While on a three-month Scripture sabbatical in the Holy Land, I decided to walk from Bethany, where we stayed, to Jericho. I thought… Jesus and the disciples walked all through that area of what is now Israel, and I should be able to make it in one day. I took along sufficient water, was told where the path was, and then set off in the early morning. It was pleasant at first but became hot as I walked through the wadi and the wilderness. I reflected on Jesus spending 40 days in the wilderness and being tempted by the devil. I thought of people walking through nature to hear John the Baptist preaching repentance. I imagined Jesus carrying the cross after being scourged. I saw an ancient monastery of some kind and stopped to get some fresh water and eat my lunch. After traveling maybe ten miles, I came to where I could see Jericho. I was hungry and tired and decided that was close enough, so I took a cab back.
I experienced real hunger and thirst but did not fast as Jesus had done. Instead, the water
and food nourished me, and I took the temptation of the cab to have an easy way back home. Temptations often look easy and appealing. Yet, in the long run, we can be drawn away from what is more important—in that case, the experience of fasting and prayer in the Judean wilderness.
Living here in southern New Mexico in the Chihuahua Desert has given me time to camp in the desert and spend days of prayer meditating on deserts and mountains in Scripture and my locale. At times I hunger for the reassuring presence of God or the depth of commitment and Spirit shared by the early disciples, yet fail to embrace the moment. I recognize the temptations in my life, drawing me to an easy life instead of preaching the gospel of conversion and acting with justice.
Jesus went into the wilderness, was tested, and came out ready to do the will of God. Perhaps we can recognize the call to embrace the coming Pentecost as an invitation to not just take a day trip to the desert but to choose a life of evangelization and mission.