Today’s daily meditation in Growth in the Knowledge of Our Lord once again focused on Christ’s forty days in the desert. It is very appropriate for this particular day as well as the rest of this Lenten season. In fact, I think I might take it up as a theme. Only God knows, though.
Anyway, I was looking through pictures of one of my favorite places in the United States. It’s not New York City or Los Angeles nor is it somewhere in Washington State. Rather, it is a rather lonely stretch of highway beginning in Tehachapi and ending in Santa Clarita, California. For the most part, this is Highway 58 and it runs straight through the Mojave.
If any of you, dear readers, have ever driven through that part of the country, then you know and understand how bare this area is. Aside from the Sierras in the area, very little rain falls in the desert. Even traveling down this highway, one has a sense of loneliness and desolation. Going from one town to another, the feeling is one of deepening solitude in the middle of what actually is one of the vastest metropolitan areas in the United States.
I mention the Mojave desert because that’s what I imagine the desert of Lent to be like. Today, we begin our journey somewhere near the giant Portland Cement Factory near the ghost town of Monolith. We are surrounded by scrub lands and the belching smoke stacks. There are also wind farms around us. The wind slaps us as we roll along.
We know, of course, that the end of our destination is the big city several hundred miles away. However, we are not there yet. We are only taking the first tentative steps in that direction and only after great effort will we actually get there.
In Lent, Ash Wednesday marks only the beginning of the journey. The rest of it will take place over the next thirty-nine plus days. At this point, we have been admonished by Holy Mother Church to wash ourselves clean and to put on the new man. At Matins this morning, one of the responsories came Isaiah and read: “All you who thirst come to the waters.”
Isaiah is addressing us. We are those sojourners along the road in the desert. We know that the oasis which is Holy Week and Easter is far away. Yet we come closer and closer to it. As the journey continues, we will come to small towns and large cities. Each of these is one of the feasts of the Church during this time. Each has its own symbolic meaning on the journey.
But we cannot begin it unless we acknowledge where we are and what our ultimate goal is.