John the Baptist had the clarity that sometimes emerges in a life stripped to its basics. He lived in the wilderness and he ate locusts and wild honey. Like the Desert Mothers and Fathers later or the Russian hermits even later still, he made of himself a channel for the Holy. And people came to him. They came to listen to him. They came to reform their lives.
“Repent,” he called to them. “Turn around.” And when they asked him what he meant by that, he gave them simple, practical suggestions. Be honest, take care of one another, don’t steal.
We are told he came to pave the way for Jesus. He was the Forerunner. I wonder if he didn’t come to drive Jesus into the wilderness and from there into his ministry. After all, it was that moment when Jesus was baptized that began it all.
So many questions are wrapped up in the three that we have from Jesus’ time in the desert. For instance, there’s bread. It’s such a necessary thing, bread. Without food our bodies do not function. Bread as sustenance, bread as fellowship, bread as the wherewithal to accomplish ministry — and yet there’s something about turning stones into bread that doesn’t fit the deeper consciousness Jesus is evolving. We do not live by bread alone.
What are the temptations with which Satan presents each one of us when we are in the wilderness? What challenges does this devil throw in our path that help us hone our awareness of what is really true?
Each of us is the new understanding, the Gospel, in embryo. During this Lenten season, may our spiritual practices deepen our awareness of what is the truth of us, and out of that our awareness of what is our ministry.