The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the desert until the day of his manifestation to Israel. (Luke 1:80)
I’ve wondered how long John was alone in the desert. A year? Several? A decade? This text in St. Luke's gospel suggests it was a lot longer than I’d like to spend away from civilization. I even take my laptop when I go on vacation for a weekend.
As I've read the stories about the Church's heroes of faith I realized there is a strict connection between the time each spent with God and their ability to serve Him well. Moses spent forty years shepherding sheep on the back side of Midian before he met God in the burning bush. David spent his youth with his family’s flock before God placed him in leadership over Israel. The apostle Paul lived three years in the desert before God sent him to the Gentiles. Brother Lawrence cloistered himself in a monastery for much of his life. St. Francis of Assisi came apart from his parents and friends to live in the solitude of his newly formed community. St. Therese of Liseux lived her short years in a convent before she died at the young age of 24.
Few of us, however, are able to seek God in such solitude. We cannot afford years away from work and family obligations. Bills come due every month. Our families need nurture and protection. Careers require focus and attention.
But what about spending thirty minutes -- or even an hour -- each day with Christ in the solitude of a prayer closet? (see Matthew 26:40).
The Kingdom message is way too important to handle lightly. The eternal destiny of those we meet could depend on how well we teach and live the message of how God gave His Son to love us, embrace us, and remove our sin, guilt and judgment.
But teaching and living His message requires of us a personal relationship with Him. And relationship requires time alone with Him, nourished by his Word and blending our hearts with His through worship and the reception of His graces through the Sacraments.
We can't share with others what we ourselves don't have.