What’s your Promised Land—and are you ready to enter it?
A Reflection for the Thursday of the Fourth Week of Lent
“Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel,
and how you swore to them by your own self, saying,
‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky;
and all this land that I promised,
I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” (Ex 32:13)
Long before they reach the Promised Land, I find myself losing patience with the ancient Israelites. Why can they never get their act together? Uniquely among the people of the ancient world, the people of Israel were selected for an incredible honor. They could be God’s people, and their safety and prosperity would be assured just so long as they followed instructions and remained faithful.
For their sake, God works astonishing signs and miracles, raining plagues on the Egyptians and parting the Red Sea. Manna falls from heaven. Unlikely battles are won. Then Moses is summoned on a short business trip to meet God face to face and receive the Ten Commandments that would govern Jews and Christians for all time. His people quickly write him off and set to work building a golden calf. The responsorial psalm summarizes the situation rather well. “They exchanged their glory for the image of a grass-eating bullock.”
God kept his people in the desert for a long time. Looking at a map of the Middle East, this is somewhat confusing. It really is not so far from Mount Sinai to the Jordan River. The Oregon Trail was much, much longer, but Americans traversed that in a matter of months, with no miraculous river-partings, and no manna. Why did it take the Israelites decades to reach the land of their forefathers? Today’s readings help us to understand.
In Lent, our own spiritual wilderness, we should take some time to consider: What Promised Land might God be leading us toward? What preparation might we need to enter it?
They were unready. They had not yet grasped what it meant to be God’s people. In the Gospel, we are reminded that God loved the world enough to send his Son but also enough to send forerunners like Moses and John and to offer periods of preparation that would enable our hearts to receive him. In Lent, our own spiritual wilderness, we should take some time to consider: What Promised Land might God be leading us toward? What preparation might we need to enter it?
Sometimes, we must acknowledge to ourselves that we just do not know. That uncertainty can be hard to bear. We want to have a sense of momentum in our lives. We crave reassurance that all will ultimately be well. In times of trouble, the inheritance of our Christian baptism can seem strangely irrelevant to our lives. These are the times when we may be tempted to wander away, building our own golden idols. Instead, we must learn to say with St. John Henry Newman, “Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see/ the distant scene; one step is enough for me.”
We, too, are God’s people, and his promises to us will not be forgotten. When we feel lost and uncertain, we must pray for the grace to use this time of preparation well, so that we too can enter the country our Lord has prepared for us.
Get to know Rachel Lu, Contributing Writer
What are you giving up for Lent?
This is an interesting Lent for me, as it’s the first one in 13 years when I am neither pregnant nor nursing a baby. I revived a simple, traditional practice of my 20s: eating one main meal and two smaller ones and avoiding sweets and decadent foods.
Do you cheat on Sundays?
I don’t consider that cheating! It’s proper to feast on the Lord’s day.
Favorite non-meat recipe
Three cheers for chickpea curry with tomatoes. I perfected this dish as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan, and happily, my kids like it, too.
Favorite Easter hymn
I love the old spiritual, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”