By: Dr. Jennifer Miller, Professor of Moral Theology
A couple of weeks ago, sitting in an attic apartment in Paris, I looked up from the computer where I was typing furiously, trying to make the most of my sabbatical time.
I glanced through the window in front of me, and I thought, “I am in the desert with God.”
The next day, praying my rosary while walking up and down the apartment in hopes of getting some exercise, I looked out the same window and thought, “I am in the desert with God – together with the whole world.”
Often times, it feels as if Lent flies by – or we fly by it. We have schedules, updates, deadlines, liturgies, and what might have begun with a well thought-out penance or with something hastily concocted – “Darn it! It’s Lent!” – finds us at the beginning of Holy Week, no holier than we started. And despite our best efforts, we can only get so much Lent into the few days left!
This year is different. This year, we know that it is Lent. And we know that it is Lent, because – like the Israelites for forty years, like Jesus for forty days – we too are in the desert.
We are in a desert where it is quite clear what we lack. Our normal comforts – going to the store to pick something up, giving a hug to a friend, having class in a classroom – all of these have been stripped away.
And they have been stripped away not only from us, but from the whole world.
As I sit in my apartment, typing, praying, walking, the texts arrive: from Lame Deer Reservation in Montana, from Mexico City, from India, from Rwanda, from the Holy Land – and from Louisiana!
“We’re in lockdown.”
“How are you doing? How is your family?”
“People here are going crazy!”
“We’re hungry for the Blessed Sacrament.”
This Lent, we know we’re in the desert, and we are there with the whole world.
And yet, what better place is there to be? For when God feels that we have forgotten Him, what does He do?
The prophet Hosea tells us, “Therefore, behold I will allure her, and will lead her into the wilderness: and I will speak to her heart.” (2:14)
God calls us into the wilderness to woe us, to allure us, to capture our hearts once more.
For when we are constantly distracted by schedules, deadlines, comforts, class, when we allow these things to consume us, we can’t even recognize our thirst.
In the desert though, it becomes clear: we thirst for living water, for the water of eternal life, we thirst for the God-man who thirsts for us.
And it is when we begin to recognize that thirst, when we begin to seek Him in order that He may quench this burning thirst, that we have truly entered into Lent.
This year, let us recognize our thirst. Let this Holy Week be one in which we drink our fill of the desert. For the God who brings water from a rock, awaits us.
He awaits us – and the whole world – here in the desert.
Poem written in 1869 during Spanish Flu (reprinted during 1919 Pandemic) by Kathleen O’Mara:
And people stayed at home
And read books
And they rested
And did exercises
And made art and played
And learned new ways of being
And stopped and listened
Someone meditated, someone prayed
Someone met their shadow
And people began to think differently
And people healed.
And in the absence of people who
Lived in ignorant ways
Dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
The earth also began to heal
And when the danger ended and
People found themselves
They grieved for the dead
And made new choices
And dreamed of new visions
And created new ways of living
And completely healed the earth
Just as they were healed.
About the Author: Dr. Jennifer Miller, Professor of Moral Theology
Dr. Miller is a professor of moral theology at Notre Dame Seminary. She is currently on sabbatical researching gender for an upcoming book.
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