PREPARE A WAY FOR THE LORD IN THE WILDERNESS: WHY WILDERNESS? Prayer Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B.

Have you found yourself in a situation that makes you feel like 'walking away' from the troubles in your life? Spouses sometimes feel like walking away from their marriages; children sometimes feel like walking away from their families! After some bad experiences, some feel like walking away from friends, jobs, relationships, etc. When these happen, one needs a break from his or her struggles like an escape into oblivion where one be to himself or herself. This is nothing but desire for wilderness or desert experience with a negative push. Inversely, when one feels spiritually weak, or desires to increase in spiritual gifts, charisma and virtues, one desires a wilderness experience- one with a positive push! Why wilderness? Why is the wilderness attractive in both situations? If these bother you, read slowly...
Mark 1:1-8
The beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah:
"Look, I am going to send my messenger before you; he will prepare your way.
A voice cries in the wilderness: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight."
and so it was that John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins.
1. Child of God, for John the baptist to begin his ministry scripture says he cut off from the people in towns and villages and appeared in the wilderness so that the people had to make their way to him there. But why did John do this, why did he not preach in the towns where his ministry will be lucrative?
2. John the baptist began his ministry in the wilderness in fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Mark the evangelist presents this truth to us citing Isaiah 40:3 where it is written and he incorporates other portions of Old Testament books (Ex. 23:20 and Mal. 3:1) to help us understand the role of wilderness in Israelite history. 

3. The wilderness is key to Israelite history. For them it was a place of TEST and REBELLION: God tested the people and they rebelled. It was in the wilderness that God saved them again and again, and the wilderness was the ground where they became a nation. The wilderness was both a ROUTE to the Promised Land and a PLACE of exile. It was a place where people sinned and where they also repented to restore their relationship with God.
4. Summarily, wilderness experience has two faces but with one purpose: relationship! God always take advantage of our wilderness moments. Sometimes God creates those ugly moments for us to flee the world and be to ourselves that He may have a profound encounter with us just as he did to Haggar (Gen.16 & 21) and Moses (Ex. 2-3 & 12) twice in their life time. And whenever He does so, He normally sends us back into the very problems from which we are running because we cannot cut off totally from everyone. Also, If our wilderness experience is for some positive reasons, God makes it more profound transformation for us. Hence our wilderness moments should be moments of deepening our relationships with God and our neighbours, and not merely moments of exclusion and ostracisation of/from others. It is actually the right time and place to prepare the way for the Lord!
TASK: Are you down cast and feel like walking away from everything that matters now? Do you think you need a retreat? Find some moments and go before the Blessed Sacrament. There, pour out your heart to Jesus. He is ready to hear and respond to your many demands in the silence of your heart but before you go, read slowly Genesis 16:1-16 now. God bless you.
©Fr. SimOne Madu, OSJ

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