Bringing the Wilderness Home

It’s Monday now, but Sunday’s gospel is one of those gospels that are really short… BUT. There is so much art about it because it is quite a vivid scene. After all, Jesus goes into the wilderness! A good way to kick off the First Sunday of Lent, no?

For those of you who may have missed the gospel at mass because you were completely distracted because scores of children were begging to be hugged at you at that time, here it is!


Mark 1

12At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, 13and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.14 After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: 15 “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

There’s some really amazing artworks of this scene (one of my favorites is this one, since it features a dragon in it!) but I have to admit that I love this artwork in particular, which features Jesus praying in the wilderness.

Man of Sorrows, by William Dyce, c. 1860. Scottish National Gallery, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

One of the things that I love the most about this artwork is that the setting is not actually set in the Judean desert, nor does it try to be historical. In fact, William Dyce, who was Scottish, deliberately set it in the Scottish wilderness.

And why did he do that? After all, in the time that this was made, there was an increasing demand that pictures have accuracy and depict Jesus and the Holy Land in an accurate manner. This painting doesn’t do that by a long shot! So why did he do it?

Because he wanted to bring Jesus into the wilderness that the Scottish — aka, his audience — knew so that they could personally relate to Jesus.

And I think that’s important. After all, sometimes when we look at the gospel, it can seem exotic and strange and sometimes we can find it hard to connect to Jesus on a personal level. Jesus lived so long ago in such a different place than the one we live in now! How can we possibly even imagine Jesus entering the desert, let alone allow Him to enter our own lives?

So, I think that this artwork is a great reminder that, yes, Jesus entered the Judean desert and experienced His temptations there. Yes, it can be important to find out the history and backstory behind the gospel so that we can understand its deeper meaning and beauty there. Yes, it is beautiful to be able to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land and walk where Jesus once walked. And yes, it’s absolutely wonderful to see artwork which accurately depict the Holy Land.

But, at the same time, it’s important that we realize that, though Jesus walked the Holy Land, He also desires greatly to walk among us and accompany us on our own journeys through our own wildernesses. And sometimes, seeing Him

So, this Lent, as we boldly go to our own desert and fast, let us allow Jesus to accompany us!


Questions to Ponder:
  • Where would you put Jesus, if you were to depict Him in your current wilderness?
  • In this painting, Jesus is simply praying. Would you be able to sit down and simply pray, or would you do something else?
  • This painting is called “The Man of Sorrows,” which is typically a painting of Jesus in the midst of His Passion. Why do you think the artist chose this title for this artwork of Jesus in the wilderness?

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for entering into the wilderness and confronting temptations there. Help us confront the temptations that we face in our own wildernesses.


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