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(Is 11.1-10; Rom 15.4-9; Mt 3.1-12)

Deserts can be desperately dangerous. In some of the fighting between the Comanche and Cheyenne tribes and American forces in the south-west regions during the mid-1800’s, mounted Indians tried to lure their enemy into deserts knowing that if they could just unhorse their opponents few of them would survive more than a day in the harsh and dangerous environment.

Yet paradoxically I have some vivid memories of a Disney film entitled The Painted Desert seen when I was just ten or eleven. It depicted the thriving life hidden beneath the sands and in the varied cacti. It also captured the scene after rare heavy rainstorms swept through; myriads of brilliantly coloured flowers cloaking the hillsides and sand dunes.

God also draws us into deserts sometimes; there to come to a deeper sense of our own identity and that of God. These are often times of suffering, loss of parents, friends, a job or close relationships. These too are paradoxical. They can periods of danger (the wolf, leopard, lion and cobra Is 11.6-8) but also times when we can respond with the innocence and trust of a child (11.8).

Such periods may be times of testing and trial, needing endurance and encouragement to surmount (Rom 15.5-6). These are the times when we show ourselves to be strong resilient trees (Mt 3.10) or shallow hypocrites (3.7-8). For Jesus is like a winnowing fan or a consuming fire. The strong and good grain will survive but those cloaked in pretence and sham will be scorched and blown away like chaff. (3.11-12)

Source: 2nd Sunday Advent year A1

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