Ash Wednesday February 17, 2021

Prayer Pointers:

To be ready for the desert

To be clear about where evil is and what it is

To cultivate the humble and grateful heart

Today’s text: Luke 18:9-14

IN ONE OF HIS MOST famous observations, the Catholic monk Thomas Merton remarked that “the desert” was the place preferred by God and his prophets, because it held nothing of value to human beings, and therefore was the place where a person could learn his or her dependence on God—a most salutary situation.

As we begin our forty days of pilgrimage through the Lenten desert, let us not be dismayed at our dependence. We are in need of mercy, we are in need of forgiveness, we are in need of love; and not just us, but all whom we will meet along the way. Let us not be dismayed at our need of what the author of Hebrews calls “discipline” (Heb 12:4-7); discipline to say “no,” discipline to resist, discipline to keep going in spite of ourselves or the world.

Why do this? Merton gives a hint in another essay, also on the Desert Fathers. As he writes, he agrees that the Desert Hermits seem to us to be fanatics, impossible in their asceticism. But when you read their sparse words, they are

humble, quiet, sensible folk with a clear sense of human nature…amid the controversies of their day that seethed and raged, they kept their mouths shut, choosing to offer nothing that the world would find ‘useful’…they labored at [loving others], knowing that isolation in the self, inability to go out of oneself to others, would mean incapacity for any form of self-transcendence. To be thus the prisoner of one's own selfhood is, in fact, to be in hell…

Test your pack and retie your shoes—the desert awaits.

May your day be grace-filled ~ Pr. Dave Brooks


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