Our theme for February’s gathering was the desert. We go to the desert to meet God. Each of us creates a cell in the desert of our own hearts daily where we can be most honest—naked before God. God alone will tell me who I really am. During these troubled political times when we so crave truth and honesty, could we make time for the truth and the joy of Scripture? This is the wisdom that can energize who we are and what we are about. It gives us meaning and hope and a future. It puts a skip in our step and laughter in our hearts.
What is keeping me from entering further into my own inner cell? Something I need to let go of? To moderate? Noise, radio, gossiping, texting and phoning, TV?
Sr. Ceil continued the theme of the desert experience by describing the desert as a place of thirst and danger, hardship and beauty, and spaciousness that brings us to the edge of our comfort zone into a new reality. It’s a place of purification where we alter our tastes. The early Carmelites heard the still small voices of God in the desert. There they lived in community so that they could support and encourage one another through difficulties. Life is hard. We all need encouragement.
The desert helps us turn away from what impedes our growth. It exposes our weaknesses, we see ourselves, our boredom, our inadequacy, our problems.
Often we are called to wait and not force a solution, to build faith and let the props go: A place of exile, a strange place or a new job; illness when we are stripped of our normal defenses, are opportunities to focus on what is really important in my life. Loss of a close friend or relative, loss of our own identity such as job retirement, can put us in a place of floundering so that we eventually come to realize, I am nothing but God loving me.
She related how Pope Francis was exiled at the peak of his career—sent away to get him out of the way. He never complained, he did not resist, he kept silent, prayed, and surrendered to the humiliation. Gradually he healed and was drawn back into leadership as a bishop. When we are in extreme circumstances with nothing to hang onto, if we can trust and not give up, God comes. And we become more real and better than ever.