Recently one of my sisters went into hospital for surgery. Over the last few months she has frequently been in excruciating pain following ‘accidental’ over exertion. Now the day had come when the surgeon would wield his knife to put right the damage she’d inadvertently done to herself. She had been longing for this day through many long days and dark hours in the night, and she faced it with a sense not of fear but of relief.
Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the first day of the 40 day appointment with the Divine surgeon, whose knife pierces to ‘the division of soul and spirit’, before whose light all are naked and exposed.
To be in the Desert with Jesus is to open ourselves to his healing gaze, his Scalpel of Love.
I wonder how we face it?
Sometimes I wonder if we have yet heard the Good News? If we have encountered The Living One?
In terms of the parable of the Prodigal Son, Ash Wednesday is the day we once more turn for home. But for us there should be a difference. The prodigal, who like his elder brother is a stranger to his Father, creates a story which he thinks will win him favour. He imagines he will have to try and strike some kind of deal just to get a square meal. His speech ‘I have sinned before heaven and men and am no more worthy to be called your son’ is born out of his estrangement, not his knowledge of his Father.
His ‘repentance’ has no echo of the joy of the angels, it is rather his attempt to save himself from his estrangement.
Our repentance is of a different order. We recognise we have strayed – better, we are sin sick – like my friend we feel the pain of our self inflicted injuries and we long for our appointment with Grace.
Today we set our face towards home, and find the divine surgeon running to meet us. It is interesting to note that in the parable, the prodigal is not home when the Father encounters him. The reconciliation takes place in a ‘between’ space – nameless and empty.
We call this space the Desert. It is the place of our healing. It is a place of a Rich Joy only those who know their predicament and their need can comprehend.