Romans 5:12, 17-19

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned—If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved

Into the Desert

Some time ago I joined the pastoral care staff of a hospital for three months. It was part of “ministry training” away from my usual friends and supports. I thought of it as a desert experience, something new, scary, testing my limits. And yes, I did have to overcome fear, take night calls to the ER, learn to visit families in the surgery waiting room. I soon became confident out there in the desert.

Then one day, as I was dropping in on patients in ICU attached to machines and tubes, I realized I was starting to cut myself off from the suffering around me. I was not in bed, I was not in traction or on a breathing apparatus, I was pain-free and ambulatory. My normalcy was making it difficult to feel the situation of people who were waiting for pain medication, facing the dark.

I see now it was the sick who lived the mystery of faith. They were “in training.” They wrestled the spirits, looking for the consolation of God. I came to learn something beyond ministry: call it solidarity with the sick, or becoming brother to the poor, feeling a oneness with the cancer patient, and with her nurse, and her oncologist. We are together in this testing, keeping faith, seeking our own souls.

Lent begins. The gift of the season lies in the desert, at the edge of our competence, with the poor or the helpless, with anyone who can show us our brother Christ in the human struggle. There he opens us gently to know and love who we really are.

—Fr. Richard Bollman, S.J., a Jesuit of the Chicago-Detroit province, is currently engaged in pastoral ministries in Cincinnati and at the Jesuit Center in Milford, OH.


Holy God, you formed us from the clay of the earth and gave us the gift of life. Yet we turned from you and have sinned. We beg your mercy during this season of repentance. Bring us back to you and to the life Jesus won for us by his death on the cross. He lives and reigns forever. Amen.

—The Jesuit Prayer Team