In Sunday’s reading Isaiah is calling out to the Israelites to remember their first date! How often we think of the desert as a punishment, as a time when the Israelites were being beaten and trained like we do to our marines! Toughen up!
Hosea says it a little differently, he says: "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her.” Let us go back to our first date! When our relationship was fresh, when we were alone and it was just you and I! Even creation calls out in appreciation for the miracles that God had performed for his chosen people. This was a time for them to get to know each. A time of butterflies and giggles, of new experiences and understandings. In this desert wandering the Israelites were learning what it means to be in a relationship. Just like when we first fall in love we begin to ask what does she like? What doesn't she like? When I am with her how should I act? Should I text her now? Wait till tomorrow? Is it too soon to call? God was wooing his people.. Offering them the freshest of water, the finest of foods…
As we draw toward Easter the Church has chosen these readings from Isaiah to point to what God has done for us.. ‘Behold I am doing something new!”
Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:31-33 RSV-CE)
Saint Paul in the second reading talks about what that means for us, the new Church, the gentiles and the Jew united as one body of Christ. God has wooed us again. He wants us to have that relationship with him so strongly that he came down as a man, to suffer and die for us. Saint Paul talks about suffering with Christ! We aren’t perfect, Paul is clear on the fact that he does not see himself as perfect either… but we can grow. That’s what our desert in Lent is all about… about learning to be in relationship with God… taking a moment to look back and say when was our first date? Do I still feel that way? Do I still get butterflies in my stomach when I am confronted with the Lord of the Universe in the Eucharist? Do I rush to the confessional to see him on my lunch break in the Sacrament of Reconciliation? Do I miss him with fondness of heart and aching soul when I am unable to visit? Do I still long to be next to Him? Is Jesus still the love of our life? Or is he going to the back burner? We should yearn to be able to say with Paul:
I for my part do not consider myself to have taken possession.Just one thing: forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.
Then we come to this amazingly beautiful story in the Gospels where Jesus sets the example of forgiveness. This woman is the epitome of one who has left behind her first love.. One who has abandoned what it means to walk with God. She is living a life of adultery. Her partner in crime is conspicuously absent. They throw her at the feet of the Master and demand to know, what should we do? Do you stand with Moses? Or with Rome? Either way Jesus would lose.. But what does Jesus do? He writes in the sand. What did he write? We don’t know. What we do know is whatever it was… made the men condemning her turn and walk away.. Then he restored her relationship with God.. he looked her in the eyes and said “Neither do I condemn you, go forth and sin no more.” Come back to me in the desert… read the words I have written in the sands of your heart and let me woo you again.. I love you that much.. To forgive you, to remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new! Now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Jesus is offering each and every one of us that opportunity in our own desert of Lent. He is making a way in our desert, offering us living water. He is writing in the sand something so powerful, a word so strong, that the enemy who seeks to make us feel distant from him will have to turn and flee.. And then offering us the same thing he offered her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” Are you ready to take his hand in the desert, to walk with God as his people? Is your life changed in such a way from that personal relationship with God himself and his family that people can see it at work in you? What does it look like?
Every person is living in the desert of this world… from the poor, to the widow, to the refugee.. All of us are living in the world.. But we are destined for greater than that.. We are destined for walking hand in hand with our creator… to be lifted back to the dignity he created us for.. You and I with our words are writing in the sand of this world… we are writing a word for others to see… as you bend down before the world, speaking forth words that should bring life and dignity.. Words that should show you to be the people whom God formed for himself… ask yourself this one question: What words are you writing in the sand? Do your words bring forgiveness? Do your words turn away the mob seeking to stone and condemn? Whose child do people see you as?
His servant and yours,
“He must increase, I must decrease.”