The Desire for the Desire


September 3  

God grants us the desires of our hearts, but what if our hearts don’t desire him? My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God, the refrain of the Psalm echoes today. Does it resonate with you? Fantastic! Lean into that desire. But if not, that’s okay, too. There have certainly been times when I have heard those words and inwardly shrugged—ehh, not so much. O God, you are my God whom I seek; for you my flesh pines and my soul thirsts like the earth, parched, lifeless and without water. Sometimes, though, despite the dryness, there’s no seeking, no pining, no thirsting. What then? 

One thing that has kept me from despair during times of desolation has been to acknowledge that although I lack a desire for God, I have always been able to affirm that I desire the desire for God. And our desires are worth paying attention to. I may not always desire, as St. Paul urges us in the second reading, to offer my body as a living sacrifice (I mean, that sounds painful), but I do desire the desire. It’s not simply a clever wordplay. The readings for today attest to this common inner conflict.

In the first reading, we hear Jeremiah’s lament: All day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me . . . The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach. The context is that he has just been beaten and put in stocks for prophesying. He’s ready to throw in the towel and be done with it all, to refuse God’s call for his life: I say to myself, I will not mention him; I will speak his name no more. But despite Jeremiah’s resistance, the desire wells up: But then it [the name of God] becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it. His resistance does not last; despite his desire for the respect and admiration of men, he will return to prophesying the word of God, whom he ultimately desires with a greater passion.

Similarly, the Gospel for today is Jesus’ famous Get behind me, Satan rebuke of Peter. Poor Peter, quite understandably, doesn’t want his Lord to suffer and be killed. Jesus explains that taking up the cross is part of the package—for himself and all those who follow him. Well, we know the end of the story—Peter will embrace his cross. 

But if Jeremiah’s stocks and Peter’s inverted cross are too intimidating, take encouragement from the little-souled St. Thérèse. Rather than become despondent at her aridity, at her lack of fervor and fidelity, she says, I remember that little children are as pleasing to their parents when they are asleep as well as when they are wide awake; I remember, too, that when they perform operations, doctors put their patients to sleep. Finally, I remember that: “The Lord knows our weakness, that he is mindful that we are but dust and ashes.”

When we resist, when we refuse, when we pout, when we sleep, when we feel nothing—or even when we bristle at the thought of rounding the troops for Mass—God is still there, working in us, fully aware of our weaknesses and loving us as his dear children. Bring your laments, your objections, and all your desires to him. He wants to hear them.

Proclaim the Genius & Share!
  • Thank you for posting this today. My suffering and tired soul really needed to hear this today, to know I am not alone in feeling this way, and feeling guilty about it, knowing I must disappoint Jesus terribly by not desiring to turn to him in my struggles. I still don’t know what it means, where to go from here. But thank you.

    • I’m sorry to hear you are suffering and in a period of spiritual dryness. That is so tough! But please know that you are definitely not alone. Times of desolation are normal parts of any spiritual life. My spiritual advisor taught me that St. Ignatius says those times are so that we can learn to love God, and not just the consolations of God. Even so, I will pray that you receive relief from your suffering and the consolation you desire. And I think that reading this blog is certainly a way of turning to Jesus, so praise God for your faithfulness!

  • Amen. “It’s not simply a clever word play!”
    Amen. Although I lack a desire… I am able to affirm that I “desire the desire”!
    I “hit bottom” when I was 28 years old and went to a Catholic priest simply to “inquire.”
    I knew I was not ready for baptism, I did not have true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment.
    The priest told me to pray for the desire to desire true contrition for my sins and a firm purpose of amendment. I prayed the Prayer Before the Crucifix every day and was baptized in 1974; every day since then, I affirm that I “desire the desire for God.”
    “It’s not simply a clever word play!” Every day I pray “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”

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