The Wilderness

30 Mar

Generally speaking, a howling wilderness does not howl: it is the imagination of the traveler that does the howling.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

I would begin by saying, “When I was very young”; however, I cannot because I still do this today.  So, I will just say, creaking buildings really bug me.  Depending upon the time of day, a creaking building can distract or frighten.  I know that I am not alone in this.

I remember, several years ago, one of our servers who served all the Masses of Christmas.  When I say “all”, I mean all.  He served the 5:30 p.m. Christmas Eve, the Midnight Mass of Christmas, and the 6:30 a.m., 8:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 12:00 Noon.  After the Midnight Mass, he told me that he wanted to spend the night in the church so that he could be ready for the early morning Mass.  I chuckled but consented.  So, he went to the parish office to sleep.

The next morning, when I came over at 5:00 a.m. to open up, he was standing in the middle of the hall, with very huge eyes, waiting for me.  The first words out of his mouth were, “This building really talks at night!”

I laughed.  And, it does.  Having an older heating system based on circulating hot water in some places and steam in others, there are a lot of clanks and clunks.  There are abrupt loud noises when the fans kick on and thuds when the fans turn off and the vents, which had expanded, contract.

When one hears those sounds, it is easy to manufacture other sounds as well.  We may hear a heating vent clunk but the sound of “footsteps” in the room next to us is entirely in our minds.  The wilderness does not always howl.  Sometimes that howling is inside us.

Lent is like going out into the wilderness.  Some of us become frightened because we know that we are going to confront a lot of noise in our spiritual wildernesses: the thoughts of our sins, the temptations that we face, the weakness in our very selves.  That noise generates a lot of distraction that makes it difficult to focus on our journey to the Kingdom.

Lent is not supposed to be scary.  Lent is supposed to be a positive experience.  The noise that we manufacture inside our selves is what makes it frightening.  Let us cast those fears aside and walk, confidently, into that wilderness to confront our sinfulness and amend our ways.

FAITH ACTION:  Settle yourself down in quiet reflection today and ask yourself what part(s) of your Lenten journey are howling around you, providing distraction rather than focus.  Ask the Lord to quiet those distractions.