“A voice calls out: In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord”
In our Gospel reading from this past Sunday (Mark 1: 1-8) we encounter John the Baptist in the wilderness. This is where it begins, we are told. The wilderness. A space set apart from the hustle and bustle. Just a few lines later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus travels from Nazareth to be baptized by this wild prophet who wears camel’s hair and eats locusts and wild honey.
Before he can begin his ministry of loving the world, Jesus too goes to the wilderness. And during his time in this space set apart Jesus sorts out what his ministry will be. It is in the wilderness that Jesus comes to understand what matters most, what God is calling him to and who he is.
While listening to the readings this past weekend, I couldn’t help but be reminded words from Trappist Monk and Catholic writer Thomas Merton:
“…there is a pervasive form of contemporary violence… activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. More than that, it is cooperation in violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes [their] work for peace. It destroys [their] own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of [their] own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”*
Merton’s words remind me that allowing myself the time to retreat from the hubbub of the world and instead follow the voice of God into the wilderness is so important. I know that without making this space, it is so easy to get caught up in the all-consuming frenzy and violence of overwork.
It is in this space set apart where we can more fully connect with God, with ourselves and with one another. In the wilderness we listen to the voice of the still speaking God. We are then able to to reenter the world recharged, reconnected and reinvigorated in mind, body and spirit to live faithfully. We are better able to stay awake to Christ’s presence in our lives and to lend our own voices to the work of love and justice that Christ calls us to.
Post by Dana Capasso Stivers
*Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Page. 81
*Photo is Dana’s