A Miserable Lent

Is it just me or is it thirsty in here? I pray you are having a miserable Lenten season. A journey into the desert…or so I hear. Sound like fun? Read on.

“So what is this whole desert metaphor all about anyway, Nick?” Well I thought you’d never ask! The desert is a place – a time, if you will – where you are drawn closer to the essentials. It involves a sweeping away – no, a stripping away – of the extra things, the “illusions” or “fantasies” that this world offers. The desert is a time where we enter into what is real. It is a time of emptiness, a time of sharpness that goes against our grain. It is a time of purification. The desert is the place where the essential things become more important, essentials such as strength, sight, food, and water.

If, through faith, I can accept the fact that Jesus is in me (2 Cor 13:5), it is precisely in the desert where I will find Him. Do I completely understand this concept that Holy Mother Church teaches me? No, I don’t. But what I have come to understand is that perfection consists in doing the will of God, not in understanding His designs.

Our Christian Theology is full of theories and explanations about the perfection of the spiritual life and the capacity of the human soul to achieve union with God, and all that intellectual jazz. I know plenty of people (I’m sure you do too) who can be conversant with all these theories, speak and write about them admirably, instruct others and guide souls; yet, if these theories and concepts are only in the mind, they will remain just that – theories. And I don’t care how much salt you put on it, try to offer a proof for the existence of God to the next homeless man you meet; he’ll tell you what to do with it!

As fire, not philosophical discussions about it, gives out heat, so the sanctification of the human soul is achieved by action, not mere speculations or curiosity about the existence of God. When one is thirsty one quenches his thirst by drinking, not by reading books which treat this condition. The desire to know does but increase this thirst.

So, we’re about three weeks into this arid, desolate desert journey. I’m sure you have made commitments to fasting, personal prayer, and service. But let me tell you a little something: I don’t care how much you pray, or how many pounds you have lost from giving up high-fructose corn syrup, or even how many times you have made it down to the local nursing home to play bingo; if any of these things are done without Love, they are done in vain. I think I’ve actually heard something about turning into a snare drum or a brass thimble (c.f. 1 Cor 13:1).

The point is this: LOVE. Love more than is expected of you today. Put down the books that tell you how to love – and just love. Put down the magazines, turn off the TV, turn down the radio, and love somebody today. “For when I was thirsty, did you merely pray for me and send me on my way, or did you give me something to drink?”

To a joyfully miserable Lent! Penance! We are weak, and we need it.

Posted on by admin in 2012-2013, Reflections

2 Responses to A Miserable Lent

  1. Claudia Dean

    Nick, I was JUST (I mean JUST!!) writing that my own personal “India” ala Eat, Pray, Love (I know, chick book) was a desert, and that I feel I have been in the desert most of my life. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this wonderful (encouraging) post!!! Blessings to you in the desert! “mama Dean” (cody’s mom!)

  2. Susan Viglante

    One parish I lived in took the whole “desert” metaphor to heart and put sand in the holy water fonts. I think there were even a few tumbleweeds. So that Lent one of my penances was trying really, really hard not to lapse into my John wayne impression at Mass. “Well, Sister, I think I’m gonna mosey on over to the confessional now…”

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