Desert and mountains

Several of the images that occur in the readings at Mass during the season of Lent are desert and mountains. Both are places where significant events in salvation history occurred. Both are places where human endurance is tested. Both are places of encounter with God.


We think, for example of Moses leading the Israelites through the desert for 40 years, Jesus fasting in the desert for 40 days, John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness. One of the striking characteristics of the Judean desert is the complete silence one encounters there, removing anything that could be a distraction to one’s thoughts and reflections.


Mountains also figure in our Lenten readings, especially the account of the Transfiguration of the Lord. Moses also has an experience of the divinity on a mountain. Mountains are places where earth approaches heaven, and divine connection is a possibility.


In our Lenten reflection, are there areas of desert where we feel tempted or tested to resist God’s call? Are there desert experiences where we have felt the consoling presence of God? What have been our peak experiences, where God’s presence has been strongly felt? The season of Lent gives us the opportunity to reflect on these questions and to accompany Jesus on his journey through the desert to the mountaintop and back again.


Most of the desert photos in this post are from the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, a place with much desert vegetation, as opposed to the Judaean desert (Negev), which has none, except where there is an oasis or some other source of water. I’ve included some old photos from my stay in Israel, before the digital age! The difference in the landscape is striking.

“Lord, who may abide in your tent and dwell on your holy mountain? Whoever walks without fault and does what is just.” (Psalm 15:1-2)


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