The Exodus, the passing of the chosen people from slavery to freedom, is a major theme in Lent. In the First Reading today we hear God ask Moses to say, “Yes” to leading His people out of Egypt, the place of bondage. God constantly wants to free us from the places where we experience being stuck – bound – enslaved. Abortion creates a space of slavery like this in the heart of men and women connected to it.
The chosen people wandered for 40 years in the desert before they entered the promised land. This desert pilgrimage of the Hebrew people is what St. Paul alludes to in the Second Reading today. But he mentions a line that might initially strike us as odd: “…and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was the Christ.”
In the Bible it tells us God provided mana (the bread like substance appearing daily) and he also provided water from a rock so the people could drink. But how did they continue to drink as they wandered in the desert? A Jewish tradition says that the rock followed them and they were able to continue to drink from it. And Paul now identifies the rock as Jesus Christ.
The wounds we bear – shame, fear, emptiness, feelings of rejection, abandonment, and profound failure, as well as hidden grief and numbness of heart – all of this can be like walking in the desert. The evil one often speaks to us, “You are all alone. You’re totally messed up and all alone.” But, true to his style, it’s a bold-faced black lie. Like the rock St. Paul refers to, Jesus follows us, moment by moment, day by day, ready to give us relief as we turn and ask. He is with you now…and now again….and now – always now.
Jesus is also the gardener in the Gospel today who doesn’t give up on the tree. My sister, my brother, Jesus looks upon you and says, “No there’s life there still! No, I see the goodness within! There is still a wonderful possibility of this one bearing good fruit.” He’s right there. He follows you – gazes on you – longs for you to look back.
Today, ask God to help you recognize how close He is to you. Even if you don’t feel it, can you trust that it’s true? Trust it and ask, “Jesus let me know your love. Jesus, give me to drink. Jesus, wake me up to the reality of Your Presence and Your profound desire to work on me still.”
And remember, the only failure in the Christian life is to despair and not to persevere in believing this truth: you are loved by Him just like this.
Fr Francis Mary Roaldi, CFR