“And the Spirit immediately drove Jesus out into the wilderness . He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.” (Mark 1:12-13 NRSV).
Thomas Keating in his book The Mystery of Christ: The Liturgy as Spiritual Experience wrote the following words.
“The Biblical desert is not so much a geographical location–a place of sand, stones or sagebrush– as a process of interior purification leading to the complete liberation from the false-self system with its programs for happiness that cannot possibly work.” (p.40).
The wilderness can be a place of solitude and silence; as well as a state of prayer and contemplation. As we spend time in our wilderness of silence and solitude, we see the best and the worst of ourselves. Everything about us that is visible and invisible is inescapable. Thomas Merton once wrote, “For although God is right with us and in us and out of us and all through us, we have to go on journeys to find him.” Searching for union with God includes meeting Jesus where He meets us in our temptations with God’s grace to redeem and transform us. Amma Sarah said, “The greatest thing we can do is to throw our faults before the Lord and expect temptation to our last breath” (Daily Readings with the Desert Fathers, p.72).
When we spend some time alone with Jesus in our wildernesses of silence and solitude and pray Lectio Divina (the prayerful reading of Scripture), Contemplative and Centering Prayer, God will always come and graciously help us along. When we stop for a while and in silence, let God in and let go of our false-self system, Jesus will show us how to search for union with God, even when we are at our worst.
The Psalmist wrote, “Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long” (Psalm 25:4 The Book of Common Prayer, p.614). The best way to learn the truth from the God of our salvation is to spend some time with Jesus in the solitude of our wilderness and to learn from what He did as well as what He said.
“Therefore our life span has been lengthened by way of a truce, that we may amend our misdeeds. As the Apostle says: Do you not know that the patience of God is leading you to repent (Rom 2:4)?” (RB 1980: The Rule of Saint Benedict in English, p.18).
Have you journeyed with Jesus into your wilderness lately?
Peace be with all who enter here.
Brother Anselm Philip King-Lowe, OSB-CoS
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