Because the loaf of bread is one,
we, though many, are one body,
for we all partake of the one loaf.
1 Cor 10:17
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
What is a desert experience? When I think of a desert, I think of dry land with sand all around. I think of earth scorching my bare feet. I think of a blistering sun upon my skin. I think of profound loneliness. I think of an extraordinary thirst for water, for life.
We don’t live in the desert. We live in a very moist, humid and sunny climate. Our grass is green and our sand leads us to water. Yet, I think each one of us could recall a recent desert experience.
What is your desert experience? Maybe your desert experience is the COVID-19 blowing in the wind and swirling around you, holding you in the spiral of fear. Your desert experience might be the anger swelling within you because of wrongful deaths and a lack of respect for life, no matter the age, race, creed or economic ability. Your desert experience could be your leaving God by not trusting in Him, a dry spell in which you are unable to pray. It could have been the experience of the season of Lent where we were asked to fast, not as we would normally from food which fed our physical body. We were called to fast from the Sacrament of the Eucharist, the Bread of Life.
What could we learn from our desert experience? “We never want to go through THAT again,” you might say. Indeed the Israelites often said similar things to Moses about their dissatisfaction of their desert experience and their need for deliverance from it. Their desert experience would reveal their intentions, what was hidden in their hearts, and their understanding of the ways of God. St. Paul speaks to the Corinthians about the desert experience through sinfulness and reminds them of the call to unity through, with and in Christ.
Today, after experiencing the separation from each other because of the pandemic; after feeling alone and in despair as we were left in a health facility without visitors; after crying out because of the witness of a violent act upon another; after being shut in and shut out; after all this, have we drawn nearer to God by drawing nearer to each other? Have we become His eyes and hands and feet and ears? Or have our hearts turned to stone?
Jesus shows us the way. We encounter Him in the desert as he fasts and prays. He does not idly sit and mourn what is not right. The Bread of Life is born out of isolation. The holy family were outcasts at the time of Jesus’ birth. His friend and followers abandoned Him. He is alone on the Cross. He cries out, “I thirst.” He thirsts for each one of us to partake in His gift of unity so that we are no longer in the desert.
Jesus asks the disciples and now through the ages asks us to take action and to proclaim, entrusting us the mandate to continue His work. In order to proclaim we must become His witnesses, His story tellers, His Gospel of life. We become His love of one another, His companion of every person.
Who will fortify us? Who will quench our thirst? The Bread of Life is broken and shared with us at each celebration of Mass. Now we can join each other face to face during the celebration of Mass and partake in the gift of the Eucharist. When we receive we become His Presence upon the earth.
After Jesus’ death on the Cross, the disciples had great fear and locked themselves in a room. But they did not stay in the room. With the embodiment of the Holy Spirit they went out to tell the Good News to the people; they shared stories with their friends, family and strangers about Jesus the Christ. As we were locked in our own homes, we were able to find ways to sustain communion through technology, through window kisses, through notes and cards, through prayer.
Pope Francis said, “To tell our story to the Lord is to enter into His gaze of compassionate love for us and for others. We can recount to Him the stories we live, bringing to Him the people and the situations that fill our lives.” In that proclamation, we have left the desert and bring the water of hope, the refreshment of love to one another.
May we offer ourselves to one another in the partaking of the one loaf, the bond of unity and love.