One Sunday afternoon, after going to church, Andi, 45 years old, made a rare decision, a decision that people in general would not make. But it turned out to be a good thing not only for himself but also for his whole family. We may wonder what was going on with Andi and what made him make that decision. Well, something important but not special-looking! On that Sunday, Andi could not sleep in as he had planned. He had been suffering from insomnia. So he got out of bed quite early to have a coffee. After the coffee, he felt bored but didn’t feel like doing anything. It was only 7 o’clock.
Since it was snowing outside, the town was not active at all. Shops were still closed. Too early for restaurant here. The only place that was open at this moment was the small parish church down the road. Well, he hadn’t been to Mass quite a few months, partly because of his work, partly because of his laziness. For some reason, he decided to go there, just to get out of his boredom and breathe some fresh air. He gently changed his clothes and quietly left the house lest his family would be awaken.
He discovered it was the first Sunday of Lent. Oops, he just missed the Ash Wednesday four days before. He felt a little sorry about that and wanted to make up for it. So he decided to be more focused in church this time. Since he was more concentrated, he realized that there were things he had not noticed well. Then came the moment of the Gospel, the priest proclaimed a short passage from Mark:
“The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.” (Mk 1:12-13)
This very passage was the important but not special-looking thing that enabled him to make his rare decision. He said to himself: “Jesus surely knew things much better than me. He did it. Why don’t I just give it a try and imitate him? Perhaps it would do something good for my life?”
He reflected a little more on it and this is his rare decision: following Jesus into the desert. Since his work was very occupying, he needed to be practical. So he planned to enter and remain in the desert for only 10 minutes each day. One should be noted right away that Andi lived in the heart of a busy overpopulated city where every inch of land was inhabited. In fact, people had to build tall apartment buildings in order to have space to live. Therefore, his desert was not a deserted place or a wasteland like a natural desert. This desert had to be created wisely. How?
There were many ways to do it. For example, he would get up a little earlier to sit by the window to enjoy the fresh air and the serene quietness of the morning. He would talk to God for 10 minutes about what he was going to do and ask Him for guidance. After lunch, he would spent 10 minutes sitting quietly to rest his eyes and refresh his mind before going back to work. In the evening, he would not turn on his computer right after dinner as he had habitually done before in order to be available for his wife and children and to give himself a chance to examine his day. When he had conflict with someone, he would gave himself at least 10 minutes to pray and think about it. And so on…
He found the time in his desert, though little, very helpful. He gained lots of wisdom and strength. Let us only mention 3 valuable experiences he acquired when he contemplated Jesus in the desert: temptation, wild beasts and angels.
First, temptation: Andi found that there had been temptations he fell into without any awareness. As a consequence, he had hurt those around him unintentionally. They were still hurt anyway. Besides, he came to know more clearly that temptation was illusion. It would not have any power to control him if he did not agree with it. Also, in facing temptations in his desert, Andi realized they could provide him with great opportunities to manifest his love for God and for his loved ones through his unselfish choices.
Second, wild beasts: Andi was shocked when the 10-minute desert helped him realize that there had always been many wild beasts in his life. They had been devouring his happiness without his awareness. For example, the beast of anger ate away his patience. The beast of jealousy damaged his generosity. The beast of pride closed his ears. The beast of fear destroyed his confidence. The beast of lust prevented him from being respectful. The beast of perfectionism attacked his inner peace. And so on…
Third, angels: As he had not realized the presence of many wild beasts, he had failed to recognize many angels in his life. Consequently, he had taken them for granted; even worse, he had treated them with ingratitude. For example, the angel who kept his house clean had never received a thank you from him, the angel who cooked for him with much care was not well appreciated, the angel who took his children to school every day had never been invited out for a dinner, the little angels who could teach him values of sincerity and innocence had never been respected, and so on. In his 10-minute desert, Andi began to see what he should do to return the love he had received from his angels and how he should express his appreciation more.
Andi has changed.
Lately, he has shared this experience with family and invited them to enter the desert with him. Seeing how good he has become, his wife and children are interested in trying it.
Should we also give it a try?
Joseph Viet, O.Carm.
in Vietnamese: https://only3minutes.wordpress.com/quyet-dinh-hiem-co/