Part of my ritual in tending to this blog is to change the “header” with each new liturgical season – so that the image atop the homepage of With Us Still…evokes (at least in my mind) the spirit of the season.
I was doubly glad then today – as we enter the holy season of Lent – to be able to plunk in my own personal photo of the cave at Qumran in which the first of Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the late 1940s.
Indeed, I was blessed to visit Qumran about a year ago, a site not far from Jerusalem. It’s a desolate area…and one that Jesus quite possibly used as his point-of-departure for the 40 days he spent in the desert.
But as I enjoyed those memories of my pilgrimage, I realized it wasn’t exactly a year ago that we were there. In point of fact, on February 26, 2019, I was standing on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.
The contrast between those two regions – Galilee and Qumran – could hardly be more striking. Spend a mere five minutes at Qumran, and you know it’s no place for a tenderfoot. The landscape is utterly barren. And the water – when rarely it comes – is often dangerous: as likely to kill you in a flash flood as it is to slake your thirst.
Galilee, on the other hand, felt verdant and life-giving. Everything about the region seemed to speak of God’s bounty and beauty. While I was ever-so-glad to get back on the bus at Qumran, I think I could have stayed in Galilee forever…it stirred my heart and soul so.
And as Lent begins anew this year…it occurs to me that some Galilee scenes might be just as appropriate a way to evoke this season of renewal as any images from Qumran.
We are called into the desert during these 40 days, sure.
But we Lenten pilgrims are also called to embrace the new life stirring in us – the Spirit, rising within – as Saint Paul makes clear in the reading we hear proclaimed on Ash Wednesday:
We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us…
Working together, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says: / In an acceptable time I heard you, / and on the day of salvation I helped you.
Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.
There’s remarkable power in responding to this appeal, as Peter and the other apostles discovered while walking along these very shores.
Indeed, in the company of the Risen Lord, the spot can become a kind of see-shore – a place where they (and we) at last learn to fully embrace God’s grace at work in their lives.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.