The desert is a place of harshness, trial, desolation, and isolation. I’ve been in the desert, as have you, as has every Christian. It’s a place where the wind is witheringly hot in summer and biting cold in winter. It’s lonely. It’s painful. It can be frightening.
Caught in a dispute between the Carmelites of the Mitigated Observance and the Carmelites of the Reform, St. John of the Cross was accused of monastic disobedience and imprisoned in December of 1577 at the Monastery of Toledo. For the next nine months, he was locked in a six-by-ten-foot cell, with only meager light filtering in from a small slit high up on one wall.
In today’s gospel we hear the priestly prayer of Jesus as he prepares to undergo his passionate hour of unspeakable suffering on the cross for but one purpose: Love.
The Catholic custom of making the sign of the cross dates to the very earliest Christian times. Tertullian, writing in 211, said, “We furrow our forehead with the sign [of the cross].”