2018 Lenten Walk – Saved from Desolation

Today is Tuesday the 6 March, in the Third Week of Lent

Prayer of Presence: 
Let me not lose myself in tedium, errands, obligations.
Holy Spirit, still me once in a while.
Stop me sometimes.
Let me breathe now and then.
Holy Spirit, teach me to pray.
Not many words, just one: Abba. Amen
Jack Levison, Holy Spirit I Pray, Paraclete Press: Massachusetts, 2015, p.2
Scripture: Today’s reading is from Psalm 107:1-9
“Give thanks to the Lord because he is good because his faithful love lasts forever!”  That’s what those who are redeemed by the Lord say,
the ones God redeemed from the power of their enemies, the ones God gathered from various countries, from east and west, north and south.
Some of the redeemed had wandered into the desert, into the wasteland.
They couldn’t find their way to a city or town. They were hungry and thirsty;
Their lives were slipping away. So they cried out to the Lord in their distress,
and God delivered them from their desperate circumstances. God led them straight to human habitation.
Let them thank the Lord for his faithful love and his wondrous works for all people because God satisfied the one who was parched with thirst,
and he filled up the hungry with good things
Reflection: Psalm 107 is a song of thanksgiving for the Lord’s steadfast love and blessing shown through the mighty works of the deliverance of those who cry out to God for help. Four groups of redeemed peoples are mentioned in the psalm. They are the hungry and thirsty who have been fed (107:4-9), those in bondage set free (107:10-16), sinners at death’s gate who have been given life (107:17-22), and those in the storms of life who are given hope.  The right response to God’s deliverance is joy, thanksgiving, and public witness that encourages others to put their trust in God.
      The first group mentioned who wandered in the desert and wasteland, hungry and thirsty with their lives slipping away are representative of those experiencing the realities and dangers of migration. In the desert, their is no water, no food, and no community of concerned people nearby to help. Pew Research reports that there were about 60 million people who were displaced from their homes in 2015. Approximately 22,500 immigrants have died or disappeared globally since 2014 each year because of exhaustion, dehydration, drowning, murder, and hunger. Some migrate in search of a better life for themselves and their children. Some migrate after displacement by natural disasters and erosion. Some migrate to escape persecution based on race, religion, nationality and/or membership in a particular social group. Others migrate to unify with family.
         If we spiritualize this psalm, then people in the desert wilderness can be described as those in spiritual desolation. St. Ignatius talks about times of spiritual desolation as part of the spiritual journey for those moving toward God. Spiritual desolation, as Ignatius speaks of it, is not to be confused with psychological or medical conditions that bring depressive feelings and sometimes require medical attention.
          Spiritual desolation refers to the times in our relationship with God when God seems distant and absent. At times God seems missing because we have been negligent in our own spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, bible study, partaking of the Sacrament of Holy Communion) and because of it, the spiritual consolation of God withdraws from us. The apostle Paul calls this “quenching the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The second reason Ignatius cites for experiencing spiritual desolation is that God tries to see how much we continue to serve and worship him without his grace of consolation. As people moving toward God, we experience this as spiritual burn out brought about by continually pouring ourselves into the service of others often under other demanding external pressures that take a toll on our spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical strength and well being. The third aspect of spiritual desolation occurs when we come to feel and understand that spiritual consolations are graces from God, and not due to our own striving, lest we become prideful and attribute our spiritual well being to ourselves.
             Ignatius recommended the following practices to overcome spiritual desolation: Prayer for help from God, meditating on the truths of faith and promises of God, self-examination to gain insight into what may have brought us to spiritual desolation, and penance that counters destructive distractions.  The critical thing to remember is that when God has delivered us from migratory or spiritually desolate conditions, our proper response is joy, thanksgiving, and sharing how and from what God has redeemed us so that others may take courage and put their trust and hope in God.
Questions for Reflection: 
  • Do you identify more with the experience of migratory or spiritual desolation? Why?
  • Recall a time when you have received the consolation and redemption of God who satisfied your thirst and filled you with good things after a difficult period in your life. What happened? Who will you share your story of joy and thanksgiving to God with this week? 
Prayer Focus: For the grace to continue seeking after and serving God in seasons of desolation.
A Simple Irish Prayer: 
May God give you…
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

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