It’s hard to tell, based on St. Mark’s account, precisely what happened to Jesus during his desert sojourn.
It’s the barest of bare-bones reports we hear in Sunday’s Gospel:
At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.
And you know what? In some respects, I kinda like the Marcan version. It fits better with my own experience of the desert – the drive-by, touristy kind of encounter.
Which is not to say a quick-strike visit to the desert is without its spiritual consolations. In fact, as I rummage through some favorite images from our 2011 trip to the desert southwest, more often than not I am reminded of the promises God makes to us in scripture…and of the prophets God provides to guide us on our way.
As the deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, O God. My being thirsts for God, the living God. – Psalm 42
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John [the Baptist], ‘What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? – Matthew 11: 7
You who dwell in the shelter of the Most High, who abide in the shade of the Almighty, say to the LORD, ‘My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.’
– Psalm 91
A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday, but humans you return to dust, saying ‘Return, you mortals!’ Before a watch passes in the night, you have brought them to their end…Teach us to count our days aright, that we may gain wisdom of heart. – Psalm 90
Create a pure heart for me, O God; renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence; take not your holy spirit from me. Restore in me the joy of your salvation. – Psalm 51
When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appear in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings… – Genesis 9:15
Be still, and know that I am God. – Psalm 46
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.