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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

1109 sharing & celebrating in the open, in nature, in our deserts, enables us to continue awakening

Day 1109: Thursday, March 30, 2023

We are listening to the silence and the word of the Sisters who have discerned, in the tent, that this sharing and celebrating in the open, in nature, in our deserts, enables us to continue awakening.

We are all looking for a tent of refuge where we can rest from the endless, mind boggling and mind numbing news of the world. There is the threat of environmental destruction on a global scale, wars we know about and don’t know about, violence at home that takes the lives of so many innocents. Like Peter and Cathy Schneider we listen to the news of the day hoping for a scrap of the good, the positive, the upbeat – something that shows the humanity of the great majority of our fellow humans.

Looking for a tent of refuge in the desert of our times

BY Sister Magda Bennasar of Columbia

But today, the threats are creating a historic Exodus of people all over the world. The desert through which millions of women, girls and boys, as well as soldiers, are passing is not very different from the desert that the people of Israel passed through during a long and difficult period, where, persecuted by a great power, they were looking for their space, their land.

But, before reaching the land that God had promised them, which they called the Promised Land, they lived in tents. There, they took refuge from the suffocating heat during the day and the severe cold at night, from the sandstorms and the meaninglessness of the long journey, from the loneliness and the feeling of always being outdoors. It is in these tents where they lived together, socialized, discussed, loved, accompanied each other, cried and laughed.

"Tent of refuge" is a powerful biblical image of God Amma that indicates protection, welcome, shelter and training. Faced with our difficult reality, I propose to re-know and rediscover the tent of refuge called Christian community, and also the one called religious community.

Jesus breaks with the rigid patriarchal mold of centuries to indicate to the disciples of all times that the Christian community — a group united by his way of loving us, of liberating us, of communicating his life — is the authentic family, as he tells us in Mark 3:31-35.

Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”

“Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.

Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

It all begins in an experience of personal love that we know is real when his life is alive in our hearts. That is the first tent of refuge, which allows the daily gestation of this life to develop.

This life has, as its reference point, the small community, which has as its center his word made flesh in each person who composes the community. It aims to be that space of welcome, shelter and accompaniment for real training so that we become tents of support and shelter for others.

I am struck by the words of a North American community member who has spent a few days in Mexicali, Mexico, sharing with the women who are preparing to cross the customs barrier to the United States. She says: "They know that they cannot return to their countries and so they will go forward, no matter what, because going back means death, but going forward brings hope to their lives and to their families."

My companion recognizes the indescribable courage of these girls and pregnant women, ultimately risking and courageous women, as people who are "tent of refuge." In their desert crossing, in their Lent accepted for love of their own life and that of their loved ones, they are able to support, heal, comfort and protect their companions.

These small communities are the present and the future that make it possible for us to remain listening — Shema — to the Word. We are listening to the silence and the word of the sisters who have discerned, in the tent, that this does give us life, that this sharing and celebrating in the open, in nature, in our deserts, enables us to continue awakening.

I look out the window and feel the spring. In our hemisphere, Easter always happens in spring. Lent is a time of desert and tent of refuge that precedes reawakening.

Here at home, in community, (at Emmaus too) we have been "tent-making" for years. We find it essential to weave tents among ourselves. Literally, we must get out and glimpse the large tent camps that welcome, accompany and await us to lend a hand to all those who come looking for shelter.

Last night, we had a Zoom meeting with some companions from another Colombian Sisters community. The affection, the synergy, the laughter and also the serious and worrisome sharing made us feel at home, part of everything, as in the last nine Zooms of the previous week and weekend.

I saw a lot of shelter tents and I could also be a tent for itinerant people looking for online or face-to-face communities of life. The same morning, a secularized and married priest had written to me, in need of community where he could be himself.

For those of us who gather in the tent, in Jesus' name, he remains at our center and centers us. I know this to be true. So it is.

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