Jesus fasted and prayed all the time, not just when he was in the desert. When I went to the desert for 40 weeks, I saw things I would have never seen before. When a rare and solitary bird perched in the distressed and pitiful tree while I was praying one morning behind the hospital, my heart and soul made room for the gratitude in my heart. This little bird of God’s creation filled me and sustained me in the desert of my surroundings and the desert of my being. Fallujah Iraq sits between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This is near where the story of Abraham began his journey and walk with God. Abraham was driven from his home.
I was very reluctant to leave St. Patrick’s behind and serve with the Marines out in the desert. I was literally driven. In my heart, it seemed to be something very sacred calling me into the desert. Before I even agreed to go, I begged God to send someone else since I was so terrified. In the silence, Jesus assured me that he would never ask me to do something he would not do. Jesus would never let me go to the desert without Him.
Lent is like being forced into the desert. Out in the desert we discover things beyond our wildest imaginations. In the Gospel we heard on Ash Wednesday Jesus promises us that prayer from the heart will be repaid:
“But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.”
We never go alone into the desert of our fasting and prayer. It will always bring us to an encounter with the burning bush or the voice of God. God, our Creator, will listen to our tiny cries! The prophet Isaiah speaks the Word of God and shares with us the fruit of the true fasting and prayer requested by God:
This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke;
Sharing your bread with the hungry,
sheltering the oppressed and the homeless;
Clothing the naked when you see them,
and not turning your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
Your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
Out in the desert, God spoke to me no matter what kind of terror or boredom I was wrestling with. God said to me, “Here I am!” as death and violence raged about me. When I was forced to empty myself, God filled my emptiness that sustains me to this day. I shared the attached story this past weekend. This story is for me.
Have a blessed and holy week of Lent.
Love, joy, peace,
Father Ron Moses +
Bring an empty cup
There’s a story about a little country parish. One Sunday a rich man was passing by the church and, as he passed by, he heard the priest giving his homily. The man came in and sat down to listen After Mass, he went to the priest and said, “What can I give or do to become part of this parish? I have a lot of money. I also have power and prestige. What can I do?”
The priest said this: “When you hear about the forgiveness of sins, say to yourself, ‘This is for me.’ When you hear the gospel preached, say, ‘This is for me.’ When you receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, say, ‘This is for me.’
And one more thing. Every time you come to worship, bring an empty cup. Carry this cup with you whenever you come. It will remind you that you can give nothing. It will remind you that you’re really a poor beggar, and that everything is a gift from God.”
And to this day, people see that man carrying an empty cup when he goes to Mass. And not only that, but it seems that some of the other parishioners have started to carry empty cups too. They carry them wherever they go. It reminds them that they can bring nothing. It reminds them that they too, are beggars. And it reminds them that everything – literally, everything – comes by the grace of God.