By Sister Mary Clare, OCD

I’ll never forget one of my first summers in California with its desert climate. I was amazed that when the sun went down, so did the temperature, unlike my familiar humid eastern climate. I was equally amazed at the force with which the heat could rush upon me as I opened the door at noon, practically knocking the breath out of me, and drying up every inch of my lungs, when I could take a breath. I was also a bit baffled at how everything could seem so dry, brown, arid, and quite frankly, to my eastern eyes, dead. Then, with the least little bit of rain, mountains and hills became vibrant with green, wild flowers appeared from out of nowhere and dormant animals scurried about as if there had never been an interruption to their happy lives.

The extremes of the desert have always captured and fascinated the human imagination. Who can survive its harshness? And, yet, who can turn away from its amazing beauty?

“In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living.” (Joy of the Gospel #86) Our Lenten journey is precisely a journey into this desert. The analogy is that we travel to a space spiritually in our lives where our common comforts are tried, tested, purified, refined or completely removed. When we become comfortable, we often also become complacent; satisfied with the status quo and not motivated to grow and move closer to Christ. “Drying up” the source of our comforts forces us to look at the world around us in a new way. It teaches us to adapt; to learn to do with less. It teaches us to reach out to others in order to safely traverse this journey. Ultimately, it frees us to love and to live more fully. This way we are ready for when the “rain” of grace comes and the desert of our soul will explode into a majestic array of spiritual beauty, the likes of which we have never known before.

“In the desert people of faith are needed who, by the example of their own lives, point out the way to the Promised Land and keep hope alive.” (Joy of the Gospel #86). May we all have the courage this Lent to go into the desert so as to experience all the glory of the Resurrection!

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