If I were offered a trip to the remotest branch of the Amazon, deep in the wilds of Brazil, knowing nothing of the local flora and fauna, knowing even less than nothing of the indigenous tongues of the region, unaware of what might be lurking by way of ferocious fish and swift-killing bacteria hidden in the murky waters, I would most definitely accept the offer. What an opportunity! It would be an escape to the wilderness, an escape to a land of I-know-not-what. It speaks to something in me, and I suspect in others, that I am not afraid in the least of such a trip. As a matter of fact, survival shows populate the TV channels in great numbers. Why? Because the wildernesses of the natural world are something to be exploredand I want to be the first to go there. Humans are curious. And so, as a human, I am curious. But there is one wilderness of which I am afraid: myself.
That God is accompanying us on our journey into the wilderness is not to say that it will be easy. Even Jesus himself was tempted in the desert. Our defenses are considerably less than usual. But as I stand with my forehead marked with a heavy cross of black ash, the campus of Notre Dame covered in white snow so bright it's blinding, my eyes are drawn to the foreheads of others, also heavily black against this searing white. We have this black soot on our heads because we know some work must be done. And it's beautiful to know the others are there working too.