiliar noises in the dark night. As he contemplated the future that lay ahead of him, he may have allowed the wild beasts of anxiety, doubt and fear to plague him. 

Wild beasts are dangerous, but with awareness, the right intention and persistence on our part, a wild animal can be tamed.

Jesus left the desert to make that final journey to the cross, proving he dealt with his inner wild beasts. He tamed the ones that were rising up, saying, “You can’t do this, you will fail.” Through prayer, persistence and reliance on his Father, God, he was able to look honestly at each of his human feelings and fashion them to be in accord with his mission of salvation.

We are anticipating the First Sunday of Lent. There is a sense of joyful expectation within us as we look toward these 40 days to rethink and renew our life in Christ. We are eager to practice renewed prayer, fasting and almsgiving. 

But are we willing to go to the desert to encounter our wild beasts? 

We may think we have them locked away in a part of ourselves where they cannot harm us. But the force is still there, rattling at the cage, waiting for the chance to say, “You can’t do this, you will fail.” 

Jesus desires to work with us to tame our wild beasts, but it will require us to look each one directly in the face to its very essence. Then we must demand of ourselves, “Why, even if I feel I have this under control, do I allow it to continue to wildly lurk within?”

If that thought fills you with anxiety, know you do not have to do this on your own. 

Seek the spiritual advice of a wise mentor. We need the help and guidance of others, those who have faced similar problems as we do and who have found a way to tame their wild beasts, making peace with them. 

Experience the spiritual support found in the sacrament of reconciliation and, in every way, seek out God’s grace, which makes it possible for us to tame our inner wildness into ways that are more loving, generous and forgiving.

Zahorik is director for spiritual engagement at St. Mary Parish, Omro, and St. Mary Parish, Winneconne.

The readings for Sunday, Feb. 18, can be found at First Sunday of Lent | USCCB.

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