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Desert Times

Looking across the landscape of these past few weeks it seems to me there has been a lot of turbulence in our land. Of course, the horrifying tragedy of the shootings in Florida adds, yet again, to the carnage in our country. It saddens and disappoints on many levels. And we know too of terrible sufferings among peoples beyond our borders. At the same time, in these Lenten days, we speak and listen to friends and family tell stories of troubles within their own circles. We all know something about that reality. Life is hard – no surprise for any adult.

There is a phrase found in Sacred Scripture and, in fact, in our own vernacular about being/going out into the desert. In many ways, it is a metaphor as well as a real place. It’s a place that is harsh, lonely, dangerous, threatening and unwelcoming. It is also a place that life’s circumstances may draw us into. There have been various desert times in my life and, at its worst, there is no easily apparent consolation to be found there.

Yet, the desert is also a place where one can more readily discover God even, if at first, only through our tears. Further, I have come to believe we all need some desert time. By that I mean a place of honesty, unencumbered and almost naked. A place where we see ourselves more completely, not as how we think we are or hope others might see us, but rather for the whole truth of who we really are.

So I believe the Church is correct in urging us to embark upon Lent by nudging us into a bit of desert, through our fasting, prayer and acts of generosity and sacrifice. Look at it this way: suppose there is a leaky faucet in your home and for the longest time you have been meaning to get it fixed – in fact each time you hear it (doesn’t it even sound louder at night?), you swear you will fix it the next day – but you don’t. Every one of us, without exception, has a leaky faucet in our lives. Perhaps it is a bruised or broken relationship, a bad working situation, a spousal relationship that really needs more attention and caring, some nasty personal habit that shames us, and the list goes on – a leaky faucet. The repair kit means going into the desert.

The Lenten fasting, prayer and almsgiving can be repairing that which is broken in our lives and prevents us from growing into a deeper relationship with Christ and one another. Fortunately, there is a repair manual readily available to get this job done and it is not unfamiliar to you. It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ – everything you need is there.

There have been numerous desert times through the years of my own life. I don’t recall welcoming them and entering them happily and they have never been easy. However, I have learned two lessons: God will never, ever abandon us in the desert (even in the hardest moments when God seems distant); and we come out of the desert a better person. By that I mean, more mature, more complete and compassionate, more disposed to loving and being loved and inevitably closer to the One who meets us there, if we open ourselves to Him.

So don’t be afraid of the desert, in whatever way, shape or form it arrives at your doorstep; you will not be alone there and you will come through it more completely you! Lenten Blessings!

Fr. Ronan