Lent Day 35 – Into the Desert

by Bishop Robert Barron


The Biblical authors knew all about the desert, for they were desert people.

How often the great heroes of the Biblical revelation have to spend time in the desert: Abraham has to cross it to get to the promised land; Moses and the Israelite people have to go through it to get home; Joseph is sent into Egypt and prison before he is ready for his mission; John the Baptist is a voice crying in the desert; Paul goes into the desert of Arabia after receiving the revelation on the road to Damascus. Even Jesus himself spends forty days and nights in the desert before commencing his ministry.

What does the desert symbolize? A number of things: confrontation with one’s own sin, seeing one’s dark side; a deep realization of one’s dependency upon God; an ordering of the priorities of one’s life; a simplification, a getting back to basics. It means any and all of these things.

But the bottom line is that all of them had to wait through a painful time, living a stripped down life, before they were ready for mission. They were compelled to wait, during a time and in a place where very little life seems to be on offer.

But it is precisely in such deserts that the flowers bloom. Moses becomes a great leader; Abraham is the father of many nations; Joseph becomes the savior of his people; John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah; Paul is the apostle to the Gentiles. And of course, Jesus becomes our Savior.

This Lent, perhaps God is calling you into the desert—not to punish you, but to prepare you.

   

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  • Anton D

    – ‘ They were compelled to wait, during a time and in a place where very little life seems to be on offer. ‘

    – ‘ But it is precisely in such deserts that the flowers bloom. ‘

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      Someone said to me when I remarked on how beautiful the flowers were in the desert “Yes life is precious in the desert because it is rare”

  • Dennis Gibbons

    I like this analogy to begin my examination of conscious so that I can prepare for my Easter duty confession next week. Years ago on a directed retreat we would contemplate our short comings during a directed Holy Hour in front of the Blessef Sacrament. Father would take us through the Ten Commandments and the seven deadly sins. As we meditated on these areas we would see which ones pertained to us. I am not comparing being in the Prescence of Jesus to being exiled in a dessert but the analogy of being within ourselves and crossing over and succumbing to our inner thoughts like one would in a dessert I find exhilarating. God Bless and enjoy the journey. A good review of this can be found in the ProdigslFather.org who has a program called Pray for forty days. He goes through a similar review.

    • Elizabeth

      Dennis Gibbons there is an s instead of a in ProdigalFather.org I did get onto the website. Will try to figure out how to download. looks like a good site to start the day.

  • ber

    I cannot speak for other desert’s because it can be such an individual experience while as you say bishop Barron’ its a person in the desert of their lives reflecting in that quite place where we are with God for me it is also the desert of this life walking in this valley of earth preparing for heaven because it is a total life preparing for death and heaven that means turning away from our vices seeing as Moses God in the buring bush there is a pomen about that a priest sheared with us. Earth is cramed with heaven.
    Every bush is on fire with God
    But only they that see take off their shoes
    The rest sit and pick blackberry’s
    Blessings on your day

  • Nancy Rynders

    As usual, Bishop Barron has brought to light something in Scripture I hadn’t thought of. The significance of the desert, and who spent time there, is awesome. I will think of this, that I am good company, whenever God is sending me to the desert for a while. NOT to punish, but to prepare. Praise God!

    • Mark

      Jesus, working through His Church and its wonderful Sacraments, gives us the graces we need to move through the desert to the promised land, which is Heaven. God bless the Holy Catholic Church!

  • Elizabeth

    An annual weekend retreat became a way of life for me since a freshman in high school. When married with young children, I would sporadically make this annual retreat. When I would return home, my husband had a joy-filled grin because he liked the peace-filled person I could bring to the family.

  • sandra bolongaro

    is this the dark nite of the soul that john of the cross is talking about? that dessert experience.i started reading the book beginning of lent but i have been experiencing a kind of overwhelming period where i feel constantly in need of prayer,adoration and if i wake up in the middle of the nite, i pray. I have had sum sleeping issues(combination of family issues and hormones) and this constant waking up and crying out to God for healing and enlightenment. I have also felt the intense urge to visit the blessed sacrament during the day even after my morning adoration which could be an hour 20 min. Bishops description of the dessert is spot on for me. great site to reflect thanks to all.

    • Barbara Ann Baugh

      I too use the sleepless periods to pray. Sometimes during those times I have a very clear knowledge of who or what I am to pray about. People have told me they knew I was praying for them

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Sandra,

      Been there! You are experiencing a portion of it when your soul cries out for solace and there seems to be none around, that area of the ” Dark Night, a period of emptiness, helplessness, abandonment !
      With me, I was brought so low that I literally prayed for pain so that I cliff “feel something” than to ” feel nothing”! One night I was so devastated I was on my knees crying out Jesus Name because that was all I couldn’t think anymore. My will had been broken and the simplest act of will was impossible. I asked Jesus what was happening to me. No answer just silence.
      Then a thought came to me. Go to the Bacilica of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio about 80 miles from where I lived.
      I grew up in a farming community and all that time I never knew of the Shrine. To make a long story short, I found it and the moment I got out of my truck and my left foot touched the ground I immediately was overwhelmed with peace, that the ground was “holy”.
      I stayed a week and on one occasions was at the book store. Not knowing what book I needed, I asked the Lord to pick out the books You want me to have.
      One of the was “The Dark Night of the Soul”. I had never heard of it more did I know who John of the Cross was, but I was about to find out.
      It is a beautiful things to see how the Lord speaks to you when you are broken
      He never spoke comforting words that terrible night, unread He sent to a Shrine, 80 miles away “to buy a book” ! Amen!

      Peace and prayers,

      Michael

      • Elizabeth

        We are so blessed with your testimony of faith Michael. For me, it was waking up in the middle of the night and looking at the eyes of the statue of the Infant of Prague. They looked so alive. I then started to write without stopping for hours. I placed the pad and pencil down, went back to sleep. I awoke the next morning and read what I had written. It was an affirmation of God in and around me.

        Recently when I read Bishop Barron’s book Seeds of Faith, I chuckled, one of the items I wrote down that night was and old black and white movie with Michael Renne – the Day the Earth Stood Still. In that movie the person from outer space, played by Michael Renne, has died. His robot takes him into the flying saucer and places him on a slab. Then a bright light beams down on Michael Renne and he comes back to life. For me this was an affirmation of God’s intervention at a time I had to believe there was a God.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

          Hi Elizabeth,

          That was beautiful.
          In her writings (diary) Mother Teresa spoke of moments when, in her lowest moments, questioned God’s existence!
          Satan pulls out all the stops to try and turn the souls who are the closest to God, away from God! The evil one knows how powerful they are in God’s service, how the Lord brings others to Himself through those who Love Him!

          We all may not be Mother Teresa’s but we are equally loved by God!

          Bless you,

          Michael

        • Barbara Ann Baugh

          Elizabeth did you know that that movie was meant to be an allegory. It is one of my favorites. At the end the Michael Renne character explains that he has been brought to life for only a few days. Then he delivers the message which is like all the prophets Repent and change your ways. When they redid it they really messed it up.

          • Elizabeth

            I was disappointed in the remake as well. Do you think the remake reflects the beginning of the secular understanding of life by writers???

          • Barbara Ann Baugh

            I am certain it reflects the secularization of life. The remake was terrible; flashy special effects but totally lacking in writing directing and acting talent.

  • concerned citizen

    I think it depends if you remember to ask for God’s grace. The Israelites who were wandering in the desert for forty years, I think, always showed their bad side. Today’s reading reminded us of the serpents that God sent to punish the ungrateful Israelites. I think the same can be true with us. When we find ourselves in a desert, and we do not ask for God’s graces, we could lose hope and succumb to the trials. For some, they even commit suicide. But if we remember to ask for God’s graces, and persevere in prayer, we will overcome the trials, and emerge triumphant and stronger in our faith and confidence in God.

    • Patricia Robertson

      As Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert–and the people were healed–so God lifted Jesus up on the cross. And don’t forget the Israelites had just spent 400 years cooling their heels as slaves in Egypt waiting for God to send someone to help. They were perhaps entitled to a little grumbling.

  • Joseph T. Garcia

    Prepare through ‘Fasting , Prayer , and Alms giving .

  • Anton D

    If anyone needs help in preparing for confession, there is a free phone app ‘Laudate’.
    It takes you through the process, also includes an examination of conscience in relation to God, neighbor and self.
    Off course and then you do need a Priest !

    This app also has a lot of other things Catholic, which are quite interesting.

    link:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.aycka.apps.MassReadings&hl=en

  • Patrick Cassidy

    May we all turn to the Lord for nourishment while in the desert of Lent (and all our lives). Man cannot live on bread alone, but by every Word of God.

  • Linda Daquino

    perhaps this is God’s way to prepare me for a new journey, I am moving to the Desert Nevada and there I will spend my final days seeking out God’s will for me and reflect in prayer and forgiveness. Happy Palm Sunday to all of you. God Bless you at this time of worship Easter he has risen…….

  • Barbara Ann Baugh

    I lived in Arizona (Tucson) for a dozen years. I loved the beautiful desert that surrounded the area. The desert was between the city and the mountains. To the south of the city the mountains are much further away so there is much more desert. Immediately south of the city is the mission San Xavier de Bac , On the mission grounds was a hill. It was there I went for solace. Halfway up the hill (or down) there was a replica of the Grotto at Lourdes. On the Saturday before Palm Sunday the Living Stations of the Cross was enacted. I loved to walk up this Desert Hill and when I came to the Lourdes Grotto I could sit and rest and think about the healing water of Lourdes.
    This Lent I have been (still am) in a lot of physical pain but I have felt great spiritual healing. Sometimes illness is a desert. We are stripped down to the very basics. We must depend on others for the very basics of life.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      Hi Barbara,

      I have cousins who lived three. Been there once in 1966 or 67.

      As strange as it sounds to those who have never been there, there is the “unique beauty” to it. There was a cactus (the name eludes me momentarily) that stood tall and strong just outside the airports main terminal entrrence.

      It reminded me of how God gives strength and beauty to something growing in a parched area. It is also true with our souls. No matter how dry it gets God makes sure there is always enough water, (graces) and the right nourishment (the Eucharist) to sustain us in the driest moments in our “deserts” in life!

      This reflection is fitting for this special day when Mother Teresa was canonized a Saint. She knew about the “desert”!

      Peace and prayers,

      Michael

      • Barbara Ann Baugh

        I think that might be a Saguaro you saw.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

          Thank you, Barbara,

          That was it!

          Michael

      • concerned citizen

        Michael, I am sure you meant that today, it was announced that she would be declared a saint on Sept. 4. Yes, Mother Teresa was said to have experienced the darkness of the soul for I think 30 years or more.

        I feel very blessed to have been blessed by Mother Teresa when she went to the Philippines and to have also received some Miraculous Medals that she is known to distribute to people she meets.

        • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

          Hi CC,

          Thank you for that correction! That is the day after my 71st birthday.

          Having one of those Miraculous Medals is a blessing!

          Peace,

          Michael

          • concerned citizen

            Michael, that is nice to know that the feast day of one of your favorite saints is a day after your birthday. Mother Teresa’s birthday is August 26, but she prefers to remember her birthday and celebrates it on August 27. Why is that? Because she was baptized on August 27 and she considers that her more important birthday, the birthday of her supernatural life. How saintly can she be! I don’t even remember my baptism date, much more celebrate it. Shame on me!

          • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

            Hi CC,

            Thank you for that info!
            Great insight to Mother Teresa’s concept of her “real birthday”. Most kids today are not baptized for months, even years. Many parents need educated about the importance of baptism within a month of birth.
            Many Catholics of today and many in the past view the need is not as serious as it truly is!

            Their formula for salvation is, “get the kids baptized, show up for Mass on Sunday and have their kids make their First Communion!
            In R, C. I. A., I have seen young teenagers and adults whose parents neglected their Catholic faith obligations with many of them saying “it was their (the canidates) chose to be baptized and/or continue their Catholic education, etc. !

          • Patricia Robertson

            I am reminded of a quote in Esther de Waal’s wonderful book, Seeking God: The Way of St. Benedict. It is attributed to M. Raymond, O.C.S.O, “Miracles show me the saint, they do not show me how he became a saint: and that is what I want to see. It is not the completed process that intrigues me: it is the process itself: for you see, my work is not to be a saint. Tell me what was churning in his soul as he battled his way up from selfishness and the allurements of sin to the great heart of God.”

          • concerned citizen

            Amen to that!

          • Barbara Ann Baugh

            Happy belated birthday Michael.

        • Patricia Robertson

          Mother Theresa was “said to have experienced the darkness of the soul” for decades because she said it herself in the letters and journals that were published after her death. They are quite a startling read and a good antidote to the belief that we must have perfect and serene faith. Mother Theresa did not have that, yet she did good in this world.

          • concerned citizen

            Patricia, I do not know how you define perfect and serene faith. But I think Mother Teresa had extremely strong if not perfect faith. Strong enough to believe in Jesus and see Him in the suffering and the sick in spite of the darkness of her soul. Some people question why she should be canonized a saint and cite this darkness in her soul. But that’s what gave more reason for canonizing her. Her love for Jesus became even stronger through the decades.

          • Patricia Robertson

            I honestly don’t even try to define perfect faith; I’m not sure there is such a thing. “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” I only know of Mother Theresa’s faith what she has told me in her writing and what she did in the world. I’m also not sure I would know how to define a “saint.” Mother Theresa was a strong and a good woman who did a power of good from the darkest of places. I suppose if there’s an example of saintliness, that’s it in my mind.

  • Anton D

    The Rose – Bette Midler

  • j lens

    This is
    a small question – could someone explain how we are at Day 35 of Lent today and not Day 32? Thank you.

    • http://www.irishmike.org/ Michael Lee Cornwell

      J,

      It could be that we don’t count Sunday’s as a day of lent. The reflections are for each day until Easter.

      Peace,

      Michael
      The Prayer Warrior

      • j lens

        Yes, Sundays are not counted and Lent ends on Holy Thursday. Still doesn’t add up.

  • Elizabeth

  • jesspinosa

    An unforgettable desert experience for me was when I walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela ten years ago, two weeks after I retired. All my possessions were in my backpack, carrying only the most basic necessities, and walking miles and miles on all kinds of terrain, under all kinds of weather, sometimes walking with other pilgrims, most of the time, alone with my thoughts. It was during those alone times that my mind flashed back to all the people and events in my life, good and bad. There were times when in my solitude, I found myself crying. Sometimes I sang, other times I prayed, most of the time just paying attention to where I put my feet. Memories of the 400-mile walk will be with me till I die.

    • Sam

      Wow, this is my dream to walk the Via.

  • Màire Ní Bhroin

    Good refection today Bishop Barron. Thank you! Here is a humble little haiku I wrote to simply express the desert experience in our lives.

    THIRSTING FOR HIS LOVE

    Waiting in the desert times
    Thirsting for His love,
    See Him with us there…awake!

  • kayeloney@cox.net

    You know I never connected the Desert as being anything more then a place of suffering. Jesus was purified in a manure of speaking for the 3 years with his disciples.I thank the Lord for all suffering so that it can be added to the Cross of Jesus, for the conversion of souls here on Earth and Future Souls. Peace be with you and with your Spirit.

  • rtclovesmac

    To embrace the desert is to embrace the Cross and emersed ourselves in His Mercy.

  • Jackie

    I really have a hard time being in any “deserted” space. Outward and inward. Beauty surrounds me, in my home, in my children, in my grandchildren, extended family & friends, I don’t like going inward and finding “nothingness”, it leaves me helpless & hopeless.

    Yet this is where in the deepest recesses of my heart that God will be waiting. I fear the darkness because it is bleak and I ask myself what if I can’t move upward. No one wants to stay in the darkness too long, it could lead to excluding yourself from humanity and feeling isolated. So I accept the dark moments and move on through my day, sometimes not accomplishing much but just little things and lo and behold I find myself back into the human condition. Sometimes through phone calls, sometimes just paying the bills but I pass through it.

    I have seen people I love go through this darkness and nothing seemed to get them back into the flow of life, my greatest fear is that I somehow won’t be able to pass through the darkness and see the light again. Yet my past experiences shows me that I have gone through many dark moments and through the grace of God have survived.

  • Linda Dokey

    Thank you Lord Jesus for my times spent in the desert, I Pray for more understanding and love of myself and all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Amen