Saturday after Ash Wednesday
Today, we ponder the dryness of the desert. One symbolic lesson the desert teaches is that prayer and fasting do not always produce the emotional consolation of “rain” we might desire. If prayer and fasting always produced an abundance of interior consolation and emotional satisfaction, it would be easier to quickly embrace those practices. But if they did always flood our souls with emotional consolation, then we would simply be building a habit of practicing prayer and fasting for the sake of indulging ourselves with those consolations. We would be greatly tempted to continually seek good feelings, rather than the God Who sometimes produces those feelings.
Often, at the very beginning of one’s spiritual life of prayer and fasting, God does flood the soul with these spiritual consolations. When a baby is learning to walk, a mother cheers her child on, encouraging every step. As the child receives those tender and motherly encouragements, taking another step becomes another delight. But eventually, once the child learns to walk, a mother stops her continuous praises for walking.
Similarly, God will often offer much interior encouragement to you when you take the first step of enthusiastically embracing a life of prayer and fasting. But just as the goal of taking one’s first steps is to learn how to walk without constant encouragement, so also the purpose of taking the initial and wholehearted step of engaging in prayer and penance is to form a habit of sacrificial living that can be lived even within the experience of interior dryness.
If you truly want to imitate our Lord, then follow Him into the desert by first building a habit of prayer and fasting. Then continue that newly formed habit, even when you do not immediately perceive a benefit, such as emotional or spiritual satisfaction. Fast and pray in the desert. Fear not if there is dryness. When dryness sets in, let it be the cause of gratitude. It’s as if God is saying to you, “You have learned to walk; now persevere in this newly formed spiritual habit to fulfill My holy will, even during times of dryness.”
Ponder, today, the dryness of the desert as an image that you will undoubtedly experience within your soul. Run to it. Allow the Holy Spirit to drive you there and lead you so that you can begin—with fortitude and perseverance—to use these newly formed habits of prayer and fasting to better accomplish the mission God has given to you.
My Lord of dryness, You know just what I need. You know when I need the tender encouragement of consolation, and You know when dryness in my spiritual practices will help strengthen me and deepen my resolve to follow You. Please grant me the graces of fortitude and perseverance in the spiritual practices of prayer and fasting so that I will grow more deeply in conformity with You. Jesus, I trust in You.