Many years ago when I was a young sister, I traveled alone by bus from Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona for a ministerial experience–October to February. I had a preconceived notion of Arizona. I thought Arizona would be hot all day long. From October to February it was hot –around mid-day– but the mornings and nights were cold. Having grown up in the mid-west I was most familiar with water, green grass and open fields. The desert was a stark contrast. I loved the sisters with whom I ministered and the people in the parishes we served, yet by February I was ready to go home. I remember thinking on the long bus ride back home to Ohio, “It would take me a while to get to use to the desert.” I wasn’t accustomed to the desert. There is nothing wrong with the desert, it has a beauty all of its own which people who have lived there will relate. Yet, I wasn’t familiar with the beauty of the desert.
Luke’s gospel (3:1-6) for the Second Sunday of Advent depicts the desert as a place where God speaks to the heart of the one sojourning in the desert. Hearts change in that place of aloneness and visions transform. The image of the desert is found in many places in the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. We usually find Jesus in the desert searching his soul, being tempted to be someone he is not or when he needs to hear the voice of God more clearly because the days have been long and situations complex and he is in need of refreshment.
As we stay focused on “the reason for the season” during this time of Advent, there may be a desert place calling us. Perhaps a desert place within where we are not accustomed to going. Embracing the desert may mean pausing for a few moments to remember that in the midst of the fullness of our days whatever they hold, the Divine Spirit dwells within our desert place gently, quietly, lovingly telling us again and again that we are not alone–and reminding us who we are to be in the midst of the everyday situations of our lives. Embracing the desert may initially feel strange. We are not accustomed to seeking desert places. And when we find ourselves in desert places because of the circumstances of life, we often want to leave before we see the beauty. Yet the desert can take us to a place we cannot imagine, where the greatest treasures and gifts are found with the Divine Spirit within. The desert is beautiful– hearts change and visions transform.
Our invitation is to embrace the desert.
Blessings and peace,