When we ask our pilgrims what places in the Holy Land have made an indelible impact on them, often they mention the Wilderness of Judea. Some countries have vast deserts, but Judea’s is fairly small. Still, it is desolate, affording little vegetation except for scrubby sage and the occasional glimpse of a gazelle. Bedouin still tend their flocks and live in shanty dwellings among the camel-colored hills. We don’t know exactly where Jesus spent the forty days and nights after his baptism, but Christian tradition says it was here.
When St George’s College pilgrims follow our Lord into the Judean Wilderness we speak first about the early centuries of Christian monasticism, some of whose 5th century buildings are still inhabited by faithful monks. Then we read the gospel accounts of Jesus’ fast and temptations during the forty days. Finally, we enter into silence to meditate as our senses are stripped bare by the landscape and our hearts are more attuned to listen what God is saying to us. Some monastics call their monasteries “deserts” even in rainy climes, for a desert can be a place of encountering God when all other distractions are gently let go. In these waning days of Lent, where is your desert? What is God saying to your heart?