Growing up Fr. Mike thought prayer should be like soaking in a hot tub. He didn’t understand why it was so hard when he tried it.
“If I do not perform my Father’s works, do not believe me; but if I perform them, even if you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may realize and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” John 10:37–39
These words spoken by Jesus took place during the feast of the Dedication in Jerusalem. Jesus had been preaching clearly about His relationship with the Father in Heaven, and this was causing some to become outraged to the point of them trying to arrest Him right then and there. But He escaped and went back into the wilderness where He had been baptized by John. As Jesus remained there in the desert, many people came to Him to be with Him and to listen to His words. As they listened, they began to believe.
It’s interesting to note the contrast of reactions. In Jerusalem within the Temple area, among large crowds gathered for the feast of the Dedication, Jesus was increasingly rejected and persecuted. But when He returned to the desert and people had to come to see Him, they listened and believed. This contrast presents us with one way in which we will more easily grow in our faith and help others grow in their faith. Specifically, we are invited to go into the “desert” to encounter our Lord, away from the busyness of life, and we must also invite others to join us in such a journey.
It’s true that, while in Jerusalem, there were people who happened to stumble upon Jesus as He was teaching and were moved by His word and came to believe. But it’s also clear that, when people had to commit to the effort of seeking Him out in a deserted place, His words were even more transformative.
In our own lives, within the ordinary activities of life, such as regular attendance at Mass, we will be given the opportunity to hear the Gospel and deepen our life of faith. But all of us need to take time to seek Jesus out “in the wilderness,” so to speak, so as to be even more disposed to hear Him and believe. These “desert experiences” come in many forms. Perhaps it’s an experience as simple as going into your room alone to pray and ponder the Word of God. Or perhaps it’s a participation in a Bible study, an online devotional program, or parish catechesis event. Or perhaps it’s the choice to go away for a weekend or longer for a guided retreat where all you do for some time is pray and listen to our Lord.
Throughout history, saint after saint has shown us the value of going off to pray to be with our Lord, in a place where the many other distractions of life and the many voices of the world are silenced, so that God can speak to the heart and so that we can more fully respond.
My Lord Jesus, You are calling me to enter deeper into a relationship of love with You, my divine Lord. Give me the grace I need to say “Yes” to You and to enter into the desert of silence and prayer I need so as to hear Your voice. Draw me to You, my Lord, and help me to more fully believe all that You wish to say. Jesus, I trust in You.
Reflect, today, upon the invitation Jesus is giving you to go out to meet Him in the wilderness. Where is that place? How can you accomplish this short journey while keeping up with the important duties of life? Do not hesitate to seek out the desert to which our Lord is calling you, so that you will be able to meet Him there, listen to His voice, and respond with complete generosity.