Today’s first reading provides such rich imagery. I couldn’t help but think of the first time that I visited Arizona. Never having had a close-up experience to the desert, I was impressed by the endless numbers of cacti. While I must confess that much of the trip was made in an air-conditioned car, the weather was beautifully sunny and quite hot. But it was also so dry. I was lucky enough to have cold water in the air-conditioned car, and so I was shielded from the harsh conditions of the desert.
But I was not so shielded that I did not recognize how difficult it is to live in the extremes of the desert. And for those who live in the desert, as in the Middle East, it becomes easy to see how water becomes such a powerful symbol. It simply is not possible to live in the desert and not to appreciate the wonderful refreshment that cool water can bring.
And so it is quite obvious why Isaiah chooses these stark images to help us know how refreshing, powerful, and life-giving our God is. In a parched and arid desert, water burst forth on the scene. And those people of faith, who hear this promise, seek to live in faith that God will keep it, will be provided with a holy way, a new way.
Given the difficult times we sometimes face in our lives, we can understand how the dryness of the desert can be applied to those those moments when we find God distant and far removed. While it can be hard to describe spiritual dryness, it becomes easy to understand what it means to be dry when we think of the desert.
As we consider the response to the sum, “Our God will come to save us”, we’re reminded that moving away from spiritual dryness cannot be done through only our own efforts. In addition to our act of the will, we need to open our hearts to the grace of God which enables us to be saved. We cannot save ourselves, but we can seek the life-giving refreshing God who continues to pour out new life.
While certainly there are outside events which come crashing into our lives, and cause us to experience sadness and mourning, it is often when we try to do things completely by ourselves, without seeking the life-giving presence of God manifest both in himself, and through others, where we most often experienced sadness and mourning.
Advent is a season where we are challenged to seek out those areas of our life where God is bursting forth like water in the desert. We are called to open our minds and our hearts so that we might more completely and fully experience the deep and abiding love of God. While imagining water gushing forth in the desert helps us to understand and explain spiritual dryness it is the grace of God which opens us to having that real life that only God can give.