Last November, my husband and I, eager to get out of our Los Angeles apartment during the pandemic, ventured to Big Bear Mountain to camp for the very first time. We were so excited at the prospect of being in nature that we forgot to check the weather. We assumed it would be cold only at night, but when we arrived we found ourselves surrounded by snow. We considered turning back, but after being in lockdown so long, we decided to stay and give it a shot. It was numbingly cold, and as evening turned into night we heard howling in the distance. That’s when we turned in. My husband slept like a log. I kept waking up in a panic just to make sure we were still alive.
On the first Sunday of Lent, we hear the Gospel account of the temptation of Jesus. In this liturgical year, the Gospel of Mark briefly says: “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.” Unlike Matthew and Luke, who walk us through the various temptations, Mark leaves us guessing how Jesus was tempted. Mark assumes that his audience understands the hardships one would face in harsh weather, exposed to the elements without any protection. I wouldn’t compare my one night in Big Bear to Jesus’s spiritual, ascetic journey, but I was definitely praying to God that our gear would function as advertised. As I’ve been following news of the devastation wrought by winter weather in Texas, I’ve thought a lot about being cold and unprepared. Millions of people in Texas are without electricity, heat, food supplies, and potable water. What of those experiencing homelessness, and refugees and immigrants at the border? Catholic spiritual tradition speaks of the closeness of God to those in these conditions. We believe God to be constant; therefore, the closeness has more to do with our inclination toward God and the degree to which others serve the one in need, in solidarity. We are vulnerable before God and dependent on each other. I am not saying that God is responsible for these circumstances, but that within these circumstances there is grace.