In the Desert

As I was preparing the parish display cabinet for Lent titled “In the Desert,” my mind wondered to all the physical deserts of the United States that I have lived near or visited.  They all have their own special beauty, like the Mojave and the Sonoran deserts of the Southwest.  These two are categorized as “hot deserts.”  The number of “cold desert” regions in the U.S. far exceeds the “hot deserts.”  There are 8 such areas and they span from just North of U.S. “hot deserts” to the Canadian border in Washington State.

 So what is a desert?  According to National Geographic Society:

 “Deserts cover more than one-fifth of Earth’s land area, and they are found on every continent. A place that receives less than 25 centimeters (10 inches) of rain per year is considered a desert. Deserts are part of a wider class of regions called drylands. These areas exist under a “moisture deficit,” which means they can frequently lose more moisture through evaporation than they receive from annual precipitation.”

 So, why is “the desert” so important to our Lenten journey?  As I continued thinking about deserts, it occurred to me that deserts could be considered a lack of gardens.  More importantly a lack of “The Garden.”

 Let’s look at the second creation story of Genesis and see just what the Garden is and why its loss drove us all out into the desert, not just for Lent, but for always, until Jesus comes again.

 In the Garden

 The first story of creation as told in Genesis chapter 1 is the “big picture” story of creation.  In chapter 2 we hear the second story of creation which focuses on mankind.  Chapter 2 actually begins with the end of the first story of creation.  That end is the seventh day when God finishes his work and rests.   God shares everything with mankind by establishing the Sabbath as a day of rest and worship for his creation.  The Sabbath is the bridge between the two stories.

The Lord God (YHWH Elohim) forms the man (Adam) of the dust of the ground and breaths into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man becomes a living being composed of a physical body and a spiritual soul.  As soon as God creates man, God creates a home just for him called the Garden of Eden.  In Ezekiel 28:13-14 we learn that this Eden is the “holy mountain of God.”  Eden provides the man with everything he needs for his physical well-being, including the tree of life.  The Garden is also the source of all the water in creation in the four rivers that have a common source and flow gently down the mountain.

 God places the man in the Garden and makes Adam his representative in the Garden.  The man is charged to “till and keep” the Garden.  This commandment to “till and keep” in the original Hebrew is also the words used in the Book of Numbers (Num 3:7-8; 8:26 & 18:5-6) when the priests are given instructions about the care and maintenance of the Tabernacle (although the terms are not always translated into English using the terms “till and keep”.)

God creates the animals of the field and the air and brings them to the man so that he can name them, but none of these creatures are a suitable helper for the man.  So the LORD God created a woman from the man and presents her to the man and the man is satisfied.  Adam says, “This at last is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh,” and the two “became one flesh.”

We all know that very shortly after that, the man and the woman do exactly what they were told not to do, they eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  They lose all the many gifts that God has given them when he created them in his image and likeness and placing them in the Garden.

IN BRIEF, the Garden:

  1. Is made just for us, Gn 2:8-17,
  2. Is a place where we can encounter God, Gn 2:15 (and Gn 3:8),
  3. Is where we first learned God’s name, Gn 2:2,
  4. Is where we are fed, Gn 2:9,
  5. Is where we are given living water, Gn 2:10,
  6. All God asks is that we “till and keep” the garden, Gn 2:15,
  7. Is where we are shown how to live, Gn 2:18-25

God is merciful!  At the fall of Adam and Eve God could have condemned us to hell like he did Satan and his minions.  The LORD God only banished Adam and Eve (and all of their descendants) from the Garden.  But even before He banished us, promised that he would save us by sending his Son.

 And in the fullness of time the Son came to save us.  If you have been watching The Chosen, you get a better understanding just how wonderful it must have been to have God back walking with us!  I imagine myself walking with Jesus.  It must have been like standing in the eye of a hurricane.  Jesus brought a calm and peace to his creation unknown since the Garden.  Walking with him during his journeys and listening to his teachings must have been as calm and serene as being back in the Garden.

 Now Jesus has left us again, but he promised to come back and he didn’t leave us without consolation.  He restored a little of the Garden.

  1. He established his Church,
  2. He established the Mass,
  3. He gave us a name and an image of himself so that when he comes again we can recognize him when he comes again,
  4. He feeds us with his own Body and Blood in the Eucharist
  5. He gives us living water in his other sacraments of initiation, especially in baptism
  6. He gives us his teachings to “till and keep”, and,
  7. He gives us ways to live our lives in his image and likeness, especially in his sacraments of the priesthood and marriage

Thank you LORD God loving me enough to place me in the desert and for all your other many blessings!