The Desert is a Leper

MyanmaraI don’t know if the word “favourite” is the best way to refer to a Scripture verse I especially connect with, but if it were, then my favourite verse is Deuteronomy 32:10:

He found them in a wilderness,
a wasteland of howling desert.
He shielded them, cared for them,
guarded them as the apple of his eye.

Some new reflections on this passage have come to me this Lenten season, but frankly, I can’t seem to punch it out in a few paragraphs, at least not to in a way that I’m happy with. I know that my reflections have to do with God’s boundless mercy and general everywhere-ness, but at the same time I am thinking of something more concrete than that. The story of Jesus in the desert itself is on my mind. The struggles of many Catholics to be and feel included, is also on my mind.

(I have been trying this Lent to unpack the contents of my mind and heart so as to avoid the pitfalls of life on autopilot. However, it seems like everything I take out and examine is almost immediately replaced by a new thought that also needs attention. Lord, have mercy.)

Isn’t it something though how words fail us sometimes? Words of the structured, straight-forward type anyway.

So…time for a touch of variety! I’m sharing here a poem that connects the foundational Lenten story of Jesus with where I am spiritually, and what is on my mind…today. To be clear this has not been exhaustively edited to achieve some high poetic standard; it is just a way to say what I can’t seem to say otherwise.

The Desert is a Leper

If you stand in the desert and ponder the Lord,
how with each step, slower, his sandals crushed into the ground;
how his stomach may have ached,
how his hair became course, and lips, cracked,
Remember how it happened:

The water, the prophet, and the dove.

Remember how the wilderness was once a wasteland,
at times, perhaps, unloved,
save for its wanderers-through.
Be in wonder then,
at how the rocks and bushes and scorpions and cacti and olive trees
were never the same,
now that his feet had crushed into their being.

What is the incarnation, if not God
breathing and walking?
Not passed us…
but to us; into us.

What power and what humility, our Lord’s worn sandal:
exalting what was barren,
sanctifying what of our earth we had left untouched.