A Caregiver Reflects on Lent

First Sunday of Lent

I recently read a reflection on today’s gospel passage: Luke’s recounting of Jesus’ venture into the desert and subsequent encounter with the evil forces that plague us all. The writer suggests that Jesus intentionally went to the desert to face the evil spirits. it wasn’t as if Jesus went to the desert to pray and the devil “just happened to show up.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the desert for forty days, to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over he was hungry. 

A close reading indicates that his skirmish with the devil occurred “after” the 40 days. So, what did he do for 40 days? This passage is preceded by Jesus’ baptism, during which,

the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove;
and a voice came from heaven “You are my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

Jesus sought the stillness, the quiet, the starkness of the desert after such a profound awakening to his identity as the Beloved of God. This place provided time and space for the Holy Spirit to continue to grace and strengthen Jesus in his true identity, and for Jesus to more deeply receive his identity as the Beloved. Thus fortified, he was freer to see clearly and choose wisely when temptations came.

As caregivers, we rarely have a chance to go off alone for a day to pray, much less 40.  We need to make time to be alone with Divine Grace and Mercy, to hear God call our name, to remind us of our identity as the beloved. We need to rest in God to be strengthened and freed, even if they are short moments sprinkled throughout the day.  Sometimes it’s simply holding onto a mantra for the day,

All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. (Ignatius of Loyola)

Sometimes it’s deep breathing - inhaling and e x h a l I n g - allowing the breath of God to sooth and comfort before we fall asleep. It’s enough.

As I read today’s gospel, my first thought was that I don’t have to go to the desert to meet temptations- they are everywhere! As numerous as street potholes after a particularly wet and frigid winter! And that same vigilance it needed to avoid them. Maybe you recognize these temptations,

  • to go it alone, “I’ll ask others for help when I really need it”. 
  • to want more answers than are possible right now, so we can anticipate and plan, keeping vulnerability and suffering for loved one far away
  • to skip time alone and time for prayer...” there’s so much to do”

Our strengths as caregivers are also the easiest place for the evil one to sneak in.

Today, God, show me how “overuse” of my gifts and strengths keeps me self-reliant and exhausted,  rather than turning to you for my identity, and allowing the vulnerability necessary to be your Beloved.

Diane Jorgensen

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