in the wilderness

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My wife and I just returned from a week long vacation in the Northwoods of Wisconsin—just outside of Minocqua—with our two youngest children (19 &16).  The lodge provided Wi-Fi, but having no internet service or television in our cottage was a refreshing reminder of what a rare opportunity this was to unplug a bit.

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Along with enjoying time well spent with my family, I got some reading done and was blessed with quite a few quiet “God moments” as well…

….on a paddle boat….

….in that cottage….

….on a kayak alone with my compact Bible and a couple books (sealed safely in a Ziploc freezer bag—just in case)….

This past weekend we celebrated the birth of St. John the Baptist.  The importance of his mission can never be overstated, but it seems as though it’s easy to overlook the intregal part of his mission—his preparation.

Before he could carry out the mission given to him, he needed to detach from the world’s comforts and grow strong in the Lord.  He needed to be filled with a strength and courage he could never muster up on his own—to speak the truth even when it was unpopular.  It eventually cost him his life.

Cheese pizza can be a bit of a sacrifice for me, but this holy man wore clothes made of camel hair and lived off wild honey and locusts (Mk 1:6).  If that’s not a lesson in detachment and asceticism, then I don’t know what is.

As Catholics, we’re taught that by the virtue of our baptism that we share in the prophetic mission of the Church—in our families, in our workplaces, and in our communities.

785 “The holy People of God shares also in Christ’s prophetic office,” above all in the supernatural sense of faith that belongs to the whole People, lay and clergy, when it “unfailingly adheres to this faith . . . once for all delivered to the saints,”210 and when it deepens its understanding and becomes Christ’s witness in the midst of this world.

Yet our witness is born out of our own intimacy with God.  We live in a world where we’re inundated with the constant noise of our technology, and it takes a concerted effort to seek out that “secret place” where we can hear God speak.

A world that becomes increasingly hostile toward God reminds us of our need to be sharpened, polished, and strengthened for the inevitable push back.  We become beacons of Christ’s light in our own wildernesses so to speak.

An excerpt from a book that I use for daily reflections sums up nicely something I took away from this past Sunday’s Gospel reading:

105.  All the prophets went off to the desert to meet God.  The experience of god is inseparable from the experience of the desert.

106.  Saint John the Baptist himself spent thirty years in the desert: “And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel” (Lk 1:80).  John the Baptist built his relationship with God in the place of the greatest silence.  The desert leads to silence, and silence draws a person into the most profound intimacy of God. [1]

I’ve always thought of St. John the Baptist as a fearless preacher and a model of humility and self-denial; and he is. But it seems it’s because first and foremost he was a man of deep contemplative prayer.  St. John the Baptist, pray for us.

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“Blessed is the man…. [who delights] in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Ps 1:1-3)

[1] Cardinal Robert Sarah, The Power of Silence; pg. 65