Lent Day 22

Day 22 Wednesday March 11 – [P] Desert

RO: What is Hell? The state of being eternally separated from God. // When He made us he put within our hearts the desire for the eternal and the ability to receive God forever. But what if with my own will I say I don’t want to love, I don’t want to be loved, I want to be left alone. // Don’t just think about Hell. Go out into the world, go into the hells that are in our community – in our homes, in our families, in our workplaces. And bring Heaven to Hell. Bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the announcement that He is risen and that we are saved. Bring that into the dark places. Be a light to the nations like Jesus Christ has called us to be. When we see the reality of hell we can also see the triumph of the cross. Because hell might be what you and I deserve but we have been given so great a savior that we might not perish but we might have eternal life.

Deuteronomy 4: 1, 5-9

However, take care and be earnestly on your guard not to forget the things which your own eyes have seen, nor let them slip from your memory as long as you live, but teach them to your children and to your children’s children.

Matthew 5: 17-19

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of heaven. But whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

“Desert” not “Dessert” -which is how I kept reading it every time I saw this one on the calendar.

Fr. Joe Freedy (from Day 19 RO video) presided over mass at St. Mary of Mercy Parish today. And his homily was the most beautiful homily. I wanted to record it so I could play it over and over and really hear the message. But instead what I am left with is my holey memory. (I try, I swear I try, but it can be so hard to remember things!)

He said “Do not be a desert!” (and I had been paying attention but it made me pay extra attention since he said the day’s magic word). He said that during Lent we tend to be in the desert, but what we need to do is get outside our comfort zone. I am not sure what he meant exactly because I have never thought of deserts as comfortable, but fortunately the rest of his message was clearer:

Our relationship with God shouldn’t just be rituals – go to mass, say Hail Marys, say Our Fathers — those things are great, but we need to get outside of that comfort zone and have a dynamic relationship with God. We need to say spontaneous prayers. We need to really open up our hearts to the Lord. Invite Him into our hearts and have a true conversation with Him.

His homily was passionate and engaging, and made people laugh. And not just the typical muffled chuckles from a few, but real laughs by everyone. He had the whole church’s ears open and hearts open to God’s word.  

When I reflect on “Desert” I tend to think of it as “being alone in prayer”. And this is both a good thing and a bad thing.

How it is good: Put yourself in a desert with God. Where all there is is you and God. It’s pretty peaceful isn’t it? It doesn’t matter that nothing else is there because God provides all things. How relaxing to just take some time to be fully with God.

How it is bad: If we only focus on being alone in prayer we miss God’s call to bring Him into the world and share Him with others. We need to engage in our communities and spread His message. This can require getting outside of our comfort zones of thinking of our relationship with God as “Me & God”. We need to remember to have a relationship of “We & God”. What can I be doing with others? How can I serve the Lord alongside those around me? Not just my person outward to others, but my person with others going outwards to others. Church is a community. (There is no “I” in “Church” only “U”?… wait… It would really help if it was called “Chwech”.)

And at risk of getting so high level with reflections here was my experience today: I had just gotten back to my new work desk (I just moved to a new space today) and I heard the church bells ringing for 12pm mass (which I couldn’t hear from my old seat). It wasn’t hard to hear the voice telling me to go. So I went. The homily spoke directly to my heart, in both its message and how it showed me God hears prayers and responds. Because in mass recently I have been getting distracted during the homilies and think “Why are they so impassionate? All I want is someone to get up there and speak with some emotion.”  And then God gave me today.

On top of that I was doing a double-triple-take looking at the priest and asking “Isn’t that the guy from the RedeemedOnline video?” At one point of his story he said “People say to me Father Joe…” and so then I was pretty sure it definitely was. And of course I thought that was cool.

Then on the way out I saw a grade school teacher of mine Mr. Hoffman and I went and talked to him. Obviously because it was someone I knew and I feel like I never see anyone I know. And also because my boss today challenged me to speak to someone today and bring God to someone. I mean, he clearly already was hanging out with God, so really I think this mainly helped bring God to myself. I was seeking some reinvigoration from God today and he gave it tenfold.

My conversation with my old teacher was so warm-feeling – he asked about my family, I got to tell him I have a daughter, he asked about my parents and my sister, and I got to ask him about his family. Not only was he my grade school teacher but I babysat his kids for years – even after I graduated college – and we often saw each other at mass until a few years ago (when I stopped going to the 9:30am St. Bernard mass because it moved to 9am and because I had a “I will not sit still and I will not not cry” baby.)

Then I stepped outside and Fr. Joe was there and Mr. Hoffman went to talk to him. I mulled around for half a minute waiting to say hello but then interrupted/was welcomed over and introduced by Mr. Hoffman. He said “She used to babysit my kids and now she has kids of her own.” It just made me feel so –loved? I am not sure of the word/feeling exactly but it’s one of the ones that fills your heart. I got to tell Fr. Joe that his words were exactly what I needed to hear today. (And I confirmed with him he did indeed do the RO video (which I told him I also really enjoyed)).

After that I left and headed back to work, but I was starting to cry/have tears and so instead I went on a walk to thank God for this experience today. I mean, perhaps this doesn’t seem tear-worthy. But that is what happened and that is how I responded. Perhaps it was due to the fact I actually communicated thoughts to others via spoken words (see Day 21 why this matters) that made me emotional. Or perhaps it was just being overwhelmed by the beauty of how God works.

God, you are amazing. You always find ways to show me that you are here and listening. Thank you.

Continue to Day 23