Romancing the Word: Wilderness and Promised Land

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Little Rock Connections: The Good News for Today
May 2016

Wilderness and Promised Land Romancing the Word
Deuteronomy 8:1-20

Wilderness and Promised Land

Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB

Remember how for these forty years, the LORD, your God, has directed all your journeying in the wilderness, so as to test you by affliction, to know what was in your heart… Deut 8:2

The wilderness! The Promised Land! Which do you prefer? Which will you choose? If you are looking for life, I suggest you choose both. By choosing, of course, I’m suggesting that you make a conscious decision to be grateful in whatever situation you find yourself; for it is there you will find life. You can’t have the Promised Land without the wilderness. There is life in the wilderness.

Although gratitude may be difficult to experience when you are struggling with the bare necessities of mundane existence; this is not the case for everyone. I know people who precisely because their lives are so difficult are uniquely in touch with the invitation to be grateful for little unexpected blessings that come their way. On the other hand those who are living the so-called good life can be so inundated with the comfort of their pleasant life that they don’t even notice the little blessings that appear seemingly out of nowhere.

In the wilderness we often seek God with more heart than we do when we are in the so-called Promised Land. I once playfully proclaimed, “You see there really isn’t a Promised Land; it’s just a trick to get us on the journey into the wilderness.” I’ve thought about those words often because sometimes I suspect there is more truth in the wilderness than in the Promised Land. Glimpses of the Promised Land (the good life) begin showing up already in the wilderness for those who live with an attentive eye.

Those of us who think they have reached the Promised Land need to step back into the wilderness, on occasion, to get real again. The truth that there is life in the wilderness is often overlooked. It’s a truth that cannot be taught. It must be experienced and rediscovered on the journey.

Both the wilderness and the Promised Land are gifts from God and the journey doesn’t end when we reach the Promised Land. Even there we are challenged to live grateful and generous lives. We are asked to remember those who have not yet made it to the Promised Land. This is what God was trying to teach the Hebrew people in reminding them not to forget the commandments that were given to them. This is another way of saying, “don’t forget to love, and don’t forget to be grateful.”

If you were to ask someone in today’s modern circle what the good life is they may very well describe it as follows: a big house including guest quarters, pool and outside kitchen, several SUVs, a Toyota Prius, easy access to the country club, the latest Apple laptop and iPad, Smartphone and on and on. In biblical language coming into the good life of the Promised Land was described in this way: a land overflowing with streams and waterways, a land abundant with grains and fruits of every kind. To get to that wonderland, however, they had to journey through the wilderness.

For many of us it is easier to keep our eyes fixed on God while we are in the wilderness than when we arrive in the Promised Land. In the wilderness we are poor and in need. We are vulnerable. We know we need help. In the Promised Land, where many resources are available to us, it is easy for us to forget from whose hand all these gifts ultimately came. You may be a successful entrepreneur who used these resources wisely. You have become prosperous. You seem to be flourishing—but are you? Has all of this made you a better person? Is gratitude obvious in your life?

The heart of this text from Deuteronomy is that we remember to be grateful. It is crucial that we not just give thanks but that we learn to live grateful lives. Our giving thanks needs to be more than a mouth that forms the words. Our thank you must travel beyond the mouth deep into the heart where it is transformed into gratitude. Gratitude is a way of living rather than a momentary nod of appreciation. It may be time for each of us to step back into the wilderness and learn to be grateful even from our places of poverty.

Your next word to romance is: Psalm 104

Visit Sister Macrina’s website:


May 22-26, 2016
National Conference for Catechetical Leaders (NCCL)
Jacksonville, FL

LRSS Director Cackie Upchurch will present a workshop at the National Conference for Catechetical Leaders (listed above) on Monday, May 23, 2016. The topic will be "Biblical Faith Formation, the Heart of the Matter."


Join us June 17-19, 2016. LRSS’ Annual Bible Institute will be held at St. John Catholic Center in Little Rock. Rev. Garrett Galvin, OFM, will address the topic of “The Message of Mercy: The Biblical Roots of Pope Francis’ Teachings.” This will offer a rich opportunity to celebrate the Year of Mercy. Paid registration due by June 3. Download the brochure here.

A Biblical Year of Mercy

Download a monthly article and reflection questions for free use in your parishes; link to your parish website; send them to friends. Available in English and in Spanish.

For more information about workshops, Little Rock Connections, or to offer suggestions, or submit items, please contact:

Susan McCarthy, RDC
(501) 366-5691

Little Rock Scripture Study
PO Box 7565
Little Rock, AR 72217

Little Rock Scripture Study

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