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Lenten Wilderness - A Palm Sunday Reflection by RJ Lucchesi

“In order for me to write poetry that isn’t politicalI must listen to the birdsand in order to hear the birdsthe warplanes must be silent.”– Marwan Makhoul, Palestinian Poet

Two thousand years ago in the desert wilderness, Jesus rejected a deal with the devil for power and riches. Today, Christians in the United States abstain from unnecessary and excessive indulgences to mark the occasion. To create space for God. Out of our material security given to us through the privileges that violence and empire provide, we give up little. Indeed, we are giving to God out of our abundance. And as such, there is little room for God. God (They/Them) is an unwelcomed guest in the land of the free and in the hearts of its people.

Ash Wednesday of 2024 fell on my 40th birthday. I wrote down “Clear Mind” as my intention for the Lenten season. I spent the time with my sons and wife in the desert wilderness, seeking spaciousness amidst the crowdedness of excess. Lately in general, something has drawn me to the wilderness. The fragility of the desert. The solitude of the mountains. The expanse of the ocean. Perhaps it is the Spirit that draws. Perhaps something more primal.  

For me, Lent is the wilderness. The wilderness, Lenten. I have spent much of my life there. These spiritual, mental-emotional wilds, and especially as of late, the physical wilds. Perhaps that is what drives many of us to the physical wilderness, as an opportunity to come to it on our own terms. This spacious place, where room is made for God, for the world. A place where we are able to honestly engage the contradictions of our American lives, of our complicity in genocide(s) that form the contexts of our gratitude for lives well blessed. For the privilege of our children to live with full bellies and four limbs. For our children to live. Privileges unafforded to children who stand in the way of the imperial machine, rumbling on with its killing. Satiating its masters of capital, patriarchy, and white supremacy. And we rumble along with it, rejecting God and accepting Satan’s offer.

Would-be Saints, if we cannot be present enough with the world to help transform it in the way we are called to by the Son, we will not experience the Father. Until we are present enough with the horrors that we personally and collectively benefit from, that is, confronting ourselves and our profoundly sick society directly, God will continue to take space from us, rather than join us in creating space from the limited margins we currently offer Them. God rejects us in our arrogance and ignorance so grand that we believe we can grow closer to God while ignoring or celebrating the maiming and martyring of tens of thousands of children in the land of Their Son. They reject us all for not doing enough to stop it! By idly witnessing the bombing of homes, hospitals, churches, mosques, schools, and refugee camps beyond recognition. By watching war criminals on our screens dance on the graves of a people who walked alongside Jesus himself, on the land in which he walked. God is not present with us in our complicity with genocide, apartheid, occupation, and colonization. It is offensive to God, and we must repent and change our collective ways NOW if we are to enjoy the spaciousness and presence They offer us so graciously.  

For us to be present with God/Ultimate Reality, we must be present with the World. For us to be present with the World, we must be present with Ultimate Reality/God. We must hear the birds in the wilderness. God is with us. But are we with God? Immanuel! Immanuel! Free us from our wicked ways, oh Lord! Free Free Palestine!  


RJ Lucchesi (he/him) is a DSF/CST graduate (M.Div./MTS/2021). He lives in Southern California and currently splits time between raising his young children and organizing in his community. 


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