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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

When You're in the Desert, What Do You Do?

"THE land that was desolate and impassable shall be glad, 
and the wilderness shall rejoice, and shall flourish like the lily." Isaiah 35:1

What do you think of when you hear the word "desert?" What is its connotation for you? Dry, arid, hot, desolate, sandstorms, lonely, thirsty, wilderness....? Are there any positive associations when you think of the word?

The Bible is full of desert experiences, some good, some not so good. 

I'm doing an online bible study and am in the midst of crossing the desert with the chosen people as they flee Egypt. They could have made the journey to the promised land in a few weeks, but ended up literally stuck for 40 years because of their rebellion against God. The rebellion against God began only three days after leaving Egypt. They were already sick of the manna and grumbling against God. They wanted to go back to Egypt and even began to think of their life of slavery as the promised land. And the rebellion went on and on to the point that God consigned that generation to the desert until they all died out.

If you ever wonder about the scripture quote, "The sins of the parents are visited on the children," this experience makes it clear. The children shared in the punishment of their parents, not because they were guilty, but because their parents refused God's blessings. They could have been born in the "land of milk and honey." Instead they grew up and reached, what for us would be middle age, in the desert. Even Moses was refused entry, because he failed to trust God's word that if he spoke to the rock it would release life-giving water. Instead, in his disbelief, he struck the rock twice as if God's word wasn't enough.

But there are other stories about the desert that offer great hope and consolation. Elijah escaped the malice of Jezebel by fleeing into the desert where God protected him and provided him food for the journey, link to the manna in the desert, perhaps? Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt through the desert along a route where robbers often accosted travelers. According to some of the Fathers of the Church, the Holy Family met a band of robbers there headed by the chieftain, Dismas, who took pity on them and protected them as they passed through his territory. Mary promised him God's reward, and he experienced it when he died at Christ's right hand as the "thief" of heaven.

Many of the saints went into the desert to meet God in imitation of Christ's own 40 days of prayer. Were Jesus' 40 days praying and fasting in the desert a reparation for the 40 years of rebellion by the Israelites, a graphic reminder of the need to repent and make reparation? The Israelites failed to resist Satan's temptations to worship Egypt's idols and rebel against God. Jesus embraced God's will and began His journey to Calvary to open up the promised land of heaven to people of good will.

Every human soul experiences the desert. Do we see it as a time of blessing or curse the days as unbearable? Do we only see the thorns on the cactus or do we see it in its glorious blooming?

desert superbloom

Jesus prayed for us in the desert as He began His public life. May we use our own desert times to grow in faith, hope, and love acting like gardeners bringing the desert into bloom.

May Jesus Christ be praised! And may all the saints of the desert intercede for us along with the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and our guardian angels.

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