There is a difference between HUNGER and THIRST.
Hunger is about desire. We “hunger” for the things of this world. Fr. John Foley, S. J., composer and scholar at Saint Louis University, puts it this way:
Often, to satisfy our great need for love, you and I use other, lesser things: food, work, looks, accomplishment, other persons, sex, drink, and so on. These are good in themselves, yet, taken as (something we grasp onto in order to fulfill ultimate desires), they fail. Even at their best they leave us mumbling the famous line, “Is that all there is?”
The answer to that question is NO, that is not all there is. But WHY is that?
- You are not a body with a soul; you are a SOUL which has a body.
- Therefore, what you are – is something that has been created to be wide open to receive, be filled and be fulfilled with that which is timeless, eternal and transcendent.
- And that is love and especially to receive the greatest love of all.
- Here’s the problem. The voids in your life reflect a void in your soul. That void is eternal – something of the next world. Thus the void cannot be filled with “the things” of this world. An aching of the things of the next world is NOT about hunger, it’s about THIRST.
- To be able to personally understand and make the distinction and deal with the difference between THIRST and HUNGER, we have to occasionally go to a place – a realm – where we can push away the hunger and get in touch with that for which we thirst.
- Fr. Foley says that, “We need to free ourselves from the routine, the world and get to a quiet center within us. We can use whatever careful steps will get us there—Lenten quiet, self-denial and reflection on our lives.”
Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser is currently “Acting President of the Oblate School of Theology” in San Antonio Texas. He provides the following “Lenten Image” about this need to get to a quiet center. He writes:
In virtually every culture there is, somewhere, the concept of having “to sit in the ashes for a time” We see this concept inside some North American Native cultures for example.
In some tribes, when they used to live communally in long-houses, the fires for cooking and warmth were kept in the center of the house so that a partially open roof could function as a chimney. Over time, ashes would, of course, accumulate around the fires. It was accepted that, in everyone’s life, there will come a season where he or she will have to spend some time sitting in the ashes – quiet – withdrawn from ordinary activities – taking little food or water.
Eventually a day would come when he or she would get up, wash off the ashes, and resume normal activities.
Nobody would ask why. It was taken for granted that this person was working through something, a depression or crisis of some sort, and needed that space, that quiet, that withdrawal, to work through some inner chaos and demons.
In short, he or she was seen to be in need of what we do during Lent. Lent SHOULD BE a difficult season of quiet:
- Withdrawn from ordinary activities
- Taking little food or water.
- Working through stuff.
- Needing that space, that quiet, that withdrawal, to work through the inner chaos and facing the demons in the desert of your life.
- Searching for that – for which you THIRST.
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus “lifted up” someone who Jews “looked down upon.” She couldn’t fix her situation but Jesus could.
- You can’t fix this stuff. The ability to do that is way above your pay grade and your abilities and you CERTAINLY can’t change them all at the same time – but Jesus can.
So sitting in the ashes is first about prayer. It’s about looking down upon, and mentally – bringing to The Lord – in prayer – those things that are not from God:
- The effects of Original Sin in our lives,
- Broken relationships,
- Personal circumstances that are weighing us down,
- Our own sinfulness,
- “The addicted, the afflicted and anxious and the angry.”
Jesus is the one who can lift us up from the ashes.
Second, sitting in the ashes is about QUIET.
- The quiet in your heart after Confession
- The quiet in Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.
- The quiet sitting in a chapel or “A visit” to a church.
Third, sitting in the ashes is about BEING HUMAN.
- Musing on St. Dominic and the mendicant’s thoughts on “prayer postures, Pope Benedict XVI once wrote that Dominic though a particularly effective “prayer posture” was a walk in the woods. Nature refreshes us. Is it perhaps that nature contains an “echo” of the Garden of Eden?”
Whatever you need to do, wherever you need to go to find that needed space, that quiet, that withdrawal, to work through the inner chaos, find it! Find that place where you can sit in the ashes and allow The Lord to fill that space, that quiet.
Audio version of the Gospel and homily below: