Archive for March 20th, 2023

Numbers 9:15-23: God’s Presence in Our Desert Moments

Monday, March 20, 2023

Caravan in the desert, Mongolia

We have entered the closing weeks of our desert experience, a time when we anticipate the renewing strength of the Passion experience and the nourishing stories we hear in the Eastertide liturgies. In those times when we struggle to move through the wash of negative news, we must remember that God is with us. 

So much of life seems to be a desert existence, a constant struggle against unseen but powerful forces that appear to control all we do and much of what we think. In dark days we struggle against headwinds that deliver blasts of driven sand; we hunker down in our tents to secure ourselves against the onslaught. When we must move from place to place, we barely survive the trek from one oasis to the next. There are times of happiness in which we experience joy; yet with those times there is often a sense of impending doom; somewhere inside us is a haunting that tells us to enjoy our contentment while it lasts because darkness stalks us on each leg of our journey.  The desert crossing is one we do not want to experience alone.  We know that we will need stamina, provisions, and companions along the way; yet where do we find the surety and comfort that will see us through? There is only one presence that provides all for the body, mind and soul, the presence of God. 

It is the fool who prepares carelessly for the wilderness journey; a wise woman or man goes first in search of God. The fool stores up supplies and necessities; the wise one makes plans and trusts in the Lord. The fool believes that security and comfort can be purchased; the wise one knows that happiness and eternal safety lie in doing what is just. The fool relies on personal strength and durability; the wise one perseveres in seeking God, knowing that everything we need for the journey is found in one place, only in the presence of God.

The fiery cloud we reflect on in today’s reading is a pre-figuration of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sends after his Ascension to the Father as tongues of fire that produce speech that all can understand. (Acts 2)  Just as Jesus and Scripture are the Word of God, The Holy Spirit is the Breath of God, and for that reason this advocate has inspired the writing of scripture. The symbols of the Holy Spirit are: water, the oil and the seal of anointing, fire, the hand/finger of Jesus who heals, the dove which finds the olive branch after the flood along with the dove which descends at Jesus’ baptism, and the image of cloud and light. This cloud that accompanies the Hebrews, descends when Solomon builds the Temple in Jerusalem and also at Jesus’ Transfiguration. This Spirit surrounds Jesus at his Ascension.   This Spirit lives with us today to accompany us on our desert wanderings.  This Spirit is the presence of God. 

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