EG 86: The Desert Experience

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneDo you think the post-Christian dilemma is a modern problem? Pope Francis cites Cardinal Newman from two centuries ago:

86. In some places a spiritual “desertification” has evidently come about, as the result of attempts by some societies to build without God or to eliminate their Christian roots. In those places “the Christian world is becoming sterile, and it is depleting itself like an overexploited ground, which transforms into a desert”.[J.H. NEWMAN, Letter of 26 January 1833, in The Letters and Diaries of John Henry Newman, vol. III, Oxford 1979, 204]

Real Christian persecution takes place elsewhere:

In other countries, violent opposition to Christianity forces Christians to hide their faith in their own beloved homeland. This is another painful kind of desert.

The challenges to faith may be very close to home indeed, but Pope Benedict’s insights to this desert experience are wise and helpful:

But family and the workplace can also be a parched place where faith nonetheless has to be preserved and communicated. Yet “it is starting from the experience of this desert, from this void, that we can again discover the joy of believing, its vital importance for us, men and women. In the desert we rediscover the value of what is essential for living; thus in today’s world there are innumerable signs, often expressed implicitly or negatively, of the thirst for God, for the ultimate meaning of life. And 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”.[BENEDICT XVI, Homily at Mass for the Opening of the Year of Faith (11 October 2012)]

What is the worker in this dry, abandoned environment to do? Persist in the focus on others. Serve as Jesus would serve. Jesus abandoned the urge to turn stones into bread to feed himself precisely so he could be the food to feed others.

In these situations we are called to be living sources of water from which others can drink. At times, this becomes a heavy cross, but it was from the cross, from his pierced side, that our Lord gave himself to us as a source of living water. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of hope!

Evangelii Gaudium is online in its entirety. Worth an extended read, no doubt.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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