Friday, March 6, 2009

The desert, and other unexpected locations...

It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes now that I'm a Mama. I was warned that this would happen, and for some reason I supposed I thought I'd be immune to it. I was always one of those kids for whom time seemed to creep by, and never go fast enough.

Remember the night before the first day of school? If you were like me, you would wake up every 30 minutes, panicked because you thought you were running late, and then try to get back to sleep. It seemed to take forever. Or waiting for..........well, anything. It just always seemed that time sat on the back of a giant tortoise, crawling along at its own slow speed, not giving two whits for anyone's anxieties.

It wasn't growing older that seemed to light a fire under the tortoise's rump roast; in college, time did the same slow dance it had always done.

Then I had children.

If you have children, you understand. Even if you don't have children, you'll understand. When they're your own, you turn around for mere seconds...and when you look back, you're suddenly faced with a child seemingly years older than you last remember. When they're the children of your friends, or nieces, nephews or Godchildren, you see them once, and the next time it's just the same--they seem to have aged by months or years at a time.

And so it is: in two short days, my eldest, my Frog, will be a teenager, for Pete's sake.

I promise you that just last week I found out I was carrying her. Only a few days ago, I found myself holding a squiggling pink newborn baby. And it was only yesterday that My Darling so graciously adopted her as his own daughter. And even last night was her first day of school.

Now it seems time is as elusive as an eel. It slips away so quickly it cannot be followed closely, cannot be caught, and cannot be contained. I turned around yesterday and she was taller than I by three inches. She carries herself with grace and conducts herself with dignity.

And the others are right in line behind her....


Last night was the Vigil for First Friday. Adoration and prayer were led by Fr. B., whose continuing growth in wisdom belies his youthful years.

He talked about the desert we sometimes enter into in our faith. He spoke to us from his heart, which was profoundly moving. I think all too often we hold priests in such high esteem that we forget their humanity. It is right and good to respect and obey them, but it is a tragedy to forget that they experience much of the same spiritual tides that we do.

Fr. B began with the Israelites in the desert. They hungered, they thirsted--but was it righteous? Did they truly hunger for obedience to God's law? Or did they hunger for the freedom to make their own laws, forsaking the God who had brought them out of slavery? The Lord humbled His people by allowing them to hunger, and then fed them the bread of Angels.

Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 15b-16a: "Remember the long way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, in order to humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commandments. He humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (15b)He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good."

Frequently, we take our faith for granted: God lavishes His blessings upon us, and so we tend to lean on our faith, expecting it to be there perpetually. But what happens when it isn't? What happens when we become lax in our prayer life, forgetting to thank Him for every little thing, for every breath, for every morsel, for every word? Does He then allow us a desert of our own?


And so how willing are we to seek Him? How long will we wait for Him to allow us the manna of faith? Scripture tells us that the Israelites were in the literal desert for forty years. Imagine the suffering. Imagine the sand in the eyes, in every breath. Imagine the dryness of the skin. Imagine the grit in every bite--so that even the blessing of manna becomes a challenge. And imagine having no hint of what was to come.

We have a hint--we know of heaven, the promised land, the paradise which awaits--pending the judgement of the Lord.

And still, we so often find ourselves lacking, wandering as though alone, even though we are not. We go to Mass, we hear the ancient words spoken through the readings, through the invocations, through the Institution and Consecration, and still there are times when our humanity overrides our faith. Fr. B said to us, "We are sensory, and the senses fool us." What we see is bread and wine. What we taste is bread and wine. But our faith and the truth of the Church tells us that the mystery which comes to us is the Institution of the Eucharist--that we are made present at Calvary, and that we are given the Body and Precious Blood of our Savior.

This truth should certainly be hard; it was so hard that some of His followers left His side. They still do.

What I learned last night was not shocking nor surprising, but rather comforting. The Lord allows us spiritual deserts and waits patiently for us to know again in our hearts that what we desire is truly Him and His laws, and not our own.

This Lent, may we emerge from the desert into the fullness of the gifts of Faith and Grace.

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