12 Into the Desert - Fr. Michael D'Cunha

posted Mar 19, 2019, 3:41 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 19, 2019, 3:41 AM ]

A call to introspection and response

The Desert is easily among the most unlikely places one would choose for a 'vacation', and yet the Bible often points to the desert (sometimes translated as wilderness) as the place where persons find their 'vocation'.

A case in point comes from the readings of the Third Sunday of Lent (Year C). The first reading narrates the call of Moses who is tending his father-in-law's sheep. Moses, we are told, sees a 'burning bush' – one that is burning, but not being consumed. This strikes him as strange, and he goes to investigate the scene before him. The desert with its inhospitable climate and punishing landscape can often play tricks on a person's mind.

In the desert, dry bushes often catch fire. Winds blowing across an open landscape rustle leaves and twigs which make for the perfect cinder. While burning bushes would have been commonplace in Moses' time, none of them were known to catch fire and not be consumed. This explains why Moses considered this a "strange sight" worthy of investigation. The author of Exodus, however, narrates this incident to drive home a deeper point; he portrays the intense presence of the Creator with the creature; a presence that turns even a nondescript bush into a prophetic sign of God's presence. It is a presence so sublime, as to be intimately present without violating the essence of the creature.

We must bear in mind that Moses, at this juncture of his life, is a refugee; having killed an Egyptian, he is now on the run from Pharaoh. God, in calling Moses, sends him on a mission to Egypt – a mission to save the Israelites from slavery; but also a mission that will challenge Moses with the one thing he dreads — coming face to face with Pharaoh.

The season of Lent is a call to journey into the desert – into that stark and unflattering reality of who we are – and there, attend to the Divine Presence and respond to God. While we can do nothing to change the past, what we do now is what will decide the future for us. In narrating a past event, the biblical author helps us understand what we should be doing in the present, for this is where we encounter God.