Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cries From the Desert

Cries From the Desert

Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time
By Colleen O'Sullivan
Here in the desert the whole assembly of the children of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron.  The children of Israel said to them, “Would that we had died at the Lord’s hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!  But you had to lead us into this desert to make the whole community die of famine!”  Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will now rain down bread from heaven for you”… When Aaron announced this to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, they turned toward the desert, and lo, the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud!  (Exodus 16:2-4a, 10)
They tempted God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved.  Yes, they spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the desert?”  Yet he commanded the skies above and the doors of heaven he opened; He rained manna upon them for food and gave them heavenly bread.  (Psalm 78:18-19, 23-24)


Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
Yours are the eyes with which he looks
Compassion on this world.
Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
Yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.
(St. Teresa of Avila, 1515-1582)


After having encamped at an oasis offering date palms and fresh springs, the Israelites are again on the move.  In today’s reading from the Book of Exodus, they are in the desert.  They’re hungry.  They wish they were back in Egypt as slaves, because at least there they had something to eat.  I’m afraid that if I had gone to the lengths God did to help them escape from Pharaoh, I would have been wanting to rain down rocks on them, not manna from heaven.  But the good news of this story is that God’s ways are not our ways.  God is merciful, patient and compassionate.  God hears the cries of his people and sends them sustenance.  As a reaffirmation that he is always with them, he lets his glory shine through the cloud of his presence, which is following them every step of the way on their journey to the Promised Land.
Deserts exist in every time and place and, at one time or another, in each of our lives.  In the desert we are tempted to give in to despair.  At this very moment, millions of hungry and starving people around the world wonder if they will be here tomorrow, and, if not, what will happen to their children.  Across northern Virginia, people knock on church doors every day, looking for food for their families.  Immigrants in our midst without documentation live in constant fear of discovery and deportation, of possible separation from family.   Here and across the nation, men and women are losing jobs and facing the specter of foreclosed mortgages and unpaid bills.  Behind the closed doors of some of the homes in our neighborhoods, abuse and violence rule the day.  The desert is the place where we give voice to our pain, where we cry out to the Lord.
The desert is also the place where, so often, we encounter our God, where we come to know the Lord.  For it is in the desert, contending with our demons and voicing our fears, that we discover we are heard.  Our God is listening.  We are loved. 


God always hears the cries of the poor and the struggling, and sometimes he asks you and me to be part of his response.  There are many, many ways in which you could reach out to those calling out in the desert.  Here are two suggestions:

·         Almost every parish has a food pantry and a designated Sunday for collecting groceries.  Many families are just one job loss away from needing help with food, so be generous when you see this in your church bulletin.

·         If you feel called to work for affordable housing in our area, consider becoming involved in VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement),

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