Lent is a good time to deepen our gaze. To be able to see what is often not on the surface. And in this deepening of the look, the desert shepherds taught me something about this ability to “see” what is not always visible. They taught me something about the look of God.
During my postulancy, I often felt that God was opening paths where there were none. And on those occasions, it always came to my mind when God opened the waters of the Red Sea for the people of Israel, to walk on dry ground and save them from Pharaoh’s army.
But already close to my entry into the novitiate, I heard in a homily that it is true that God manifests himself in our lives in a great way, as in the episode of the Red Sea. But that God is also manifested in our life in the simplicity of the little things of each day, things that can be perceptible to our humanity. And that we need God to manifest in these two ways.
And at that time, these words made me question whether God guides us by opening a path where humanly there was none, or if He guides us because He is the only one who can see that the path is there. But I never got to deepen this question.
It was only when I read about these shepherds, who can see water and pasture sources, where all other people just see the blank wilderness wasteland that I turned again to that question.
And in doing so, Isaiah’s words came to mind:
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland (Is 43.19).
In praying all this, I realized that in truth God is able to open paths where there are none, because nothing is impossible to Him. But it also made me realize that following the Good Shepherd is more than seeing Him making way in my life. To follow the Good Shepherd is to learn from Him to acquire his gaze, a gaze that allows me to see the path even when it seems imperceptible.
A path with all its potentialities of life, the hidden sources of water, with natural shelters for protection, but also with its possible hiding places for thieves, evidence of predators, caverns or drop-offs where I can get hurt.
Shepherds spend a great deal of time watching their flocks, so much that they are criticized for this, for this apparent inactivity. But while doing so, the shepherds observe each sheep and its surroundings, in constant vigilance of what is happening, or in the concern of what might happen. Their attentive look is not only fixed on the details, but also gets to see the “big picture”.
This look of the shepherd, this time that he “spends” on observing what surrounds him, each of his sheep, the potential dangers, is not a sterile look, it’s not a waste of time, it is a look of love.
Just like the time that a father “spends” watching his baby when he sleeps, it is not a sterile look, it is not useless, it is a look of love. And in this human look we can enter a little more into the mystery of God’s love. In the way He “spends” time looking at us, in the way He sees our way.
Lent is a favorable time for us to attune our gaze to the gaze of God. To sit close to Him, and learn how to look at ourselves and to the world, in the same way that He does.
And in this communion of the look, we can find with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the path that takes us from the arid landscapes of Lent, to the green pastures of Easter of the Resurrection.
by Sr. Marta Gaspar, novice