Does it surprise any of us that we’re in desperate need of daily spiritual nourishment? Do not our hearts hunger and thirst every day, or even every minute?
Mark Rose wrote in our last EC blog entry about how we hunger for connection to people and to God. I know that I hunger for a lot of things, especially affirmation and security. We experience a constant state of need until we see God face to face.
Our Lord is ever-present as encouragement and comfort in the Scriptures. Even if you haven’t read the Bible, you’ve probably heard these before: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). Some of my favorites: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (John 6:35); “…Whoever drinks the water I shall give will never thirst…” (John 4:14).
In our daily prayer, we should be looking for that well of Living Water, and responding to Jesus like the woman at the well did in John 4: “Sir, give me this water, so that I may not be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water” (John 4:15).
I strongly urge you to seek Him in the Bible. In fact, I forcefully and specifically exhort you right along with the Church: “The Church ‘forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn ‘the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ,’ by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures.’”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 133).
Read the Word daily and often, and look for Him there! He is near, right on the shelf or even online, waiting to be found. Start with the Gospels. If you’ve finished those, read the Psalms. If you’ve finished those and are looking for more, read them again – even memorize parts you like! Follow the daily readings, and read the rest of the Bible. He has something to say to you today! My little testimony below is living proof.
Recently, I’ve been reading through and praying the “Prayer for the Morning” inMagnificat magazine, as soon as I wake up or during breakfast. I read the readings and allow Him to speak to me through them – in other words, I read slowly, and allow for spaces of silence and reflection so that the Holy Spirit can put His finger on something, hold it down, and beckon me to take a closer look.
The reading for the morning of March 9 (1st Sunday of Lent) was Deuteronomy 8:2-3.
Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find out whether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.
My first thought was that this is a cool reading. On the surface I liked it, but as I reread it, I noticed something a little beneath the surface: the frequent occurrence of the words “you” and “your”… and then also the verbs connected to those “you-s” and “your-s”. Here’s what I saw:
Remember how for forty years now the LORD, your God, has directed allyour journeying in the desert, so as to test you by affliction and find outwhether or not it was your intention to keep his commandments. He therefore let you be afflicted with hunger, and then fed you with manna, a food unknown to you and your fathers, in order to show you that not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the LORD.
Wow. Sounds like the Lord, my God, has done quite a bit for me. Since this was only 2 verses, I jumped into Deuteronomy in my Bible and read the whole chapter. It took about two minutes.
While I reread Deuteronomy 8 a few times, I did some underlining and circling of verbs and other words. It might sound methodical, but what I found most helpful was making some lists of what I found. (The brain sure loves categorizing things in order to make sense of them!)
According to Deuteronomy 8, The Lord has…
• Directed all my journeying
• Tested me (my intentions) x2
• Let me be afflicted x2
• Fed me x2
• Shown me
• Disciplined me
• Brought me out of slavery
• Guided me through the desert
• Brought forth water to quench my thirst
• Fulfilled his covenant
And the Lord is…
• Bringing me into a good country
• Making me prosperous
• Giving me power to acquire wealth
Wow again. He has done (and is doing) quite a bit for me. I encourage you to readDeuteronomy 8 on your own, and begin reflecting any of these phrases. Ask yourself: “How has the Lord directed my journeying in this life? Where have I seen Him guiding me?” Or perhaps: “When has the Lord disciplined me? Is He disciplining me now? What does He desire for me by disciplining me?”
What stood out most for me was Deuteronomy 8:7 – “For the Lord, your God, is bringing you into a good country, a land with streams of water, with springs and fountains welling up in the hills and valleys…”
In the following verses, Moses describes for the Israelites the luscious fruits of the Promised Land. To the ears of those wandering in the desert for 40 years, I’m sure the land flowing with streams and springs was a beautiful vision.
In my neediness on earth, I don’t always remember the goodness that the Lord promises to us in Heaven. This verse reminded me of my need to remember the Lord’s promise, that He has good things awaiting me at the end of my trials.
This reminds me of what Pope Francis wrote in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “There are Christians whose lives seem like Lent without Easter” (6). I have felt like this before: in the midst of a long period of suffering with no end in sight, very much like the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years, without hope. Some of the students I’ve mentored over the last few years have felt like this, too. I’ve seen the lack of hope on their faces.
But haven’t we tasted and seen that the Lord is good? Haven’t we seen Him in our lives somewhere, and savored how good He is? (Psalm 34:9) Think back on the fruit God has borne in your life, the evidence that God has worked up the soil within you, tended it, and has produced something tangible from it.
When I pray and receive a really great consolation, or a word of encouragement or challenge, I write those thoughts down on a notecard. I’m slowly stockpiling up these notecards. They currently serve as the bookmarks of my journal. When I feel like I’m not receiving anything, I simply read them and see what the Lord has shown me. I remember how it felt to receive those gifts from Him. It’s a tangible reminder that He was speaking to me, communicating with me, and showing me something I hadn’t known before.
What does God want to show you in His Word today? Seek Him and find out!