By Pat Mills
Sylvania Franciscan Associate
For the first time, I’ve struggled for a theme for this message. Where I usually find an idea there is only empty space. So, I’ll write about the empty space.
The last six to eight months have been a very challenging period of our lives, a time of dynamic change and uncertainty. Our parents are now all gone from our presence, two in just over a year. The future for our children has become uncertain, even to the point of near death. We are propelled beyond the comfortable, but to what?
For most of my life I didn’t get the Salve Regina. “To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears!” What was all this anguish about? That didn’t resemble my life or the lives of the people I thought I knew. “… and after this our exile …” I’m beginning to get it.
In some ways, this time seems dry and empty.
What is it about a desert experience that makes it almost essential for growth and transformation? The desert is dry, filled with vast emptiness. It’s uncomfortable, often lacking the essentials for sustaining human life. It appears endless, without a pathway. Survival requires reliance on things or people beyond oneself, a kind of surrender.
Moses and the Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert. Jesus went into the desert to pray. Early Christian monks (the desert mothers and fathers) pursued a deeper relationship with God in the solitude of the desert.
In Exodus, God provided water to his people Israel in the desert. At Jacob’s well Jesus tells the Samaritan woman “whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; the water I shall give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
A few years ago I went backpacking in the arid mountains of New Mexico. Water was in short supply and we had to carry all we needed for one or two days. I appreciated water more when it couldn’t be taken for granted.
The desert transforms, if we allow it.
Lord, help us to welcome the desert. Strip away our distraction, our self-confidence, our selfishness, our pride, our pettiness, our impatience, our vanity, our surety, our ego, our fear, our self-righteousness, our self-reliance. Until there is only you.
In truth, there was ever only you.