Whenever our pastor has an extended break, he almost always heads to a desert or mountain range out West to hike. We parishioners are the beneficiaries of the stories he brings home about what God revealed to him on those adventures.
His most recent trip had him traveling to the Sonoran Desert in the southwestern part of the country. He described the area as a true desert, but one that holds many vibrant pockets of life. When it does rain there, he said, the land is equipped to absorb all that moisture and turn it into something rich; animals and plants flourish.
Father Paul told us about a prince from Saudi Arabia who had come to visit this desert. Coming from another arid area – the Arabian Desert, perhaps – the prince, glancing quizzically at the landscape, remarked, “That’s not a desert. That’s a garden.”
There are several points here; the most obvious being perspective. To a prince from the Arabian Desert, the Sonoran looked lush and full of life, not desolate and dry. Where we come from can determine our perspective, and another can enlighten us about our own home.
But Father took away more than just perspective. Seeing all these things through the light of faith, his main takeaway was that, sometimes, we miss the garden. We’re so busy focusing on the desert.
From the Christian perspective, he made this point: “Jesus Christ and faith are what make this world alive!” Without faith, we would be in a deeply desolate desert. Now, this world is nothing like the garden to come – the one that awaits us in eternal life. That garden will be lush beyond imagining. But because of Jesus, because our Lord took on human flesh and dwelt among us, despite the obvious dryness of this world, we are still living in a garden, even now, because Jesus remains with us.
This earthly garden is far from perfect. There’s a lot of deadness here. There’s a lot of darkness. There’s a lot of hot, stuffy elements, and we thirst, don’t we? Every day, we are parched, needing the waters of life for survival.
Because of Jesus, pockets of water, of life, abound. The landscape, despite its pitfalls, has absorbed life, and absorbed our Lord enough to allow us to flourish even now, if we but seek the waters of life he offers.
Imagine if Jesus had not come, our pastor challenged. Do we even think about this? Have we forgotten? Do we understand how dark the world would be without our Lord?
It’s worth pondering a while, if for no other reason, to remember the gifts God has given us for now, and those he has promised to those who drink from his life-giving springs.
As we read in John 4:14: “…whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst; (it) will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
How positively refreshing!
[For the sake of having a repository for my newspaper columns and articles, I reprint them here, with permission, a week after their run date. The preceding ran in The Forum newspaper on Nov. 3, 2019.]