Lent Bible Study ~ Into the Desert with Jesus Leader's Manual
I pray that you will take this journey Into the Desert with Jesus. Your Lent experience will be transformed! You can sample the first lesson below.
Into the desert I walk with You, Jesus. I take Your hand, and even though my heart is beating wildly in my chest, I know that You will take care of me in the wilderness. Sing to me when I’m lonely, embrace me when I’m sad and strengthen me when I want to give up. I willingly take this journey into the unknown ready to learn and grow. Jesus, I trust in You. Amen
When most of us think of Lent, the first thing we think is, “What am I giving up?” We end up making it more about ourselves and miss the blessing of its purpose.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that Lent is a time when “the Church unites herself … to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.” It is a period of 40 days when we are invited to set distractions aside and focus on prayer and fasting. The purpose of the time spent in the desert is to strengthen us for the journey ahead. It is not merely about “giving something up” it is also about gaining nourishment for our spirits.
Jesus was led out into the desert by the Spirit after His baptism. This was necessary because in the solitude of the desert Jesus was able to focus all His attention on what the Father was asking of Him without distractions. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (September 8, 1774, – February 9, 1824, a Roman Catholic Augustinian religious order mystic, visionary, subject to mystical experiences and stigmatist) writes in The Life of Christ and Biblical Revelations volume one:
“The Spirit…impelled Him to go into the desert to prepare as Man in close communication with His Heavenly Father for His vocation to suffering.
Jesus, kneeling in the grotto with outstretched arms, prayed to His Heavenly Father for strength and courage in all the sufferings that awaited Him. He saw all in advance, and begged for the grace necessary for each… At the end of each prayer spirits approached Him. When close to Him, they assumed a human form, offered Him homage, and presented Him with consolations and promises from On High. I saw then that Jesus here in the desert acquired for us all our consolations, all our strengths, all our help, our victory in temptation; purchased for us merit in struggle and conquest; gave value to our fasting and mortifications; and offered to God the Father all His future labors and sufferings, in order to give worth to the prayers and spiritual works of all His faithful followers in the ages to come.”
As you can see, Jesus had to undergo and overcome every temptation and struggle so that we could have the possibility of victory in the same areas. Even our prayers and sufferings were worthless until He gave them worth in the desert.
“Daily was His labor of prayer different; daily did He acquire for us new graces; those of today unlike those of the preceding eve. Were it not for this labor of His, our resistance against temptation would never have been meritorious.
Notice that His prayer was different every day. He prayed according to the Holy Spirit; His ear always attuned to what The Father was saying. Because of this He didn’t miss one thing. Every grace He acquired was unlike the ones from the day before.
“One day I saw Jesus prostrate on His face… Suddenly a sound from Heaven was heard, light streamed into the grotto, and myriads of angels appeared bearing with them all kinds of things… I beheld the angelic band bending low before Jesus, offering Him homage… They questioned Him as to whether it was still His will to suffer as man for the human race, as it had been His will to leave the bosom of His Heavenly Father, to become incarnate in the virgin’s womb.”
God gave us all, the gift of free will. Jesus chose to leave heaven and become a man (the new Adam), suffer and die so that we could have life. He had a choice every step of the way, and He continuously chose to say, yes.
The Holy Spirit led Jesus out into the desert to help Him detach from the desires of the flesh. To unbind Him from anything in His humanity that might hinder His ministry. Jesus went out into the dry and arid desert to soak in the presence of His Father. The dryer and harder it became as He suffered through all the temptations, the harder He pressed in through prayer. The response of His Father was to send Him the resources of heaven and pour out a river of living water through the ministry of the angels. This refreshed and strengthened Him for His Passion.
When reflecting on how difficult it must have been for Jesus in the desert we might ask, “Was there any joy for Jesus while He was there?” As Jesus struggled through the temptations and overcame them, He found extreme joy in knowing that through His sacrifice he would break the chains that bound His brothers and sisters. Every victory in the desert was one step closer to breaking the power of death and darkness through His passion. Indeed, He experienced great joy!
Looking at this a little closer we can see how Jesus taught us to overcome temptation and struggles while He was in the desert. He demonstrated that we must remove all distractions by setting aside a time of extended prayer and to pay attention to how the Holy Spirit is moving us to pray. For example, we may feel like praying a Rosary, a Chaplet, saying prayers from a prayer book or going to Mass. If any of these things crossed our minds, it was an invitation from the Holy Spirit. If a worship song is stuck in our heads, the Holy Spirit is probably calling us to put it on and sing to Him, praying the words as we sing. Perhaps we’re feeling restless and can’t sit still. He is most likely inviting us to dance with Him or go for a long walk while worshiping to our favorite worship songs. Are you getting the drift? The Holy Spirit is very creative. I pray that you will open your heart and mind and partner with His creative ways.