Picture a desert. What do you think of? Sand? Scorching heat? Prickly cacti? Scorpions? Hot, dry winds? Brilliant rays from the beating sun? The desert is not a hospitable place. In fact, it's quite dangerous. People caught in the desert don't tend to live very long.
Sometimes the spiritual life can be like a desert. Our hearts can be dry and dusty, filled with prickly doubts that sting us and arid winds of fear that sweep away our faith, hope, and love. Sin scorches us. Pain and sorrow blind us to God's tender care and to His plan for our lives. We end up feeling barren and half dead.
Today's first reading offers hope to anyone who has ever experienced a spiritual desert (and that is all of us at some point or another). The prophet Isaiah proclaims that God will make the desert “bloom with abundant flowers.” “Streams will burst forth,” he continues, with “springs of water” to bring relief to “the thirsty ground.” God's grace will bring life and moisture to dry, panting souls.
“Be strong, fear not!” the prophet commands. “Here is your God...He comes to save you.” Let us rejoice at the refreshing winds of God's Spirit, therefore, and allow Him to transform our interior deserts into gardens where we will walk with Him in the cool of the evening.
Tuesday – Chosen
The Blessed Virgin Mary was chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God incarnate. God prepared her for this critical role in salvation history by preserving her from all sin.
This is what we celebrate on this great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. At the very moment when Mary was conceived in her mother's womb, God poured sanctifying grace into her soul. Unlike any other person since Adam and Eve, Mary enjoyed the indwelling presence of God from the first instant of her life. How could this happen? Foreseeing in His eternal vision the salvation that Mary's Son would merit by His death and resurrection, God tapped into those graces and applied them to Mary ahead of time. Mary, therefore, was saved by Jesus Christ just like everyone else, but her salvation occurred in a unique way.
Further, Mary received what theologians call preventative redemption. God applied the grace of salvation to Mary in such a way that she was, first, born without original sin and, second, remained in a state of perfection, never committing any sins during her whole life. St. Thérèse once explained that our Lord often gives people grace not to commit sin in the first place. “Jesus has forgiven me more than St. Mary Magdalene,” she exclaims in The Story of a Soul, “since He forgave me in advance by preventing me from falling. I was preserved from it only through God’s mercy!” Mary, too, was preserved from sin by God's mercy and in an even greater way.
Yes, Mary was chosen and equipped by God for a special task. But she isn't the only one whom God selects to fill a role in His plan of salvation. We, too, are chosen and equipped to play our part in salvation history. As St. Paul says, we are “destined in accord with the purpose of the One Who accomplishes all things according to the intention of His will, so that we might exist for the praise of His glory...” God has a job for each of us, and He will give us exactly what we need to accomplish it.
We, in turn, must imitate Mary and say a firm “Yes!” to God, accepting His call, embracing His purpose, and committing our lives to fulfilling His will as His chosen people.
Wednesday – Rest
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Rest from all your striving. Rest from all your fears. Rest from all your sorrow. Rest from all your worries. Rest from all your pain. Place all in Jesus' hands.
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me...”
Follow Jesus. Link yourself to Him. Open yourself up to His teaching. Accept the tasks He has specially designed just for You.
“...for I am meek and humble of heart...”
Be meek like Jesus is meek, remembering always that meekness is merely great power kept under control and used for right reasons. Be humble like Jesus is humble, obeying the will of the Father at all times and surrendering Himself out of great love.
“...and you will find rest for yourselves.”
Rest in Jesus, your only source of true rest.
“For My yoke is easy, and My burden light.”
Have no fear, for Jesus' yoke is easy and His burden is light. After all, He bears it right along with you.