Call to the Wilderness

The following story is an allegory about
the Lord's cry to His children
to join Him in His descent into the
the Wilderness of Sin
to do battle with the enemy.
The Web page image of Our Lady, Light of the Woods,
was inspired by the events related in this story.

My children, I invite you to calm yourselves for a moment,
close the doors of your soul and retire to the inner
chamber of your hearts, for I have a story to tell you about
the battle with our most formidable enemy.

It is early summer in the high mountains, and the Prince of Peace has invited His friends to a festive banquet, held in their honor. Deep in a towering spruce forest where tree tops pierce indigo skies, a honey scented trail leads to a sprawling meadow filled with the joyful melody of laughter.

It is dancing with activity and in the center is a great banquet surrounded by a village of tents. All who have come are being treated as the guest of honor. The host is our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, and He is busy waiting on each person individually, taking care to meet all their needs. He has prepared three tables with meats and cheeses, breads and pastries, delightful beverages and ice creams. A dance floor has been assembled nearby where musicians looking very much like angels are playing heavenly music, and streams of banners celebrate their colors in the wind.

Jesus has purposed in His heart that not one child of His shall depart without knowing the kind touch of His infinite love for them. And so our story begins.

Off in the marsh He has spotted a very frustrated little boy, struggling in the mud to catch a frog. Not wanting to disturb the hunt, the Lord approaches stealthily through the thick cover of emerging cattails. Just as the boy reaches again for the frog, it hops gleefully away. "Oh I'll never get to catch that frog!" he exclaims woefully.

At the sound of Jesus clearing His throat, the lad turns to Him and whines, "I was just trying to pet him, but he doesn't like me." He looked down pathetically, wiggling his muddy toes in disappointment.

Jesus picked little Ben up affectionately, and gave him a big squeeze. "Let's see what we can do about that," He encouraged, and gingerly placed the lad a few feet away on firm meadow earth. Then squatting down in the marsh, He gently put out His hand. The fat but wise old bullfrog, came plopping right into it and let out a loud croak.

"You got him!" Ben chirped excitedly!

"No, he got me!" Jesus laughed. "Would you like to pet him?"

The little boy took the frog tenderly in his hands, and held it up to his face for a closer look. Its slippery lime colored foot dangled out and he remarked, "It smells fishy."

A long tongue flashed from a green trap door and kissed his nose. They both laughed. Benjamin was satisfied to have the object of his afternoon search resting in his very own hands. He ran off proudly calling to a group of boys who were darting from spot to spot after iridescent dragonflies.

Surveying the meadow, the Lord spotted a melancholy little girl with a long blond braid, sitting beside the brook and poking at a half eaten bowl of ice cream. He looked directly into her heart and saw the aching scars of a broken home. She longed for a father's love, someone to praise and understand her as only a father can.

He reached out towards the daffodils who saluted Him joyfully with nods of consent, as He plucked a few from their home and surrounded their yellow trumpets with fronds of heart shaped fern. He took the bouquet thoughtfully to the lass, approaching her from the opposite side of the stream. She lifted her little countenance to see His joyful smile and extending the flowers to her, He said, "For you." Crossing the stream in a bound, He sat beside her, his fatherly arms enclosing her as she poured forth the sad contents of her heart.

Soon her suntanned face was streaming with tears and she sobbed, "Oh Jesus, I don't know what I am going to do. I am so lonely, and my mother tries, she really tries to give me the time I need, but she has three other children to take care of and a job, and it's impossible for her to meet all my needs.

He cried with her and said tenderly, "Daughter, I see your distress and I am with you. I have come to take the place of that father you no longer have. Turn now to Me. I would be deeply hurt if you did not accept Me in his place." He dried her tears with the cuff of of His tunic and held her most tenderly over His heart. "You are My very own daughter, My very own treasure. I cherish your company." His words like a healing balm, poured over her soul until they found the opening to that wounded place that no one had ever touched before.

After resting there peacefully for a few moments, she pulled away from Him feeling thoroughly comforted. Her beaming smile was punctuated by captivating dimples. "Thank you for being here." she said reaching for another hug.

He replied, "My daughter I am always here for you and will be till the end of time. In the future when you feel despair and bitterness because of the failures of those you counted on, remember Me, remember this hour." He led her back to the table still overflowing with ice cream and filled her bowl with wild strawberries and honey.

His compassionate eyes soon came to rest upon tussled strands of white hair waving like a tattered flag. They flew above the fragile frame of an elderly woman. Her lined face sagged beneath the weight of years and its expression was cast in resolute sadness. He saw that she longed for the son who lived far away with her grandchildren.

It seemed as though nobody cared anymore, so she kept company with an endless cast of televised friends. Their polished faces were always animated, but never with life, always talking, but never with her. And her longing for companionship continued to throb in spite of their best efforts.

Knowing that she felt completely out of place in the gay atmosphere of this banquet, He very tactfully asked if He could join her. Reticently, she gave her consent. With so many beautiful young people there she was overcome by her own worthlessness. "You have raised a lovely family. It's a pity they aren't here to enjoy you." He said.

In amazement she retorted. "What could be further from the truth?"

He took her wrinkled and spotted hands in His and held them ever so gently. "I know how you feel, I can see into that heart you've locked away in a closet like a broken toy. You are created in My image. Your worth is infinite. I died for you once, and I'd die for you again, this very hour. You are precious to Me."

The tears welled up in her tired brown eyes and a quiet river of joy flowed down her cheeks as she beheld the unchanging love of her God. With that, He stood to His feet and led her proudly by the hand to the dance floor. He held her to His heart and they danced to a flowing waltz until at last she was fully consoled. The worth of her being had been restored to her. Looking into her happy eyes, He said. "You are My mother too, and I care."

And so our infinitely tender God continued on this way, tirelessly, touching everyone present, until each was restored by His love.

Now on the third and last day, all were preparing to join their Master for the grande finale, when the sky changed without warning. Like a curtain closing over the final act, ominous folds of gray velvet rolled down from the North. The distant sound of kettle drums rumbled dramatically to the sharp cadence of tent aprons slapping in rain scented wind.

Majestically, Jesus stood alone in the center of the dance floor. His garment shone with the radiance of a rare opal as it unfurled before the darkening onyx sky. His countenance, both great and terrible, called out like the cry of a trumpet. "Come My people, and listen to My plea."

Quickly the crowd gathered round Him like shards of iron drawn to a magnet. He began, "For three days and two nights It has been My joy to feast you at My banqueting table. And I have come to each one of you and healed the deepest wounds of your heart."

"Now My children, I ask you to consider My heart that is torn, aching, and bleeding from neglect, from betrayal, from abandonment. All of you have been filled to overflowing from the chalice of My consolations. Now I ask of you My people, who among you will drink freely with Me from the chalice of My desolations?"

The question rumbled threateningly through the hearts of the people like the fast approaching echoes of thunder. Many covered their heads and turned quickly to retreat into tents. Some cowered under the banquet tables. From the great crowd that had gathered so joyfully here the day before, only a few dozen willing souls were left standing. They answered Him, "We will."

The Lord spoke again, "Then let us go to the Desert of Desolations to meet Satan. Let us array ourselves for battle and lay the sword to the wicked throat of the god of this world. Let us go my brave ones and fight the good fight."

All set out at once for the opposite side of the meadow leading to the leeward slopes of this great mountain range. As they entered the deep forest, the wind began to rock trees five feet in diameter and their hearts melted within them.

Jesus turned to them, ''Fear not, for I am with you. Let us go bravely into battle." Unable to hold fast to His words and quite awestruck by the ferocious wind many lost their footing and slid backwards fading into the shadows. Now perhaps only thirty men, women, and children continued through the howling winds. They braced themselves with cords of faith, bound securely to the knowledge of His love.

Soon they had reached the leeward side and the storm broke into a sultry dark silence. As they descended into the dry scrubland, venomous snakes crisscrossed the path before them hissing out threats of destruction. Some among them ran back up the trail, shrieking and utterly horrified.

Jesus spoke out to those who remained. "They can do you no harm as long as you are with Me, for I have not given you over to their venom. At last they passed through that plague of serpents and found themselves prostrated from fatigue and crawling amongst an endless briar of thorns.

Aggressive hordes of mosquitoes bit their faces and hands leaving welt upon itching welt. Thorns from the briars pierced their knees in agonizing pain and they grew faint with hunger.

The Lord spoke to them reassuringly, "Soon we will be out of this thicket and you will have a brief refreshment. Then we shall enter into the Desert of Desolation."

Half of them looked at one another in amazement. "You mean this isn't the worst of it?" They began murmuring among themselves and waited until they thought the Master wasn't looking and slunk away.

Now there was but a handful left. He turned to them, "Well, aren't you turning back too?"

A child answered for them, "To where shall we turn Master? You are the light of our eyes, without You we walk in darkness. You are the food of our souls without You we go hungry. You are the song of our hearts, without You, all joy in life is gone. To what shall we return?"

Mean while the deserters, arriving back at the rain drenched meadow, spread the news of all the horrors that accompanied their journey. Met by the fair weather followers of the Lord, they were showered with abundant doses of sympathy and it was rumored that the handful of souls who had been so foolish as to continue with Him were surely dead, and many more were still missing.

The whole camp slept restlessly that night, tormented by guilt and held captive by fear. Gazing upon the blue black stillness of that meadow, a distant chorus of wolves sent a shiver through the night. A faint glow emmatiated from amongst the encampment of tents. There was but one tent that flickered with a soft luminescence like an August firefly.

There in that tent a group of incorrigible cowards had seen a great light. Perfect strangers to one another, they all had in common their retreat in the face of danger when they abandoned the One who had loved them with His life.

Guilt ridden and deeply ashamed, each had said to the mountains "Fall on us." and guided by providence, chose the same tangled cedar to hide within. And so this handful of men, women, and children, found themselves unexpectedly gathered together before one another. Each was a perfect mirror of their own cowardice.

Sitting around mournfully, they were recounting the dreadful events of the day when suddenly in their midst, a Woman Clothed with the Sun took form and shone most brilliantly. She spoke to them tenderly.

"I am the Mother of the Great King and I see your distress with your cowardice. I have come to measure out to each one of you the weapons necessary to accompany my Son on His most lonely and desolate journey. Only you must purpose in your hearts never to break the faith, never to turn back, but to hold fast to your weapons, for the battle is ferocious, and countless souls hang in the balance."

"You and your offspring are the prey of wolves, and many sheep are already counted with the slaughter. Those who attempt to keep their own life shall loose it. Those who freely loose it for the sake of my Son, shall find it. Who among you is willing ?"

All unanimously volunteered, "I am." for they were greatly relieved to have this reprieve from their cowardice. With the sounding of their consent the Gentle Woman held out a golden basket with very large luminescent pearls.

"These are gifts entrusted to me, by my Son. They will strengthen you against the gales of doubt, the paralyzing sting of fear and the snares of scrutiny. Now in good faith I give them to you. To each of them she gave three pearls which disappeared from hand to heart instantly. A warm and secure glow enveloped them with quietness and confidence that God was indeed with them. And they rested.

And so these were the fireflies, lighting up the blue black night, energized by the light from the Woman Clothed with the Sun. She had supplied them with the necessary provisions for their journey to the battle front where her Son was already waging war with His little band. They were fully armed and prepared as they lay restlessly awaiting dawn's first light, recounting how He had sent His very own mother to encourage them.

The night slipped by like a dream as their minds chased the endless tail of its thoughts. Jarred back to consciousness by the clattering of pots and pans, their stomachs groaned in recognition of the tantalizing aroma of bacon.

Mustering sluggish bodies, they looked out upon the blue green spires of spruce wrapped in a lavender mist. Their dew laden forms echoed the sounds of an ax busy splitting wood to feed fires under griddles and kettles.

Hoping to slip through their midst unnoticed they waited until all within sight were occupied and then bravely stepped out into the nippy mountain air, setting off on their journey without a sound.

A steaming platter of fragrant hot cakes suddenly appeared on the trail before them, held aloft by the hands of a grinning brother, it was accompanied by an invitation not easily turned down. "Won't you join us for hot cakes and porridge? We've set a place for you at our table."

Sidestepping him, they passed by in silence. A chorus of whispers could be heard from the ghost like crowd now emerging from their tents in disbelief.

The tension was sliced by the voice of their leader as he struggled to make mincemeat of their resolve. "Why are you going out to your deaths? Don't be foolish, surely you are not gods, you cannot endure such suffering.

"Gather your strength with us. The Master will return victorious and you will share in the spoils. Why drink the bitterness of His chalice? Stay here and strengthen yourselves on hot cakes swimming in syrup." A chorus of agreement arose from the meadow and a fearful soul called out from behind a tent "You go out in vain...He came to give us the abundant life..."

"Wait! Come back!" The leader shouted.

But like men deaf, dumb, and blind, they marched resolutely through the wet morning grasses. Entering the towering cathedral of trees, the aromas and voices dispersed like vapor before the wind.

One amongst them expressed their silent thoughts, "Our god has been our belly, our glory has been our shame. Let us forget what is behind and resolutely press on into the high calling of our Lord Jesus Christ." And all answered as one man, "Amen."

Journeying onwards, deadfalls and snags littered the floor of this ominous forest. After a while, a deathlike hush descended. It was soon punctuated on all sides by the snapping of twigs in the undergrowth. Everyone sensed a menacing presence following and watching them. Suddenly a woman screamed, " I saw eyes! Blood thirsty eyes! Following us..."

Closing ranks, they began to murmur and consider what this could mean. Interrupted by the fragrance of a lily and a silvery ray of light from above, they looked up into the steadfast face of the Queen of Heaven.

Crowned with twelve stars, she was resplendent in a platinum glow that shimmered delicately through the lacy canopy of pine boughs. The light from her being transformed the massive tree trunks into armed sentinels who cast menacing shadows deep into the suspicious undergrowth.

She spoke to them, "Fear not, for God is with you. Hold fast to the weapons that have been given and do not turn back. My Son waits for you. Great is His loneliness. Great is the betrayal from those He loves. Hurry on and do not fear."

As she faded from their eyes, the platinum glow of the forest settled peacefully in their hearts. All fear was gone. Rallied by her words they resolved not to trouble themselves over the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness.

And so they pushed onwards bravely sidestepping the traps set to ensnare them. Soon they had reached the leeward side of the mountains and began their treacherous descent into the Desert of Desolation.

A blast of hot sulfurous air assaulted their lungs, its sting caused violent coughing until they descended beneath it. They stopped to regain their strength and survey this grim land awesome in its desolation. Singed and scarred by sin, a yellow pall hung high above, obscuring the clear blue sky of the mountains. It burned their eyes with its acrid smoke.

The brittle mountain slopes lowered themselves into a seemingly unending plain, haphazardly strewn with scrawny shrubs. Scorpions scurried to and fro, their tails rattling like cellophane.

The hiss of serpents echoed from the hot black rock of the descending canyon walls. It filled the air with malevolent whispers. It was to this that they had been called to rally beside the One who loved them with His life. Somewhere in this forbidding land they would find the Great Prince with His little band of faithful warriors.

Tortuously, they made their way down the slippery slopes of fragmented rock until they came unexpectedly upon a cave hewn out of solid rock. There before their burning eyes the Lord was sitting beside a small fire. A group of men, exhausted from the rigors of battle, lay resting behind Him. Gray curls of smoke rose from the campfire to join the sinister brew of clouds forming over His shoulder. Peals of lightening shook the sky, but His countenance remained motionless. He was deep in contemplation.

His face was etched with the lines of a man most weary and forlorn. It was not the chisel wielded by an enemy that had carved sorrow into His heart. Rather it was the hand of His friends who had left Him in stinging abandonment, bitter indifference, and the silent void of ingratitude, their only thanks for the gift of Himself.

The sight of Him so abandoned by all, pierced their calloused hearts with pity. They each reflected on friends and family, the dear ones who had censored them in disbelief. They pondered for a moment the delicacies of the great banquet and the comforts of the pine laden forests and crystal skies. It all seemed so vain and empty now as they starred into the troubled brow of Eternity.

Their hearts were struck with gratitude to the Woman Clothed with the Sun, who had come to retrieve them from their mortal cowardice. And they longed to console Him.

One cannot describe that moment when His eyes beheld this rag tag group empowered by a mother's love. He had been poking at the fire, mourning over the fate of those still camped in the meadow, and praying for those who were on their way back to Him when He was roused by a tumbling rock. He glanced beyond the fire and saw them, the prodigals.

The quiet embers of His heart fanned by their love caused Him to break into sobs of joy and thanksgiving. His face dissolved in a torrent of tears. "Oh My beloved ones, how good it is to see you. Come, sit by My side, never to desert Me again."

"How great has My longing been for your fellowship, your support. Come now, hold Me to your hearts. Let us console one another and move bravely into battle, for great are the stakes at this last hour and oh how great the reward that awaits you in Heaven."

"But now is the hour for suffering. Now is the time for penances and and conquering the enemy within as well as without. Now is the time to sow in tears that you may come rejoicing, your arms full with the harvest. Now is the time to fight valiantly that My kingdom come, My will be done on this Earth as it is in Heaven.

"You are my faithful army. You are only a handful, but how mightily shall I multiply the prodigies in your midst! Therefore draw near. Come and lay your head upon My heart, draw from the wellsprings of My unspeakable love for you and brace yourselves, for the hour is now at hand."

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