Thursday of the Second Week of Lent
In these last days of a brutal winter when most of the United States has been blanketed by snow, our first reading today mercifully whisks us away to the warm, dry desert of Sinai. We all yearn now for the first indications of spring, a bud on a tree, a change of color from dull brown to the hint of green, which within a few weeks will fill our yards and parks with a magnificent rainbow of rose, yellow, blue and white flowering trees. Our spirits will rise from the doldrums of drab winter grey.
Apart from the fertile breadbasket of Upper Galilee, in biblical times more than half of the land populated by the Israelites was desert. It is not surprising that one of the principal images for spiritual growth or the lack of it in the Old Testament is the contrast between a flourishing tree and a barren one. Nature itself provided a context for thinking about the vitality of a relationship with God. In ourselves, we are often like the barren bush, experiencing aridness both within our spirit and in our surroundings and relationships.
Jeremiah today, and Psalm 1, which stands at the head of the roll of 150 Psalms acknowledge this hard fact of human life. We veer between aridness and nourishment, whether in our relationships with the Lord or with our neighbor.
Of course this is not just a passive enterprise. The vibrant life God offers to us asks something of us too. After all, it is a mutual relationship between God and each of us, and all of us together in a common circle of God’s love. The Lord alone probes the mind and tests the heart. The way we respond to God and others in love may not become most clear till we have passed through death to the fullness of life in God. Meanwhile God offers to nourish us in the desert so that even now we can show forth the rich rainbow of the love only God can give.
- Fr. Paul Zilonka, C.P. is a Member of the Passionist Preaching Team of St. Paul of the Cross Province