In the wilderness with Jesus
During my pilgrimage to the Holy Land, when we were making the long ascent up from Jericho to Jerusalem, our bus driver briefly pulled over to allow us to behold the vast Judean Desert. It remains one of my favourite moments in the Holy Land. Having been raised in the Foothills of Alberta, where mountains, trees, pastureland and wild roses were the landscape features most familiar to me, to behold the miles of sunbaked rocks and sand, deep valleys, oppressive heat and weather hardened goats looking for bits of vegetation was like beholding another planet.
Our guide pointed out what some scholars proposed was the old road that connected Jericho and Jerusalem where the Good Samaritan came to the rescue of the man robbed, beaten and left for dead by his own people, and the Mount of Temptation where Jesus was taken by Satan to behold all the kingdoms of the world that the accuser said would be given to the Lord if He but bent a knee to the prince of this world.
I will never read the Gospel account of Our Lord’s fast and temptation in the desert the same way again after having seen with my own eyes the harshness of the Judean Desert. It is truly a place where one feels very alone and open to the temptations that come from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
Yet each and every one of us will find our own Judean Desert in the cities we live, the places we work, the schools we attend and even the homes we live within. We are not to flee these places since it is precisely here that the Lord desires us to live out our vocations. But we can ask him for a deeper spirit of discernment to know when temptation may arise in our daily deserts and where we can rely more humbly on Him to confront temptations, not by our own will power alone, but by His grace that is freely given when we ask and are open to receive.