The Gift of the Desert

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December 9, 2018 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

December 9, 2018
Luke 3:1-6
Fr. George Smiga

Outside today it’s snowy and cold, but today’s gospel brings us to a very different place. It brings us to the desert. Not cold, but hot. Not damp, but dry. Not populated, but empty. Today’s gospel brings us to the desert because the desert is the place where we learn what is most important. The desert is the place where we realize what we need.

This was the experience of the Jewish people. After God freed them from the slavery of Egypt, they wandered for 40 years in the desert. It was in the desert that they became a people because they learned what really mattered. In the desert they did not build homes nor maintain businesses. In the desert, only two things were important: their faith in God and their love for one another. Each day they had to trust that God would be guiding them. Each day they had to care and support one another.

Today’s gospel brings us into the desert with John the Baptist because it wants to remind us that for all the things that are going on in our life, only two things are important. In the desert, no matter how much money we have, there is nothing we can buy. In the desert, no matter how many computers and gadgets we own, there is no place to plug them in. No matter how we are attached to our smart phone, in the desert there is no reception. In the desert there are no parties, nothing to bake, no dinners to prepare. In the desert only two things matter: our love for God, and our love for one another.

So how do we get to the desert? Some of us are there already, because whenever sorrow or loss enter our life, they focus us on what is really important. When we face a serious diagnosis of cancer, we realize that now is the time to trust in God and in the support of those who love us. When we lose someone suddenly in death, we realize that our relationships are more important than all of our activities and accomplishments. When a relationship is broken by hurt or misunderstanding, it makes us thankful for the relationships that still continue.

But we do not need to experience loss and pain in order to see what really matters. With God’s help we can learn the lesson of the desert even as we remain in our own home and circumstances. We can try to wake up each morning aware that no matter what we own or what we have to do, nothing is more important than the people we love and those who love us in return. We can work our way through the activities of the holidays being conscious that God is leading us and that God promises us eternal life. We can do all that we need to do always remembering that nothing is more important than God’s love for us and our love for one another.

So today I invite you, as you face all the challenges of life and all of the activities of the holidays, to keep one foot in the desert—to remember the two things that really matter. If we live with faith in God and love for one another, we will really have all that we need—and that will bring us peace and lasting joy.

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